May 1, 2014

Wichita Art Museum embarking on $1 million landscaping project

Wichita Art Museum leaders have have long thought that the grounds around the museum were adequate.

Wichita Art Museum leaders have have long thought that the grounds around the museum were adequate.

And “adequate” wasn’t good enough.

“We aim for excellence,” said director Patricia McDonnell.

So the museum, at 1400 W. Museum Blvd., is embarking on a $1 million “Riverview Art Garden” project to redesign 2.7 acres along Stackman Drive and West Sim Park Drive.

The new landscaping is intended to allow, and complement, the mixture of activities that take place at the museum now and in the future, McDonnell said. The area is used for walking dogs in the evening, by kids playing ball and throwing Frisbees, and for outdoor concerts and weddings.

The money for the project came from the museum’s board of trustees chair, Paula Downing, and her husband, Barry, and from board member Martha Walker and her husband, Keith.

The museum has hired a design team headed by landscape architect and urban planning firm Confluence, which has offices in Kansas City, Des Moines and Minneapolis. The team will include Seattle-based public artist Vicki Scuri and lighting designer Derek Porter.

Scuri designed the Douglas Avenue Bridge and is designing features for the expansion of Kellogg from Cypress to 159th Street East. Porter is a lighting specialist based in Kansas City and New York.

The work will be overseen by Wichita’s GLMV Architecture.

The museum hopes that design development can be completed by the end of July and a contractor selected by Jan. 1. Work on the project should be completed by October 2015.

The project is the first redesign at the museum since it was expanded in 2003 and will be done in collaboration with the museum, McDonnell said.

“We need some spaces for larger gathering areas, as well as smaller areas contained by trees and bushes,” she said. “We really want it to be a compelling wedding of art and nature.”

Museum board members hope this is first step toward adding more sculptures, McDonnell said, but that’s not part of the current plan. The project may result in moving existing sculptures.

The museum will seek input from its neighbors at a May 13 meeting with the Riverside Citizens Association. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church. McDonnell said designers want to find out what neighbors like and don’t like about the museum grounds and what they want to see improved.

Association president Linda McCune said neighbors see the meeting as an excellent opportunity for community involvement. Botanica also has sought opinions from the association, she said.

She hasn’t heard residents’ opinions on the museum grounds, she said.

“We’re just excited to be near enough to these venues that they’re looking at us to come help,” McCune said.

Design firms from Texas, Iowa and Missouri competed with Confluence for the job. McDonnell said the museum looked for designers who had done projects integrating culture and landscaping.

“It was important to all of us that we look regionally for our designers. We were eager for someone to have real sensitivity to our place and our climate,” she said.

Confluence has done work for the Des Moines Art Center, the University of Iowa, the Kansas City Zoo and a number of city and county parks.

The museum set goals for Confluence that included creating a continuous landscape for art, or a “roofless museum.”

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