A Thousand Words and Then Some

This year, KHC features weekly posts related to the Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition Hometown Teams, currently touring Kansas.

Pratt Recreation Department has been a major source of community pride for decades, sponsoring adult and youth sports teams that bring area residents together.  Image Courtesy Pratt Recreation Center.

Pratt Recreation Department has been a major source of community pride for decades, sponsoring adult and youth sports teams that bring area residents together. Image Courtesy Pratt Recreation Center.

The small town of Pratt, Kansas, is out to prove that old “athletes versus artists” cliché wrong.

After all, according to Brittany Novotny, Pratt’s Hometown Teams Partner Site Project Director, Pratt-region youths and adults experience success in both artistic and athletic pursuits—especially through the area rec league.

“Pratt is really known for how tight-knit our community is,” Novotny said. “So we thought, what’s the best way to show how our community has come together over time?”

The town decided to tie sports and art together by creating a photography exhibit devoted to the athletes and teams that play in Pratt’s Recreation leagues. Well known in the area since the late 1950s, the Pratt Recreation Department sponsors sports and activities for both adults and kids.

The Rec leagues are incredibly active, too; the south-central Kansas town has a population of just under 7000, but more than 1000 youths and 400 adults take part in their programming, said Pratt Recreation Director Bruce Pinkall.

The Vernon Filley Art Museum embedded students in its photography classes with Rec league teams, giving these guerrilla photographers a chance to get on-the-ground sports photography experience and document the story of the players, audience and full environment at the games.

Paired with past photos and other objects provided by Charmaine Swanepoel, curator of the Pratt County Historical Society, the students’ artwork will create a visual history of what Pratt’s local teams mean to the community.

For Stan Reimer, photographer and VFAM executive director, sports photography offers one of the clearest examples of advancement in the art.

“Advances in the technology let us see the discipline and athleticism of the players,” he said. “The technology has caught up to actually show what the athletes can do.”

That explicit pairing of art and athletics is part of what Pratt hopes to explore in their exhibit, Novotny said.

“Sports hit so many different genres,” she added. “We want to the show the different mediums that can showcase and help preserve that.”

The exhibit will be on display at the Vernon Filley Art Museum from May 8 to June 26. For more information, visit www.vernonfilleyartmuseum.org.