Across Kansas, art galleries, museums, theaters and public art displays are putting the state on the map as a cultural hot spot.
Moji Rosson, vice president of sales for Visit Wichita, called what is happening in her city a renaissance.
“Wichita is turning into a Midwest art mecca when it comes to the art scene,” she said. “We have over 40 murals throughout the city, a lot of public art and different spaces that are being utilized in really creative ways.”
Here are some standouts, both new and old, that showcase the innovative art and culture in Wichita and throughout the state.
The Wichita Art Museum (WAM), located downtown alongside the Little Arkansas River, features exhibition space, The Muse Cafe, museum store and research library.
“People are probably pleasantly surprised when they come to the Wichita Art Museum at the level of sophistication of the art that is displayed there," said Rosson, who also noted the museum houses one of the largest collections of art in North America.
"Much of the art there are international collections,” he added.
Just outside the doors is the Art Garden, accessible 24 hours a day and spanning eight acres around the museum building. This outdoor venue features over nearly 600 shrubs, more than 20,000 perennials and grasses, as well as 13 sculptures.
Wichita Art Museum, Credit: Visit Wichita
The WAM offers several spaces for private functions, including S. Jim and Darla Farha Great Hall, which can accommodate 500 guests for a reception and features at its center the show-stopping Chihuly Chandelier by glass artist Dale Chihuly.
Additional spaces include the 150-person-capacity Howard E. Wooden Lecture Hall and the Robert M. Beren Conference Room, which boasts floor-to-ceiling windows that allow attendees to look out onto the Art Garden.
According to Visit Overland Park, the exterior of the Museum at Prairiefire is one of the city’s most popular and most photographed works of art. Designed by architect Jonathan Kharfen, the layout is inspired by the prairie fires that regularly burn the Kansas fields. Kharfen said he wanted “to evoke the soft, flowing horizontal prairie forms,” in his design.
Museum at Prairiefire, Credit: Overland Park CVB
The facility is the first in North America to use dichroic glass on its exterior. Developed by NASA to protect its astronauts’ eyes from the radiation of the sun, the glass absorbs light as one color on its exterior and changes to a different hue on its interior. At the museum, the exterior has red and orange colors and cool blues and purples on the interior.
There are two levels of event spaces at the museum, with options that include the Great Room, boardrooms, classrooms and even use of the Exhibition Hall.
The Great Hall, with a capacity for 300 people seated, can be used for larger events, lectures and receptions. Adjacent is the Wetlands Terrace, an outdoor patio that can accommodate an additional 185 guests. The Exhibition Hall can be open to allow attendees to tour the museum’s works. The Discovery Room can also be used by groups for hands-on experiences.
The North Topeka Arts District, referred to locally as NOTO, runs along the north end of downtown near the Kansas River.
Once a lively neighborhood in the 1940s and early 1950s, shops closed up until the 2010s when investors began purchasing and revitalizing the historic buildings.
Truckhenge in Topeka, Kansas, Credit: Visit Topeka
In 2011, three businesses opened here and the next year the number grew to 12. Today, many of the buildings have been transformed into galleries, studios, antique stores and restaurants, priding themselves on all being locally owned.
Groups can tour this neighborhood and take in the many murals on their own or as part of the monthly First Friday ArtWalk events. The NOTO Community Arts Center offers classes, workshops and artist events.
Manhattan Arts Center (MAC) offers live theater, music and classes.
Groups can utilize a variety of event space, including a performance hall, two galleries, a studio, dressing rooms and a set design shop.
“Our galleries feature works by local and regional artists as well as our own community studios,” said Michele Ward, director of education and marketing for the arts center.
“We also partner with KSU School of Music, Theatre, and Dance for the Community School for the Performing Arts, which offers classes, workshops and lessons with incredible faculty in KSU’s McCain Music Building," she added.
Manhattan Arts Center, Manhattan, Kansas, Credit: Visit Manhattan KS
The theater season includes three musicals, two plays and a one-act play festival, while the BirdHouse Fine Acoustic Music Series features six acts each season, Ward explained.
For private events, groups can rent the entire center or one of the available spaces, including the Clarenburg Foyer, Grosh Performance Hall or the Kirmser Gallery.
Music Theatre Wichita (MTWichita) was founded in 1972 and each summer brings more than 65,000 visitors to Century II Performing Arts Center in downtown Wichita with its five self-produced Broadway-scale musical productions.
“Music Theatre Wichita is one of the things we’re most proud of here in our city,” said Visit Wichita’s Rosson. “It is one of the very few theaters in the country that truly is a training ground for many Broadway performers. The quality of performances we have here are hard to match, outside Broadway and some of the Chicago shows.”
Music Theatre Wichita, Credit: Visit Wichita
The Century II Performing Arts Center and the convention center boasts more than 200,000 square feet of exhibition and meeting space in total.
The two facilities combined have 28 meeting rooms and ballrooms, and the Century II connects to the 303-room Hyatt Regency Wichita. The venue includes three professional stages, a convention hall, exhibition hall, the Bob Brown Expo Hall and banquet and meeting rooms. The Concert Hall seats 2,178 people on the main floor and balcony.
Memorial Hall is a veterans memorial located in downtown Kansas City, Kansas, and built in 1925. This historic entertainment and events venue offers the capacity for 2,500 people.
Memorial Hall, Credit: Kansas City Kansas CVB
“It’s a beautiful space and has a ballroom space that can accommodate up to 300 people in rounds,” said Justin Stine, meetings and sports sales manager for the Kansas City Kansas CVB.
“There have also been recent renovations that added an elevator to the second level, and construction on a parking lot is currently underway," he added.
The reception-type hall is on the third floor, while on the lower level is the main floor, which holds up to 1,000 guests. Surrounding the floor and stage are the upper and lower “bowls” with fixed seats.
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