When Heather Eilerts runs through downtown Saturday for the Ballet Wichita 5K Art Run, she’ll likely hear bits of an aria, a blast of jazz, some string music written by a classical master and a song from a Broadway hit. If she stops for water during the run, she might see a mime, a juggler or some fellow ballerinas dancing.
Eilerts is running in the first Ballet Wichita 5K Art Run. And in addition to the broad range of entertainment provided by local artists that will appear at designated locations along the route, Eilerts will help create artwork Saturday. At the end of the run that starts near Century II, travels along the Arkansas River and around Exploration Place, Eilerts and other runners will help paint a picture with their feet.
“We’re tying in the arts into a complete fitness event,” said Clark Ensz, the event’s race director. “This is a new idea for Wichita.”
The event will showcase the arts in Wichita and raise money for Ballet Wichita, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to enhance the art of dance through performance and education. Participants can either run or walk.
Ensz, who has participated in more than 30 marathons and designed running courses for more than three decades, also is a former ballet dancer. He’s danced in Ballet Wichita productions of “Swan Lake,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Romeo and Juliet” and several of their annual holiday productions of “The Nutcracker.”
By combining his love for dance and his talent for organizing runs, Ensz and fellow runner Mark Chamberlin came up with a 5K run in downtown Wichita to help raise money for Ballet Wichita and help promote other artists and arts organizations.
“This is a unique opportunity,” Chamberlin said. “There is a close relationship between runners and dancers.”
Eilerts, 20, a ballet student at Wichita State University and a dancer with Ballet Wichita, sees the close relationship. She is not only excited to run, but to hear and see the performers along the way and participate in the artwork at the end.
“I’m excited about the art we’re going to do with our feet,” Eilerts said. Like many of the other runners, she plans to step onto the paint color that artist Rachel Kice designates and walk across a prepared vinyl surface. She then will clean her running shoes and enjoy food and more entertainment provided by local artists at the end of the 3.1-mile run.
Ballet Wichita will use the money generated by this event to help offset expenses for the company’s “Nutcracker” performance and free summer performances. Leaders also are looking into starting a spring show and more touring shows. Ballet Wichita has lacked a regular summer fundraiser.
A committee of 11 people and 50 to 60 volunteers on race day will help carry out the event.
Funding for the event has come from cash sponsors and from the registration fees. Barbara Chamberlin, the company’s executive director, said she anticipates around 500 participants and hopes to bring in around $20,000 in net profit for Ballet Wichita. With this being the event’s first year, she believes the organization can significantly grow the revenue stream in the future.
“It’s a very diverse crowd that loves to run,” Barbara Chamberlin, Mark Chamberlin’s wife, said. “It’s a way of allowing us to introduce our programs to a new audience.”
She also said that they hope to generate more interest in the arts and Ballet Wichita through this running event.
“The big upswing in people participating in races, especially 5Ks, are young professionals,” she said. “That’s the audiences that all of the arts organizations really need to cultivate. This event was attractive to us for that reason.”
Barbara Chamberlin also said that organizers “reached out to as many local arts groups as possible because we wanted everyone to be able to promote what they’re doing. Runners will be enveloped by art and sounds along the way.”
Mark Chamberlin, who sits on the board of directors for Run Wichita as its marketing chairman, said that Wichita has such a wonderful arts community, and it is sometimes taken for granted.
“I hope it gets people excited about the arts community in Wichita,” Mark Chamberlin said. “This is a way to increase exposure and funding.”
Contributing: Eagle correspondent Jason Dilts