Coloring book by PSU art students and tourism office earns state award 

A coloring book that features Gus the Gorilla exploring tourist attractions throughout Southeast Kansas, designed by students in an art class at Pittsburg State University and produced by Explore Crawford County, has won a statewide award. 

The “Gus the Gorilla Explores Southeast Kansas” coloring book earned first place in the Travel Industry Association of Kansas Marketing Awards contest’s Small Budget Print category. 

The award was presented at the annual Kansas Tourism Conference in Wichita to Explore Crawford County Executive Director Dave Looby and Marketing & Communications Manager Chris Wilson. 

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

The project was undertaken by students in the foundation course ART 210- Visual Thinking: Digital Studio during the Fall 2021 semester.  

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

Originally designed as something to do for visiting children during hotel stays, it expanded to serve as a Kids and Family Visitor's Guide handed out at shows and events like the Big Kansas Road Trip, which came through the area in May.  

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 added to the website. 

“I enjoyed the collaboration. I feel the project assignment was exceptionally relevant towards understanding how real-world commissions work in terms of deadlines and expectations,” said Abby McCoy, an art major from Pittsburg who graduated in December 2021. “I’m thrilled that it won an award, and I’m very pleased that I had the opportunity to contribute.”  

Brianna Carranza, a senior art major from Lomita, California, said she was “pleasantly surprised at this news, considering it started as just another assignment for class.” 

Students each drew an iconic attraction at locations throughout Crawford County. 

“I'm glad I put forth my best efforts and that they paid off,” Carranz said. “What I enjoyed most about the project was capturing the likeness of the locations while still getting to play around with the style.”

Learn more about the PSU Department of Art.