Back in 2008, April Johnson got inspired by an annual creative fundraising party held at the Wichita Art Museum. Called a Color Party, that particular party’s theme was red, Johnson remembers.
The very next day she became a museum volunteer, serving on various boards and helping plan events, she said.
A little more than a decade later, Johnson is hoping others will be inspired to support WAM by attending at least one of the 14 fundraising parties being thrown over the next couple of months by her and other museum volunteers in private homes, event venues and nearby locales.
Each party has a different theme and activities but all in some way focus on art as the center of the party; hence the “pARTy – a collection” name for the fundraiser series. Ticket prices vary, ranging from $50 to $200.
“That’s the nice thing about these parties; there are different price points and different types of parties,” said Bree Cox, who is hosting one of the parties and helping the host of another party.
Hosts cover the party costs, and WAM gets the ticket sale money, which is used to support programming ranging from putting on events such as Tunes and Tallgrass and Art Chatter to paying for buses to bring area schoolchildren to the museum, said Patricia McDonnell, WAM executive director. The goal is to raise $100,000, she said.
Some of the parties are smaller, intimate affairs, like a progressive dinner party for 16 and a swanky film-noir setting for a Sundance award-winning movie screening for 30 people. Others are more casual events open to a crowd of 100, like the ones Johnson and Cox are planning. Other party themes include makeovers, a ladies-only night and Margaritaville.
The “Sunday Funday” party Johnson is hosting, along with her husband, Grae and Wichita couple Ann and Martin Bauer, kicks off the pARTy series on Sunday Aug. 25. The final party — an already sold-out dinner and magic show for 12 that takes inspiration from Charles Green Shaw’s “The Magician” painting — happens Saturday, Oct. 19.
Both Johnson and Cox, who also were hosts for the inaugural “pARTy – a collection” series in 2017, are incorporating work by local artists into their parties.
At Johnson’s Aug. 25 party, guests can experience a more hands-on role with art.
“We’re still working out the group art concept but it will be an interactive project so guests have something to do and can leave their mark,” said Johnson.
Holding the party on Commerce Street — in a relatively new outdoor event space called the Urban Gardens at The Hudson — also has a tie-in to local art, she said. Many in Wichita see Commerce Street, where artist collectives started decades ago, as the area that sparked greater appreciation for local art.
Bree and Jason Cox are paying homage to local art at their “Sunday Social” party Sept. 8 in the backyard of their College Hill home. Their recently finished outdoor space incorporates local artistic features with a mural by artist Juanta Wolfe and custom furniture designed by The Workroom.
Both Johnson and Cox said they help the museum because they value having a well-respected art museum in Wichita. Through “pARTy – a collection” series, even those who haven’t visited WAM can still support it by going to one of the parties.
“I hope to see a lot of new faces at these parties,” said Johnson, who’s still working on her selection of which parties she’ll attend this year besides her own.
“It really serves our community to have a place to go and experience very good artists,” Cox said. “Without access to art, your city lacks identity. We are the environment we surround ourselves with — that’s our identity, how we see ourselves and relate to the world.”
WAM’s “pARTy – a collection”
What: A series of 14 fundraising parties for the Wichita Art Museum
When: Sunday, Aug. 25-Saturday, Oct. 19
Tickets: Prices range from $50 to $200 depending on the party. Visit www.wichitaartmuseum.org/party for more details and to purchase tickets. At least four of the parties have already sold out.