Mary Koch, who had a passion for the arts throughout her life, was a student and benefactor for the Wichita Center for the Arts.
To honor Mary Koch’s legacy, the center has renamed its new, multimillion-dollar facility for her.
Around 400 people gathered Wednesday for the center’s groundbreaking, where Liz Koch, honorary trustee for the center, announced the new name: Mark Arts – the Mary R Koch Arts Center.
“M.R.K., or Mark, is actually an acronym for Mary Robinson Koch, but it also stands for ‘make your mark, leave your mark, create your mark,’ so it has many, many meanings, and that’s why I think we all fell in love with it,” Koch said.
Koch family members, project leaders and five children struck the earth with shovels painted by kids at the art center, marking the beginning of construction and putting the center about three months ahead of its original plan.
The new center will feature a gallery for national exhibits, an event center that will host up to 700 people, nine studios for artists, a culinary arts kitchen, a technology studio, a dedicated youth space, art and educational spaces, a sculpture garden and more.
“(Mary Koch) was a woman who would just be over the moon about this project, because she always wanted to progress forward,” said Bonnie Bing Honeyman, capital campaign co-chairwoman.
“Art was very, very important to her, and she wanted to share that art. This will share everyone’s creativity, everyone’s artistic ability, regardless of age or their level of ability.”
Katy Dorrah, the center’s executive director, said Phase 1 of the 40,000-square-foot center will cost $19 million. She said the center is working to raise an additional $1 million for landscaping and walking trails.
The Fred and Mary Koch Foundation donated $2 million in addition to a $4 million challenge grant, which was met by the community, Dorrah said. The Charles Koch Foundation donated the land for the new center, which is valued at around $4.5 million.
Through community efforts, the center has raised $7 million over the past nine months. The K.T. Wiedemann Foundation donated $500,000 as part of the Koch challenge grant and issued a $1 million challenge grant of its own.
“We have just been blown away with the amount of support we’ve received from those that champion the arts in the community for this project,” Dorrah said this week.
The new center will be at the southwest corner of 13th and Rock Road, the fifth-busiest intersection in the city. It is scheduled to open in 2018.
Jack Guthrie, an art major, said he has been involved with the center since he was a child, and his experiences there reinforced his love of art.
“Wichita Center for the Arts has always been a part of my life,” Guthrie said. “It shows me all the different ways that I can express myself.”
Liz Koch said her final hope moving forward is to raise more money to give back to the community in the form of scholarships.
“If it weren’t for the community support, we wouldn’t be doing it,” Koch said. “Because what we don’t need are more monuments. We need things that are alive and make a huge contribution and make communities better and places that people want to be.”
Morgan Bell: firstname.lastname@example.org