Wichita Art Museum seeks to accelerate redesign of grounds

08/08/2014 6:43 PM

08/13/2014 12:34 PM

The Wichita Art Museum board of trustees has adopted a master plan to redesign the grounds around the building and now wants to do the project all at once rather than phase in the work as originally planned, said director Patricia McDonnell.

The museum, 1400 W. Museum Blvd., started with $1 million to launch its “Art Garden” landscaping project, but the trustees were excited by the master plan and the museum now has $2 million in pledges. It plans to raise another $1 million from donors, McDonnell said.

Although the museum is owned by the city, the new landscaping will be privately funded. The original money for the project came from the museum’s board chair, Paula Downing, and her husband, Barry, and from board member Martha Walker and her husband, Keith.

The new landscaping of the roughly nine acres surrounding the museum is intended to enhance the mix of activities that take place on the grounds now and in the future, such as walking dogs, throwing Frisbees, and attending outdoor concerts and weddings.

“It really is our welcome mat to the community,” McDonnell said. “Our property is accessible 24/7, and we want it to be really wonderful.”

The master plan calls for a variety of outdoor spaces at different elevations with multiple pathways around the museum, new plantings and improved lighting. Existing outdoor sculpture will be moved to new sites.

One key new element is a North Garden with low-canopy trees and a maze of stone walls to create an intimate space. Plans also include an amphitheater with seating for up to 900 people for weddings, parties and concerts.

Detail work still is being done on types of plantings, touches for the pathways and other things. That should be completed this month, McDonnell said.

The design team is headed by the landscape architect and urban planning firm Confluence, which has offices in Kansas City, Des Moines and Minneapolis. The team includes Seattle-based public artist Vicki Scuri, who has done other projects in Wichita, and lighting designer Derek Porter.

The work is being overseen by Wichita’s GLMV Architecture.

Construction was to start in January, but could be moved up a month, depending on weather, McDonnell said. A grand opening still is scheduled for mid-October 2015.

The project is the first redesign at the museum since it was expanded in 2003.

Reach Fred Mann at 316-268-6310 or fmann@wichitaeagle.com.

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