This here is a story of opportunities you just can’t pass up and how a series of those opportunities created meaning for a couple of Topeka citizens.

Capitol Wren WatercolorFirst there’s Naomi Cashman, a Topeka watercolor artist in SouthWind Art Gallery’s current “Paint Topeka” exhibit. If you’re in Topeka or have ever been, you’ve probably seen Cashman’s work: one of Topeka’s landmarks, the wren at Huntoon Park.

The wren was constructed in 1932 for WREN radio. It was perched outside WREN in Tonganoxie, Lawrence, and then finally moved to Topeka. The radio station closed, so the bird had been in storage and needed repainted; Cashman and a friend were just the crew for the job. “He asked me if I would help paint it with him, and I jumped at the chance,” said Cashman, who used to sculpt and paint waterfowl. That was in October 2002.

frankchaffin_wrenWhen she heard about SouthWind Art Gallery’s “Topeka Paint-out” plein air competition, it was only natural to return to Huntoon and Topeka Boulevard to paint the wren, this time as a watercolor cityscape with the Capitol in the background. It had been 10 years since she painted the wren with her friend, now deceased.

While beautiful and bright, her work, titled “A Capitol Wren,” an 18”X22” watercolor, didn’t earn a judge’s award; it did, however, win over Frank Chaffin, and as it turns out, that is more meaningful.

“We just had to have it. It will go in the studio,” he said. “I’m absolutely thrilled. I’m in disbelief I got to buy it, especially being painted by the woman who painted the wren.”

Chaffin had just re-launched WREN radio station, an oldies station housed in the Lazy Toad at Fairlawn Plaza Mall. “A Capitol Wren” had the nostalgic factor the general manager was looking for.

Cashmen is one of 70 local and regional artists represented in the “Paint Topeka” competition. Come in to SouthWind Art Gallery, 29th and Oakley, and see the show now through October.