Gallery founder Dr. Frances Allen to be honored October 26 at reception and showing of her art

Dr. Frances Allen celebrated her 99th birthday this year.

Dr. Frances Allen celebrated her 99th birthday this year.

Dr. Frances Ann Allen, a founding member of the Carriage Factory Art Gallery in Newton in 1983, will be honored at a special reception and display of her art work at the gallery, 128 E. Sixth St., on Sunday, October 26, 2 to 4 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Dr. Allen, who recently celebrated her 99th birthday, was instrumental in helping establish what has been described by area artists as “the best art gallery in south central Kansas.”

“Dr. Allen inspires us all with her wit and enthusiasm,” said Merrill Raber, vice president of the gallery’s board of directors. “With her long history of support for the arts, she has given us a model for planning ahead.”

Dr. Allen practiced medicine in Newton for 34 years from 1944 to 1978. She was first employed by the Bethel Clinic as a general practitioner. She delivered hundreds of babies during the baby boom after World War II and then returned to the University of Kansas for a residency in Internal Medicine.

Since she was familiar with the Newton area’s medical needs and “gaps” in coverage, she purposely brought back several specialty skills that filled those gaps. One was special training in reading X-ray films and doing diagnostic X-ray procedures. She also used nuclear medicine in the diagnosis and treatment of various conditions including cancer. With her fellowship in gastroenterology, she was able to use newly available fiber optic instruments, which were easier to use and made it easier on the patients being examined.

She was instrumental in helping bring to the community a portable defibrillator for the ambulance personnel and physicians. Newton became the second city in the United States to have the life-saving service available in the ambulance. Another special project for which she qualified was the new use, at the time, of the medication L-DOPA for clinical trials in treating Parkinson’s Disease.

At age 62, Dr. Allen retired because of an increasing deafness that she felt was affecting her medical practice. She turned her attention elsewhere, and at the urging of friends, decided to take up painting.

“Some good friends gave me a set of acrylic paints and brushes and after some time I was ‘hooked’,” Dr. Allen recalled. “It was a problem for members of the Newton Art Association to have a place to meet and exhibit their works, so we began looking for a building.”

The building they found at 128 E. Sixth Street, a former carriage factory founded in 1883 by community leader J. J. Krehbiel, was owned by Railroad Savings and Loan Co. at the time and the group was able to use the building free of charge. It was in terrible disrepair, with broken windows upstairs and birds’ nests and droppings.

“We got busy and organized clean-up and repair crews,” Dr. Allen said. “Women wearing head scarves appeared with mops and brooms. Martha Knudsen and I closed the broken windows and got rid of the birds. We painted the ceilings and planned remodeling. Building materials and used carpeting were donated to us. Bill Wenger donated a used air conditioner he had retrieved from the Midland Bank when they remodeled.

“Our first show was in 1983. Thus, we started the Art Gallery in the old Carriage Factory.”┬áThe group named the gallery the “Carriage Factory Art Gallery.” The building’s metal facade was removed with the help of volunteers, revealing brick and limestone. Fred Krehbiel, a descendant of J. J. Krehbiel, provided considerable financial support for renovations over the years and donated the lots east of the gallery where the Krehbiels homesteaded over a hundred years ago. A fountain, donated by the Fred Krehbiel family, was transported from London, England, to be a centerpiece on the lots that were dedicated as the J.J. Krehbiel Memorial Park in 1993.

Today, in addition to rotating exhibits that feature regional art for sale, the gallery includes a consignment sales gallery of 45 local artists, a gift shop and a collection of paintings for sale by renowned American impressionist Albert H. Krehbiel, son of J.J. Krehbiel. Gallery artists are featured in eight outside venues, and workshops for adults and children are offered throughout the year.

The gallery is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 12 to 5 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“The present board is picking up the torch that I and others helped light years ago,” said Dr. Allen. “The gallery is a treasure of our community. I am proud to be part of the story of making Newton a great place to live.”

For more information about the reception and art exhibit honoring Dr. Allen on Sunday, October 26, call the gallery at 316-284-2749.