About Us

Carnegie Arts Center

We are an independent, not-for-profit community-supported art center located in rural western Kansas.

Incorporated in 1978, and housed in a historic Carnegie Library, our mission is to make the arts accessible to everyone in our community. We do this through arts education at the public schools, free community events, concerts, exhibitions, arts advocacy, and community beautification projects. You can support our work by making a one time donation, an annual membership, or becoming a Sustainer. Please see our sponsors listed below and thank them for their support!

Making the Arts Accessible to All

History

The Carnegie Arts Center is housed in the historic Goodland Public Library, built in 1913, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in September 1985.

The building was constructed in large part thanks to a grant from Andrew Carnegie for $10,000, and an active, engaged, and motivated citizenry. The building was designed in an Italian Renaissance Revival style by Denver architects, Barrensen Brothers. It is one of 59 Carnegie libraries in the state of Kansas. The Arts Center has called this building home since 1985. Two major remodels of the top floor have been undertaken since 1985, the most recent being in 2017. The Arts Center features a modern visual arts gallery, gift shop and classroom space.

Goodland shows the way to equal voting rights

The fight for women’s voting rights in Kansas was a slow process. The march to equal voting rights lasted from 1861 to 1920, with many halts along the way. Goodland helped show the way when its citizens — including women — voted for a library tax in 1909.
 
Kansas women had gained the right to vote in 1861. Women’s first victory was limited to school board elections. Voting in municipal elections required another 26 years. Voting in municipal elections finally came in 1887. Then the process stalled again. Enter the Endeavor Club.
 

Goodland needs a library 

In July 1908, the girls of the Christian Church’s Christian Endeavor Club decided that Goodland needed a library. Then a civic-minded business owner stepped up. Hodgkinson’s Store provided (PDF) free library space. However, Hodgkinson’s generosity could not be expected to last forever. The library needed a permanent home. In other words, Goodland needed a dedicated library building. To make a library building a reality, women’s groups banded together. They sold library memberships. They held fundraisers.
 

Steel magnate is best hope for library

Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie was Goodland’s greatest hope for a library building. Carnegie, one of the world’s richest men, had begun giving away his fortune. Much of his philanthropy was directed toward building libraries. He funded 1,678 of them.
 
In an official letter, Goodland Mayor P.J. McBride asked Carnegie to donate a library. Carnegie responded favorably. He granted $10,000, which is $275,941.58 in 2019 dollars. But the grant came with a condition. The City had to furnish $1,000 a year to maintain the library. Carnegie’s condition required the City to call a special election.

 

A special election is called; could women vote?

In order to receive Carnegie’s grant, Goodland citizens needed to support the library with a tax. The citizens who wanted a library gathered signatures. They successfully petitioned (PDF) the City and the City scheduled the election for Jan. 29, 1909.
 
Many women had worked hard for a library. But could they vote? Special elections fell into a gray area. Did a special election qualify as a municipal election or not? In order to settle the matter, City Attorney E.F. Murphy issued an opinion. He said, yes, the election was a municipal election and women could vote. The law was plain: Allowing women to vote was no stretch.

 

Women’s vote, Carnegie’s donation both unpopular with some

The City Council’s decision to accept Carnegie’s grant was not popular in all quarters. At a special meeting, City Councilman E.C. Mercer led the charge (PDF) against the library. He said Carnegie’s money was “tainted” because he was “the foe of the working man.” Carnegie was unpopular because of his business practices, including violent strike-breaking.

 

Election officials tallied men’s and women’s ballots separately

In case of legal challenges, Murphy said men’s and women’s ballots should be tallied separately (PDF). Both genders voted for the library tax. Men voted 139-78 in favor. Women voted 74-12 in favor.

The new library building opened Feb. 8, 1913. The grand opening (PDF) came a few weeks later, March 31, 1913. The Italian Renaissance Revival-style building is a two-story structure on a raised basement with a terra cotta roof. Its exterior remains nearly unchanged from its original appearance.

 

Women finally gain vote in state, national elections

Kansas became the eighth state to grant women the right to vote in state elections Nov. 5, 1912. The 19th Amendment allowing women to vote nationally finally came Aug. 20, 1920.
 

Goodland outgrows its library

By the 1970s, the building was cramped. In 1972, the voters decided to build a new library. They passed a $275,000 bond issue. Until the new library was ready, the library stayed in the Carnegie building. In 1975, the library moved to its new home.
 
The Goodland Arts Council formed in 1978. In October 1983, they requested to move into the Carnegie Library. The City Commission said yes. Volunteers renovated the building. Goodland Arts Council moved in June 18, 1984. They renamed the building Carnegie Arts Center. The building was placed on the National Historic Register Sept. 13, 1985. Local and regional artists’ works are for sale here.
 
In summary, none of this would have happened without women’s civic activism.

For Questions Or To Schedule A Tour Outside Of Business Hours — Please Call (785) 890-6442

We’re always ready to bring art into your world.

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