August 20, 2014

Artist seeks help in replicating historic Edgerton stage backdrop

Mark Taylor
mtaylor@gardnernews.com
Jo Atkinson is on a mission.
The artist, who recently opened a studio in downtown Edgerton, plans to

An artist in Edgerton is seeking help in recreating a 1930s backdrop. Staff photo by Mark Taylor

recreate a 1930s backdrop that once adorned a stage on the second floor of Edgerton Community Hall.
But the 10- by 20-foot canvas backdrop has become severely damaged from years of storage and water leaks.
Many of hand-painted advertisements on the backdrop have become unreadable.
So Atkinson is seeking help from the community in identifying the ads.
“It is like putting a puzzle together,” she said. “But without knowing what it is supposed look like.”
Atkinson plans to salvage the readable ads and frame them individually for hanging in city hall.
But first she plans to create a half-scale digital replica on canvas cloth.
Atkinson is inviting historical society and community members to stop by her studio and help identify the worn ads.
She is also seeking old photographs of the backdrop.
Persons who have recollections of the advertisements or photographs are asked to contact Atkinson at (913) 731-8572.
Longtime Edgerton residents remember seeing the backdrop hanging on the stage on the second floor of the community hall.
The stage was often used by traveling entertainers and Vaudeville acts.
Historical society members have said the backdrop was likely painted by an artist who traveled from town to town creating stage backdrops and selling advertisements to local merchants.
Although historical society members have referred to the piece as a “backdrop” for years, Atkinson said the work is more commonly known as a “movie curtain.”
Some of the readable ads include W.L. Frye and Sons, Starr’s Lunch, JW Stanley Furniture and Undertaking, and a horoscope reader.
An ad from the Edgerton Journal proclaims itself “the only newspaper that cares about Edgerton, Kan.”
Another advertisement simply states, “Go to church Sunday.”
The studio is located at 322 E. Nelson St. in downtown Edgerton.
The project will be funded partially by memorial fund for Rita Moore, former city clerk and founder of the historical society.
For more information about Atkinson’s work, visit www.av-kc.com.

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