Holiday open house at art museum

12/13/2012 3:02 PM

12/13/2012 3:03 PM

Santa is planning to spend his Saturday at the Wichita Art Museum’s Holiday Open House, an event that volunteer group Friends of the Wichita Art Museum last put on five years ago.

The open house, scheduled for 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, will feature a visit from the man in red plus free punch and cookies, performances by two choirs and several children’s activities.

Friends of the Wichita Art Museum is a volunteer group best known for putting on the annual Art & Book Fair, which happens over Mother’s Day weekend.

This year, the group decided to revive the holiday open house.

“They are bringing it back and bringing it back in style,” said Patricia McDonnell, the museum’s director. “This is a great, festive, free event.”

Along with eating cookies and candy canes, children will be able to make pop-up Christmas cards and visit with Santa.

“It’s a way for the community to celebrate Christmas,” said Patty Bennett, the chair of the event. “Our purpose is to promote WAM. It gives the community a reason to come to the museum and see how beautiful it is at Christmas.”

Thirty volunteers have worked to make this year’s festivities a success. This group is a part of the more than 150 Friends volunteers that help the museum with parties, docent work, endowments and children’s activities. More volunteers also serve in the WAM Contemporaries group.

“Everybody works hard in the events,” Bennett said. “The Wichita Museum is Wichita’s museum. It belongs to the people of Wichita; we want them to come and enjoy it.”

The city of Wichita owns and runs the art museum. However, the board of trustees, which has approximately 30 members, hires the director. The museum opened in 1935 and moved into its new quarters in the 1970s.

Bennett and McDonnell hope that once families are through the museum’s door they will visit the multi-level art collection. Along with the permanent art displays, the museum continually changes several of its galleries. McDonnell, who took over as director late this summer, has introduced painted walls as background for different exhibits. This vibrant touch adds to the excitement as visitors roam the maze-like building and look over some of the museum’s 7,000 paintings, drawings and sculptures.

Partygoers will also see a large, decorated Christmas tree, lights and lots of ribbons. Music will be provided by the Collegiate Choir and the Andover High School Madrigals.

But what will be breathtaking for new visitors to the museum are the newly cleaned Dale Chihuly confetti glass chandelier in the museum’s great hall and the 1,500 pound Persian-inspired glass ceiling in the lobby that consists of 611 blown glass pieces. Both Chihuly works were acquired in 2003.

The museum’s gift shop and restaurant, the Muse, will be open during the festivities.

“It’s my hope that they continue with this event,” McDonnell said. “It’s an additional activity to open our doors and be welcoming.”

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