Museo Diocesano de Artes Jesuiticas

It was a warm day in 1991 and the Santa María de Fe was sleepy.  Edith and I decided to take a side trip to visit a museum that Marianna Beech of Kansas Paraguay Partners help create and maintain.  Both the town and the museum are special.  We took the bus on the main highway from Asunción to Encarnación and after 5 hours got dropped off at the side road to Santa María.  We caught a small bus for the 10 km into town.

Jesuits established many missions in Paraguay in the 17th Century.  Along with proselytizing they helped maintain Guaraní the indigenous and first language of Paraguay. Each mission established a speciality for religious and economic reasons.  The mission at Santa María specialized in religious sculpture.  Here is an example.

Sept - 76

The workshop became known as the Great Workshop of the Ancient Missions due to its high quality work and Santa María became one of the largest missions with about 7,000 indigenous residents.  The museum is housed in a 1670s building that once housed the people living at the mission. It consists of 6 rooms that house 56 items. These details are from Romy Natalia Goldberg’s great guidebook to Paraguay.

Edith and I marveled at the workmanship. It was interesting that while many of the saints depicted were European they were represented in Paraguay with the features of local indigenous people. It would have been easy for these sculptures to disappear over the hundreds of years of existence. It is wonderful that they are preserved in this wonderful small museum.

In the 1970s Marianna Beech was president of Kansas Paraguay Partners and learned about the sculptures and worked to create the museum to preserve them. She was an avid supporter throughout the rest of her life.  Here she is in 1979 receiving an award for the creation of the museum. Marianna is next to the women holding the award.

Dec-79 - Mika Mersan, Marianna Beach

Back to our trip.  We easily found the museum and had a wonderful tour.  When we left the museum about noon we asked about the next bus back to the main highway.  We were told that it was not until 4 pm. We decided to have lunch at the local restaurant. Well calling it a restaurant is generous.  Remember this was some 25 years ago.  It was a dimly lit large rectangular room with a few tables.  The food was good and we heard English being spoken at another table.  We introduced ourselves and asked where these other gringos were from.  It turns out that they were from Kansas State University and there on a agriculture project.  A small world indeed. The partnership was alive and working.

The next challenge was waiting until 4 pm.  That was pretty easy.  Like most Paraguayan towns after lunch siesta was an important part of the day.  So the town shut down and we rested on the porch of the museum being entertained by a family of monkeys that lived in the park across the street.  We were fascinated by the family and they seemed happy to entertain. I imagine that at least some of the towns people considered the monkeys to be a nuisance.  When we have Paraguayan visitors who are in Kansas for the first time they tend to fall in love with squirrels.  We would be happy to trade our squirrels for their monkeys.

Marianna Kistler Beach and Kansas Paraguay Partners

The Kansas Paraguay Partners (KPP) has lost a great friend and a great symbol of what the international partnership is all about, i.e., genuine caring and respect for people of all cultures and circumstances. Marianna was a gracious woman who lived through the early days of KPP, serving as president 1978 – 1981. In later years, she served as Membership Chair.  Marianna was also influential in establishing an Advisory Council “to capture the experience and statewide connections” of leading citizens.

Over many years, Marianna consistently supported the partnership through financial underwriting and personal involvement. In addition to KPP, she was committed to other international organizations related to children with special needs such as, The Council of the Inter-American Children’s Institute, of the OAS.  On some occasions, she was asked to provide consultation to these organizations.

Her extensive connections with business and political leaders helped build strong relationships linking Paraguay and Kansas. Marianna was a supporter of Sister Cities International, leading to a sister city relationship between her home town, Hays, and Santa Maria de Fe in Paraguay. This resulted in her, and husband Ross, helping establish an amazing museum exhibiting the artifacts recovered from the historic Jesuit Missions in Paraguay.  In 1975, Marianna was declared an honorary citizen by the city of Santa Maria de Fe. Later she and Ross accompanied K-State President Jon Welfeld and his wife to Paraguay which included a visit to Santa Marie de Fe and meeting with their close Paraguayan friends, Mika and Carlos Mersan.

