Keeper of the Plans

Wichita artists reveal ambitious plans to paint large community murals

The Beachner Grain Elevator at 519 E. 20th Street will be the site of the largest mural of the Horizontes project.
The Beachner Grain Elevator at 519 E. 20th Street will be the site of the largest mural of the Horizontes project. Courtesy

Details of a long-teased $100,000 mural project in Wichita were released Monday.

Horizontes is the brainchild of Armando Minjarez, who received a $100,000 grant from the Knight Foundation last June to make the project a reality.

Four locations in north and northeast Wichita have been solidified as locations for large-scale murals:

▪ Beachner Grain Elevator, 519 E. 20th Street

▪ Historic Dunbar Theatre, 1007 N. Cleveland

▪ Nomar Theater, 2141 N. Market

▪ 13th Street Train Bridge, 13th and Santa Fe

The largest mural will be painted on the grain elevator, which Minjarez says should be visible from I-135 and from surrounding neighborhoods.

Three internationally recognized muralists have committed to the project, Minjarez said.

Wichitans can expect these murals to be painted anywhere from late this summer to fall, he said.

“I’ve been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work, lots of meeting people in the community, securing partnerships and reaching out to artists,” Minjarez said. “Things are finally taking shape and we’re ready to launch.”

The locations, when considered on their merit, are all rather symbolic.

The 13th Street underpass literally divides the two neighborhoods Horizontes aims to unify and celebrate.

And two long-vacant community theater houses – places where culture is celebrated – make for fitting mural destinations as well.

The Dunbar Theatre, which was at one point the cultural cornerstone of Wichita’s African-American community, has benefited financially from a recent surge of interest from city officials and community leaders. The hope is that the Dunbar can be restored to its former glory by 2020.

Leaders of the Horizontes project are holding out a similar hope for the Nomar Theater, which has sat vacant for over three decades. The theater, just south of 21st Street on Market, was originally a segregated space, but later became one of Wichita’s first integrated theaters.

“We wanted to make sure that we found ... locations that were connected, in a very meaningful way, to the neighborhoods we’ll be working in,” Minjarez said.

What is Horizontes?

The project, which was one of 33 Knight Cities Challenge grants awarded in 2017, involves more than just mural-painting.

Horizontes, which means “horizons” in Spanish, is an effort to unite people from two historic Wichita neighborhoods who are “physically, emotionally and mentally” divided by I-135, Minjarez told the Eagle last year.

“Really, that’s at the heart of this – it’s building that black and brown solidarity in Wichita,” Minjarez said in July. “It’s taking over our own spaces. It’s building our own spaces, building our own platform, telling our stories directly. It’s about reclaiming our space.”

Teams of volunteers will canvas Wichita’s North End and northeast neighborhoods in the coming months, collecting stories and a sort of neighborhood wish-list. Project leaders plan to host community workshops in hopes of creating a “community priority report” of quantifiable data about the two neighborhoods.

“We’re not necessarily trying to create work that has already been done, but rather we’re hoping to help bring that work together and fill in the gaps where we can, so we can present a more comprehensive multilayered analysis of both the history and the potential of these neighborhoods.”

To keep up with the project, visit www.horizontes-project.com or at www.facebook.com/horizontes.project.

Juanta Saunders Jr. is a local artist who is planning the "Broadway Beautification Project" in south Wichita. (Matt Riedl/The Wichita Eagle)

 

Horizontes project team

Armando Minjarez, project director and curator

Dale Small, art director

Kylie Brown, creative associate

Louis Goseland, engagement coordinator

Carlos Palomino, brand identity designer

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