Spirit of giving infuses STAR winner, Liberty Center art auction

June 23, 2013

This year’s Liberty Center STAR (Sedalia’s Top Arts Recipient) Award winner was somewhat shy about accepting her trophy on Saturday at the Sedalia Country Club.

“You might have to help me get my head out the door tonight,” Maren Schenewark, of Cole Camp, quietly joked into the microphone.

But she’s not shy about joining area arts groups. It’d probably be easier to list groups she hasn’t been involved with than those she has; if it’s within an hour’s drive of her home, she’s probably a member. But one stands out: the Sedalia Visual Art Association, of which she has been an active member since the 1970s.

“(SVAA) has so encouraged me in my efforts at painting,” Schenewark said while accepting the award from emcee Ron Wineinger and 2006 STAR winner Barbara Cooney at Saturday’s Liberty Center fundraiser, “A Midsummer Night’s Soiree.”

“She’s just an amazing woman,” said Schenewark’s friend and fellow painter, Marlis Wise. “She’s given so much to so many people. She instills a lot of people with a love for the arts. She gets excited about it, and it’s infectious.”

Cooney, a member of the STAR selection committee, was impressed with Schenewark’s art, which is from the California impressionist school of thought that dates back about 80 years, to the time of the artist’s birth. Originally taught by her uncle, Schenewark has been an artist almost her entire life.

“What impressed me most about her is her longtime discipline,” Cooney said. “She’s dedicated to doing her own artwork, but she’s disciplined at it and she keeps improving. Not that she needs improvement, but she always finds new ways to do things.”

Said Myrna Ragar, the 2001 STAR winner, who was also on the selection committee: “She’s been in a lot of art organizations, donated to a lot of art organizations. She donates her work unselfishly. And she was part of the group that brought the Daum Museum here (the Make a Difference Campaign).”

Added Schenewark’s daughter, Jean Eckstein: “She has taught individuals and encouraged other artists by having them over to her studio and showing them techniques, or buying their art.”

Schenewark’s oil pastel triptych, “Lily Pond,” was among the pieces donated for the art auction, the grand finale of the “Soiree.” But the spirit of giving extended well beyond the STAR winner, as about 50 items were up for bid at the Liberty Center’s first fundraiser since 2011.

The March 2012 fundraiser was canceled due to furnace repair in the Liberty Center, so director Terri Ballard rethought the event for this year, adding the STAR Award (which hadn’t been awarded since 2006), changing the time of year and location, and using a straight-up auction format (the rules of some past auctions were more complicated).

“We’re trying to do something new that people will enjoy, so we decided to move it into summer,” Ballard said. “It seems like everyone does spring events.”

Just as the Liberty Center didn’t hesitate to honor an SVAA member with its STAR Award, there is no rivalry to speak of between various arts groups.

“A lot of the board members are on both boards,” said Dustin Schmidt, an SVAA artist who coordinated the art donations. “The Liberty Center hosts shows for us. So it’s kind of ‘You pat my back, I pat yours.’ ”

Even though 100 percent of the proceeds from the auction went to the Liberty Center, there was still something at stake for the artists, one of whom admitted to a reporter that she feared the idea of nobody bidding on her piece. (On the other hand, some simply had fun with it, such as Democrat columnist and amateur painter Travis McMullen, who donated several “oil on cardboard” pieces.)

The auction started with fun pieces and worked its way up to the work by professionals such as Douglass Freed. All told, the auction raised $8,500.

As Schmidt put it: “You want your work to sell well for both your credibility and future pricing, and for the benefit of the Liberty Center, because they’re getting 100 percent of the proceeds. The efforts they put into the plays, the music, the Loft (Gallery) shows, everybody wants to keep that going. So whatever it takes, we’ll do it.”

Also at the “Soiree,” the 2013-14 Liberty Center theater schedule was announced. It is:

• “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” Oct. 17-20 and 24-27, directed by Larna Norman.

• “A Sedalia Christmas,” Dec. 5-7, written and directed by Becky Imhauser.

• “9 to 5: The Musical,” March 6-9 and 13-16, directed by Ben Jackson.

• “Daddy’s Dyin’, Who’s Got the Will?,” May 2-4 and 9-11, directed by Ashley Cook.


  1. Maren Schenewark

  2. “Lily Pond” by Maren Schenewark

  3. Art up for auction