Keeper of the Plans

Mead’s Corner refocusing on Wichita’s music scene

Chris Edmiston, 34, is taking the lead in rekindling Mead’s Corner’s place in the Wichita artistic community this year.
Chris Edmiston, 34, is taking the lead in rekindling Mead’s Corner’s place in the Wichita artistic community this year. The Wichita Eagle

Mead’s Corner is looking to recapture the energy it had when it opened in October 2008.

The key to that, according to the coffee shop’s new marketing manager, is to double down on the local music scene.

In 2017, the coffee shop – an outreach operated by Wichita’s First United Methodist Church – will schedule more shows from local and touring acts. The goal is to establish Mead’s as a “hub for the artistic community to come together,” said Chris Edmiston, marketing manager at Mead’s Corner, 430 E. Douglas.

“When we launched eight years ago, we had a really core group of people that were in bands and part of that culture, so it was easy for them to kind of book people and make this a listening space,” Edmiston said. “Over the years ... the culture kind of shifted and changed a little bit, and that energy moved on to other places, whether it’s a place like Barleycorn’s or Reverie or whatever it may be, that energy sort of shifted.

“What I really hope to do is help pour into these bands and these musicians and help them reach whatever goals they may have.”

Intentionality in scheduling

Downtown Wichita is a much different place now than it was when Mead’s first opened – a sort of oasis in the late-night free-for-all of downtown Wichita in 2008 – at the corner of Douglas and Emporia.

Mead’s Corner is one of few places in Wichita where the under-21 crowd can hang out late at night, as Mead’s is open until 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

It’s not that Mead’s has fallen out of popularity over the years, said Cindy Watson, senior pastor at First United Methodist Church, it’s that “we haven’t done as much intentionality.”

“It’s always busy – there’s always people there – but I think in terms of being intentional about bringing particularly local talent in, that’s becoming more important,” Watson said. “I just think that our intentionality of it intersecting with community is coming back out into the forefront.”

Mead’s Corner is open until 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Every now and then, Mead’s would schedule concerts, open mic nights and various other groups including local improv troupes. It was never especially active on social media.

Mead’s plans to invest more time into scheduling events and promoting them in 2017, Edmiston said.

“We’re going to be bringing in bands and groups that we may not have brought in a year ago, two years ago or five years ago ... and some stuff’s going to work really well and some stuff is going to fail, but we’re willing to try,” Edmiston said. “All of what we did in the first place was with an experimental, pioneering spirit of we’re going to go in and try something that hasn’t been done.”

Faith-based coffee shop

The push for change at Mead’s coincides with a shift in culture at First United Methodist Church.

Watson, who has a background in the arts, took over as senior pastor last year.

The church had a history of working with the arts community, but it has stepped up its involvement, according to Edmiston.

The church’s Wilke Center was (and will likely be again in 2017) a Tallgrass Film Festival host site, as well as a home for Wichita’s Forum Theatre, which staged its “Christmas Letters” play there. The church’s organist, Brett Valliant, is widely known, often playing for carillon concerts at the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum.

“We’re seeing the benefit of promoting the arts – not just Christian arts – but promoting the arts in general,” Edmiston said.

We’re seeing the benefit of promoting the arts – not just Christian arts – but promoting the arts in general.

Chris Edmiston, Mead’s Corner marketing manager

Bands that want to perform at Mead’s need not worry about censorship, Edmiston assures.

The aim is to sort of meet people and bands where they are, Edmiston said.

“Our vision was to be just a measure of hope and a measure of light for people. ... The music scene is a really dark place for a lot of folks,” he said. “Say where you are, man, but know that there’s hope at the end of it. We don’t want to minimize that. We don’t want to censor that or filter that. We want to say we want to be here for you.”

The coffee shop is a safer place to experiment and think about tough issues than a bar is, Watson said.

“Not that there’s anything wrong with the other bars or whatnot, but if you have children or folks that may have addiction issues, it’s nice to offer a place where they can go and appreciate and hear great local talent and not have that internal struggle or fight over what they should or should not do or whether they should be there,” Watson said. “I think that offers a nice alternative.”

To keep up with Mead’s Corner, like its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/meadscorner.

At Mead's Corner on East Douglas, Wichitans talk about their Valentine's Day plans, share mixed feelings about the holiday and answer the question, "who do you love the most?" (Feb. 12, 2016)

Upcoming events at Mead’s Corner

Jan. 28: Roni Lowry (cello/vocals)

Feb. 15: Bernardus (folk rock band from Lincoln, Neb.)

Feb. 17: Piper Lou-Renee with Roni Lowry (singer/songwriter, cello)

All concerts are from 7 to 9 p.m. unless otherwise noted.

For a full listing, visit www.meadscorner.com/events.

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