Every fall, hundreds descend upon Furley, a small unincorporated town northeast of Wichita, in the name of art.
Todd Matson’s landscape art, to be specific.
Matson will host his annual studio open house this weekend where he both lives and works, in the old Furley United Methodist Church building, of which he is “custodian and groundskeeper,” he said.
About four years ago, when members at the church at 400 E. 4th in Furley decided they had outgrown the building, they put it up for sale.
Matson, whose children were all grown, had been living on the road for about six years, traveling around the country and painting various landscapes.
He saw an opportunity in the building, he said – having a permanent studio space to paint larger works, and the opportunity to “not be a stranger” to his grandchildren. He had worked for many years in the Wichita area prior to hitting the road – first exhibiting in Wichita and Taos, N.M., in the mid-1980s.
“The folks from the church got together and they took what I offered,” Matson said. “On March 3, (2013) they called me up at about 2 or 3 o’clock and said, ‘Come get the keys.’ They had church, they pulled the pews out, took everything, and I started moving in that afternoon.”
Matson, who spends the majority of his time painting en plein air around Furley and other rural areas, lives in the basement of the building.
The process of fitting the building as a studio didn’t take long, he said – it involved installing insulation and furnishing his living space in the basement.
He doesn’t use utilities in the main sanctuary area where he paints, he said, as he is used to painting outdoors in both frigid and boiling temperatures.
“In the wintertime up here, I don’t mind wearing long underwear to work,” he said.
Though Matson said he spends the majority of his nights with friends in College Hill, he loves the tranquility of nights in Furley, even during harvest season, when grain trucks provide steady traffic in the town that lives primarily in the shadow of its grain elevator.
“There are some nights when it’s so quiet outside that, if the wind’s not blowing, they’re not running the fans up at the elevator, and everybody is home for the night, it is so quiet that the Coke machine over across the street is an annoyance,” he said. “You can hear the Coke machine humming over there.”
Matson said he is well-acquainted with the people in Furley, though sometimes someone still calls the police when he paints by the roadside or in a field.
“I respect that,” he said. “People should be suspicious – I think there are a lot of shenanigans that go on out here, but now everybody pretty much knows about that nut that’s painting some dumb thing or another.”
The “dumb things” Matson paints are mostly listed at more than $1,000 with the gallery representing him, Reuben Saunders Gallery.
You can see some of Matson’s work on the gallery’s website, or check out his church dwelling this weekend.
Todd Matson Studio Open House
When: 4 to 9 p.m. Fri., Nov. 11; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sat., Nov. 12; 1 to 4 p.m. Sun., Nov. 13
Where: Old Furley United Methodist Church building (Matson’s studio), 400 E. 4th, Furley
Details: Elderslie Farm will host a cocktail hour starting at 5:30 p.m. Friday, serving fine wine and artisan cheeses.