Keeper of the Plans

Seeing more color under Old Town bridges? Here's why

This five-panel mural, designed by local artist Todd Whipple, was recently completed on Second Street, by Old Town Square.
This five-panel mural, designed by local artist Todd Whipple, was recently completed on Second Street, by Old Town Square. The Wichita Eagle

Under the bridge downtown is where you'll find these splashes of color.

For the past month, painters have been finishing murals on First and Second streets in Old Town.

The four murals, which were started last fall, are part of a $3.5 million plan to improve the streetscape on those two streets. The murals are painted in five panels each – on the north and south sides of the railroad bridge just east of St. Francis.

But what, exactly, are they?

They’re meant to symbolize the people who frequent the entertainment district, once almost entirely warehouses.

“It’s a gathering place for people. … You’ve got clubs and bars, restaurants, a theater,” said Todd Whipple, the local artist responsible for the murals. “The subject matter deals more with people interacting with the built environment and the natural environment.”

In each underpass, there is one Cubist-inspired mural and one Impressionist-inspired mural.

The Cubist ones are blocky – intended to look like pixels and computer circuitry – and the Impressionist ones are fluid, meant to evoke the “natural environment,” Whipple said.

When the City Council approved the beautification project in February 2017, city officials expressed interest in having the murals done by the NCAA tournament earlier this year.

And it happened. Sort of.

Two of the blocky-style murals were painted last fall, but Whipple said the city contract was awarded too late for his crews to finish all four murals by March.

“It was right about the end of October, maybe the first week of November, and temperatures were starting to drop,” he said. “It was time for us to stop anyway, so it worked out really well for us.”

The murals are being projected onto the wall and painted by artists with Danielle Studios, a local company that specializes in decorative and faux finishes.

Whipple is working with architectural firm Law Kingdon and TranSystems on the project.

The murals are expected to be done in about six weeks, he said.

Whipple has produced public art in Wichita for the past 20 years. Past projects include the “Rotary Time Tower” at Second and St. Francis streets, the entrance to O.J. Watson Park, and the NoMar International Plaza at 21st and Broadway.

Murals running down the middle of Douglas Avenue, are part of a Douglas Design District initiative where the median area will be outlined and painted with a bright geometric designs.