Newton Fine Arts Association and Gallery History
Starting as the Newton Art Association in 1968 by a small group, the Newton Fine Arts Association became a non-profit corporation in 1980. ‘The purpose of this non-profit association shall be to promote the cultural interests of the people of the Newton area in all fields of creative arts, to promote theory and practice of the principles of the arts, and to provide forums and exhibitions for the stimulation of public interest.’
When adopted by the Newton Fine Arts Association in 1983, the buildings at 128 East Sixth had been used by many businesses over the years and were in desperate need of repair. The history of the buildings and property had all but been forgotten.
John Jacob Krehbiel and his wife Anna Leisy Krehbiel came to Newton from Denmark, Iowa in 1879. Mr. Krehbiel had been a skilled wagon maker and wheel-wright for the Union army in the Civil War. When he came to Newton, he constructed a carriage factory in 1883 (later adding a larger adjoining building in 1911). The Krehbiel family had their home just east of the factory on the same property. The buildings and property have become the Carriage Factory Gallery and J.J. Krehbiel Park, now listed as a Kansas Historic Site and on the National Register of Historic Places. We owe a great debt of gratitude to many individuals who selflessly worked to clean and restore the buildings and also to those who have given and continue to support this special place. In particular, we thank descendants of J.J. Krehbiel led by great-grandson, Fred of Chicago, for significant gifts to ensure this resource for the Newton community.
In addition to running a successful carriage business, and helping found Bethel College, J.J. and Anna raised seven children. One of the sons, Albert, had taken an interest in drawing, further piqued by a visit to the Fine Arts Building at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. After having spent some time divided between his studies and blacksmithing work in his father’s shop, Albert spent two years at Bethel College and then returned to Chicago to enroll at the Art Institute there. He earned a traveling scholarship that took him to Paris in 1902 to study under Jean Paul Laurens at the Academy Julian.
Albert became a renowned American impressionist and the Carriage Factory Gallery has nine of his paintings in our permanent collection.