The Wichita Art Museum is home to the premier collection of works by the Prairie Print Makers, a Wichita-based art collective active through much of the 20th century. On December 28, 1930, the 10 charter members of the Prairie Print Makers held their first meeting. Eight of these artists—Charles Capps, Leo Courtney, Lloyd Foltz, Arthur Hall, Norma Hall, Clarence Hotvedt, Herschel Logan, and Edmund Kopietz—were Wichita friends and associates of C. A. Seward, the organizer of the first meeting and driving force behind the group’s formation. Another Seward friend and associate, Birger Sandzen, hosted this first meeting at his studio in Lindsborg. Seward spelled out the group’s primary goal in a letter of invitation to a younger Wichita artist, William Dickerson, who became the first artist to receive an invitation to join the Prairie Print Makers. “The object of this group is to further the interest of both artists and laymen in printmaking and collecting,” Seward wrote. Within a few years of its founding, and at the height of the Great Depression, the group boasted 47 active (artist) members and over 100 associate (non-artist) members.
To accomplish the goal of furthering interest in printmaking and print collecting, the Prairie Print Makers organized and circulated exhibitions of members’ work. They also commissioned an annual gift print—a print created by an artist member and then distributed to both artist and non-artist members of the group. In all, 34 gift prints were issued annually from 1931 until 1965. The Prairie Print Makers’ support and enthusiasm for all printmaking mediums distinguished them from other print societies of the era, which typically focused solely on etching. The gifts prints reflect their advocacy for all printmaking mediums—gift prints included seven etchings, four drypoints, four aquatints, one linocut, one color block print, one colored etching, three wood engravings, and seven lithographs.
From the group’s inception, the home of the Prairie Print Makers was Wichita, Kansas. This relatively small, yet highly entrepreneurial city in the center of the Midwest mirrors the unique qualities that the 10 founding members brought to their group. Through the support of the Mosby Lincoln Foundation, donors to the C. A. Seward Memorial Collection, and generous community members, the Wichita Art Museum continues to expand its collection of work by American printmakers. The museum’s print collection reflects and celebrates the importance of the Prairie Print Makers and Wichita’s role in the history of American printmaking.