Unconventional community guide earns tourism honor

PITTSBURG, Kan. – A coloring book whose purpose is to teach guests and local children about Southeast Kansas recently won a statewide marketing award. “Gus Explores Southeast Kansas” was produced by Explore Crawford County in partnership with Pittsburg State University’s Department of Art and the University Marketing & Communication office. 

Judges in the Travel Industry Association of Kansas (TIAK) Marketing Awards contest gave the project 1st place in the 2022 Small Budget Print category, stating “targeting families and providing an activity for their children is an effective, creative strategy to get tourists to Crawford County!” 

The award was presented by TIAK at the annual Kansas Tourism Conference on Wednesday, October 19 in Wichita. It was presented to Explore Crawford County staff, Executive Director Dave Looby and Marketing & Communications Manager Chris Wilson. 

“We created a kids coloring book featuring PSU’s gorilla mascot, exploring his favorite spots in Southeast Kansas (Crawford County and slightly beyond),” judges had been told by Looby. “Originally designed as something to do for kids staying in hotels, it expanded to serve as a Kids and Family Visitor’s Guide handed out at shows and events like the Big Kansas Road Trip.” 

The project surpassed expectations. An original print of 2,500 copies ran out so fast an additional 5,000 copies were ordered. Crayons were ordered and provided to local hotels and museums along with the coloring books. A downloadable version of the coloring book was also added to the ExploreCrawfordCounty.com website. 

“This coloring book would not have happened without the help of PSU Marketing, Dr. Oliver, and his art students,” Wilson said. “It is a perfect example of what happens when the right people see the value and potential of something, even something as simple as a silly coloring book, and then find a way to make it happen.” 

“Community partnership projects like this further the Department of Art goal of having our students be active artists bettering the community,” said Dr. Jamie Oliver, Chair of the Pittsburg State University Department of Art. “This also shows the motto of Pittsburg State University, ‘By doing, learn.’ It shows this in an active, real-world way, as well as showing off our students’ skills to a broader audience.” 

Artwork for the coloring book was undertaken by PSU students in the foundation course “ART 210-Visual Thinking: Digital Studio” during the Fall 2021 semester: Claire Bruening, Briana Carranza, Collin Chaney, Ali Doll, Olivia Frazier, George Hatcher, Jamesha Hawkins, Peyton Lemons, Abby McCoy, Katelyn Phelps, and Devynn Pitts. 

“This course highlights, early within our program, integration of digital technologies in the art-making process,” Dr. Oliver explained. “The work for this project was all completed with the use of apps on digital tablets, a component of the course.” 

“We hope to secure a partner to help us print a much larger run so we can also distribute them every year to kindergarten classes throughout the county to encourage kids’ love of learning, traveling, and exploring our world,” said Looby. “We anticipate that this will be a very cost-effective way to reach a broader audience directly.” 

To get copies of the “Gus the Gorilla explores Southeast Kansas” coloring book visit the travel information center at 117 W 4th St in Pittsburg or go to www.ExploreCrawfordCounty.com/

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