Editorial Note: SPL contacted Salina311, requesting that the following information be included in the article - "After seeing the Salina311 article regarding the Sandzen paintings at Salina Public Library, we would like to provide necessary clarification. The bottom of the article read the following: Furthermore, Hedgespeth indicated that she had a brief conversation with Brad Anderson of Salina Arts & Humanities regarding the paintings, and the President of the Library Board had also engaged in discussions with Anderson, adding another layer to the ongoing discourse surrounding the fate of these historic Sandzén artworks. We consulted with the Birger Sandzén Memorial Art Gallery and asked them to present us with all the potential options. These options were presented to the library board. The May 2023 and June 2023 board meeting minutes reflect this conversation. The library board made the decision to auction the paintings with both the integrity of the art and the many needs of the community the library seeks to fulfill in mind. We welcome all public feedback via phone call, email, website, or in person. Ultimately we want to make sure accurate information is being shared with the public regarding this situation. Thanks, Katie Zey"
PRESS RELEASE UPDATE: The Salina Public Library (SPL) recently learned there are concerns related to the sale of Sandzén art owned by the library and currently under contract for auction. SPL works to provide the best possible service to the public. As an entity that strives to serve our community, we are called to prioritize the best use of taxpayer funding for our services, resources, staff, and facilities. It is our responsibility to spend our limited funds in a way that benefits the greatest needs as expressed by the community we serve as a whole.
The library is not equipped to maintain fine art. SPL already needed to restore one of the paintings in our possession. Realizing that the paintings would continue to deteriorate in our care, we considered the options and consulted with the Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery regarding our questions.
Our board discussed this issue over two board meetings (agendas linked below) and received no feedback from the public. The board voted unanimously to sell the paintings through a fine arts auction house that was recommended by the Sandzén Gallery. Despite what many have stated, this decision was made months ago and with full information on the decision being made available to the public.
The meetings in which the matter was discussed can be found here:
SPL understands that this decision is not something everyone supports. However, many others support this decision. We are under contract with the auction house handling the sale of the Sandzéns and to break the contract would open the library to significant repercussions. Withdrawing the artwork from the auction is simply not an option legally or otherwise.
ORIGINAL: Artistic treasures often transcend time, gaining fresh perspectives and appreciation as they pass from one generation to the next. In the 1920s, the Salina Public Library acquired two extraordinary artworks by the renowned Swedish artist, Birger Sandzén, who also served as a professor at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas. These priceless pieces, titled Smoky River and Golden Aspens, have enriched the library's collection for years.
However, today, the Salina Public Library is set to make an important announcement regarding the auction of these two Sandzén masterpieces. Melanie Hedgespeth, the Director of SPL, has shared insights into the decision-making process surrounding these treasured works of art. There exists a divergence of opinions within the community, some advocating for their sale while others question this choice, citing the unique demands of maintaining antique oil paintings as a contributing factor. Hedgespeth clarified, "Not that it's why... I'm not saying that it was problematic, but it was part of it."
The two Sandzén paintings are no longer in the library's possession; they are currently under a contract to be auctioned, with the looming deadline of Saturday, October 14.
When questioned about the decision to sell these artworks, especially in light of Salina's recent embrace of art in the downtown area and the community's artistic growth through sculptures and murals, Hedgespeth explained, "There are other people with differing viewpoints. It is antique art that really needs to be taken care of. The Board did meet, and this decision is in their minutes, which will be included in the press release. Things like this have to go through the Library Board."
Should the paintings find a buyer, Hedgespeth offered limited insight into the allocation of the proceeds, stating, "Until they sell... We'll have to see what happens. Then we will specifically disperse those funds to what the Library needs, what the community keeps asking us for, and looking that things they need, want, and what they're telling us. I wish people would have come to the meeting and expressed their concerns then, before we made a decision."
Hedgespeth emphasized that "artwork" was indeed on the meeting agenda, and the board's decision to auction the paintings was reflected in the minutes. These minutes, documenting the decision made in June 2023, can be accessed through the City's website, which also provides access to various other City boards.
Furthermore, Hedgespeth indicated that she had a brief conversation with Brad Anderson of Salina Arts & Humanities regarding the paintings, and the President of the Library Board had also engaged in discussions with Anderson, adding another layer to the ongoing discourse surrounding the fate of these historic Sandzén artworks.