ROXBURY — For decades, Maleta Forsberg has given art appreciators a look inside her unique gallery on the first weekend of December. This year, the painter will host her 40th "Holiday Open House" and the public will be able to view the historic one-room schoolhouse that holds hundreds of pieces of art she created.
The Olive Springs School building was constructed in 1885. It is the oldest schoolhouse in McPherson County still at it original location. Last used as a school in 1946, it held hay and farm implements until Forsberg and her husband purchased the property.
"We finished the renovation of the schoolhouse in 1977," Forsberg recalled. "Since we had family and friends that had attended Olive Springs School, an open house seemed like an appropriate way of sharing. The timing was late fall, so the first weekend in December made it a holiday event with decorations and refreshments."
Forty years later, the event has become a tradition for Forsberg. She welcomes visitors of all ages, whether they're stopping in for the first time or have been there since the beginning.
"For some people who come every year, they say it is a way to start the holiday season," Forsberg said. "For those that remember the country school, they enjoy telling about their experiences. For younger people, they get a sense of what it was like with all eight grades in one room."
Forsberg receives people from as far as Wichita and Kansas City.
"One of the best things is some people come every year," Forsberg said. "One year, there was a blizzard on Saturday and I didn’t expect anyone, but to my surprise, a couple of women from Topeka showed up. I think they didn’t realize how much snow there was here."
Two of Forsberg's recent paintings were accepted into national shows this year.
"I have new paintings on display," Forsberg said. "Much of the artwork was inspired by the local landscape and animals."
Olive Springs School is situated on a hillside overlooking a valley of fields and trees.
"It has been a colorful autumn and I have had a great time going out and painting the landscape where I live, west of Roxbury," Forsberg said. "I have lived here 47 years and there is always something that inspires me. ...I have several artist friends that live in Wichita that come up frequently to sketch and paint. They really appreciate the area."
Forsberg's 40th "Holiday Open House" will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 1 and from 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 2 at the Olive Springs Schoolhouse Gallery, located at the intersection of Smoky Valley Rd. and 24th Ave. For more information, call 785-254-7833.
"It has gone by so fast and been so much fun," Forsberg said. "I have met people that have become dear friends. There are many treasured memories."