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‘Best of Show’ artist picked up paint brushes after mastering the violin

On her usual route to symphony practice, Nancy Luttrell often took a photo of the northeast corner of Douglas and Main in downtown Wichita. She was drawn to the antique clock that hangs off of One Main Place and Georgia Gerber’s bronze sculpture of a man reading on the sidewalk nearby.

“I just kept taking pictures of it from my car while I was driving, which is bad,” Nancy laughed. “One time, the picture I took especially excited me, because the light on that corner was unique in its brilliance.”

Nancy Luttrell often photographed the corner of Douglas and Main, which served as her inspiration for the masterpiece level Best in Show Professional winner in the 2020 Art is Ageless® competition.

The photos served as reference material for her painting “6:30 Wichita,” which was named Best of Show in the professional category in the 2020 Art is Ageless® masterpiece competition. In the painting, the street corner is bathed in golden light, though the gray-blue sky and purple shadows indicate dusk is near.

“6:30 Wichita” will be featured in the 2021 Art is Ageless calendar, along with Nancy’s painting “Poinsettias,” also a masterpiece level winner.

A trained classical violinist, Nancy began painting ten years ago in a watercolor class at Mark Arts. Since then, she has also explored acrylics, the medium of both her masterpiece level winners.

“I’ve never had any time for it before,” Nancy said. “I never took any art in school or anything. There was just no time — what we did was all consuming.”

She began studying music at age 5, with piano lessons. Her teacher played viola with the Topeka Symphony Orchestra, so Nancy added violin lessons at age 9. Eventually, she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Wichita State, where she later served as a professor of violin performance and a member of the Fairmount Quartet and the Wiedeman Trio. She traveled extensively to play throughout the United States and in Europe, and her solos, chamber music and orchestra performances have been broadcast on NPR.

Nancy joined the Wichita Symphony Orchestra 52 years ago and continues to play as a member of the first violin section. She stepped back from her role as associate concertmaster when she retired from WSU in 2012.

Nancy didn’t know much about making art when she started taking lessons, and she says she wasn’t even sure it would be something she would enjoy.

“I would encourage anybody to not be afraid to try,” she said. “Some people tell me, ‘I just couldn’t do that.’ Well, how would you know? I didn’t know I could do it either.”

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