More changes are coming for the popular Art and Book Fair, a 55-year-old event that has been a stand-alone affair since parting ways with the Wichita River Festival in 2011.
Organizers of the event – a fundraiser put on by the Friends of the Wichita Art Museum and traditionally staged at Century II during Mother’s Day weekend – have decided to move it next year back to the Wichita Art Museum, where it got its start, said Nancy Conover, chair of the group.
But because the museum is launching a $3 million redesign of its grounds, organizers will be limited on space and will scale the 2015 event back to focus mainly on books. The grounds are scheduled to be completed by fall of next year, and in 2016, the group plans to add more art to the event and stage it outside the museum.
“We just felt like there were some exciting things happening at the Wichita Art Museum in the next few years and that it would be nice to start a transition back to the place where it had begun,” Conover said.
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The 2015 event, scheduled for May 9-10, will be called “Art of the Book.” Though a scaled-back number of artists will sell their wares, the focus of the event will be books, which the museum collects throughout the year through donations. The bulk of the activity will be in the grand hall under the Chihuly sculpture, said Jill Miller, chair of the event.
Art of the Book also will include children’s activities, author talks, entertainment, book signings and more. Organizers are looking at 2015 as “a transitional year,” Miller said.
Members of Friends of the Wichita Art Museum are still discussing what the 2016 fair will look like, but they plan to put out a call for entries to regional and national artists. It will likely be smaller than the Century II event and will be staged mostly outdoors in the redesigned areas.
Having the sale at the art museum, where the books are collected, will prevent volunteers from having to haul them by semi to Century II, Miller said. Volunteers fill at least 110 tables with books.
The museum’s main lure was the promise of the new grounds, said Diane Post, publicity chair for Friends of the Wichita Art Museum. Post also said that, since parting ways with the Wichita River Festival, the event had drawn less foot traffic, likely because people had to purposefully park and walk to the event rather than strolling by it as part of the festival.
Last year’s Art and Book Fair drew 120 vendors and about 40,000 attendees.
The museum has ample parking, and the move will help rebrand, refresh and refocus the event, Post said.
“We just want to make more of the focus on the museum itself,” Post said.