In 1989 she was named “Kansan of the Year” by the Native Sons and Daughters. In 1996, the Topeka Capital Journal named Marianna “Kansan of Distinction.” In the same year, the KPP Board met in Manhattan at the newly constructed K-State Marianna Kisler Beach Museum of Art.  This was also a special time of recognizing Marianna’s long time multiple contributions to KPP.  In 2000, Marianna and Ross established an Endowment Trust to be a long term benefit to KPP.  Finally, in 2010, Marianna was a major contributor to the newly established KPP Merit Scholarship Fund.

In brief, Marianna, has been a solid link, over many years, in a chain of significant KPP events that could not have happened without her.  She will be greatly missed but her legacy of kindness, generosity, and leadership will live on as a model for us all.

Written by Merrill Raber

Artist Exchanges Between Kansas and Paraguay

Below is a link to a nice article that appeared in ABC Color about Kansas artist Eric Conrad and his visit to Paraguay.  I want to use this opportunity to mention some of the artist exchanges that have occurred between Kansas Paraguay Partners and Comite Paraguay Kansas.  It is a remarkable history all made possible through travel grants from Partners of the Americas.There have also been many musical artist exchanges. I will review those another time. I will miss some artists so feel free to let me know who I missed.

Eric Conrad is an art professor at Emporia State University and is part of the most recent project where Kansas artists are helping judge contests in Paraguay with the winners coming to Kansas in the future.  Amber Hansen traveled to Paraguay a few months ago as part of this same project.  She helped judge a photography contest.  Judith McCrea is an art professor at the University of Kansas (KU) who is helping with this project and has traveled to Paraguay several times and hosted the well respected artist Carlos Colombino in Kansas.  The work that he created while in Kansas is part of the collection of the Spencer Museum of Art at KU. Another very recent Paraguayan artist who visited Kansas is Teresita Gonzalez who presented her photographs of the Paraguayan Hospital de Clinicas.

The ABC Color article mentions other Paraguayan sculptors who met with Eric.  One of those is Gustavo Beckelmann who visited Kansas during the Paraguayan art exhibit held at Washburn University in 2008.  He in turn was greatly influenced by Elden Teft a KU professor who traveled to Paraguay many years ago to teach sculpture.  Gustavo took one of Elden’s classes and was greatly influenced by what he learned.

The art exhibit at the Mulvane Museum at Washburn University in 2008 was curated by Reinhild Janzen who was director of the museum.  She travel to Paraguay and met many artists and brought back works that helped make the exhibit a success.  Speaking of Paraguayan art exhibits in Kansas, there was an exhibit of 20 pieces way back in 1969. This exhibit was at the Wichita Public Library.

Gene Ernst was a professor at Kansas State University who traveled to Paraguay to make sketches from the Jesuit Missions. He turned his sketches into beautiful note cards that I still use and treasurer.

A wonderful large sculpture along Interstate 70 was constructed by Herman Guggiari who was hosted many years ago by Ross and Marianna Beach.  The Beaches also were critically important in the creation of a museum of wood carved saints in Santa Maria de Fe.  The saints were carved by indigenous Paraguayans during the time of the Jesuit Missions.

Let me know what I missed.

Here is the link to the ABC Color article.

http://www.abc.com.py/edicion-impresa/artes-espectaculos/intercambio-a-traves-de-la-escultura-1297490.html

Postcard from 27 Years Ago!

Guggiari Sculpture

Guggiari Sculpture

Text from back of post card:

FT. HAYS STATE UNIVERSITY, Hyper Sports Complex

Kansas – Paraguay Partners Monument by Paraguayan Sculptor Hermann Guggiari commemorates the achievements in cultural and technical exchange between Kansas and Paraguay under the international Partners of the Americas Program and stands at the entrance to the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Complex of the Fort Hays State University Campus. Postmarked Hays, KS May 9, 1982.


Guggiari Postcard Back

Handwritten note at the bottom reads:
RECEPTION AT OUR HOME 2101 LINCOLN DRIVE AFTER UNVEILING OF MONUMENT AT THE SITE. Marianna Beach


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