Giant mural in north Wichita begins to come alive
In many ways, the news cycle moves so fast that it’s easy to forget everything that happened in the last 12 months.
2018 was a busy year in Wichita’s arts and entertainment world, as major events, openings and closings drew record-breaking readership online at Kansas.com.
To reflect on the top moments of the year, we’ve culled through some of the most-read stories of 2018 on the arts and entertainment beat.
Thanks for all of your readership in 2018. Here’s looking forward to an exciting 2019:
1. More and more art
Wichita’s visual art scene continued to grow in 2018, with quality museum offerings and a growing gallery scene. The Wichita Art Museum hit it big with its “Monet to Matisse” exhibition in February, which drew tons of people to the museum. Mark Arts continues to impress people with its brand-new facility at 13th and Rock, which opened in January. CityArts was spared when a plan to slash its budget for 2019 was nixed. More and more murals continue to pop up throughout Wichita — along Douglas and in the North End especially (more on that later). Douglas Avenue between Washington and Hydraulic has bright colors now painted on the road. The Douglas Avenue Underpass, which had been known for its pooping pigeon population, has been spruced up. Vacant storefronts downtown are now being filled with artist studios as part of the OpenStudios initiative. Even sewer grates downtown pop with color now. It’s also worth noting that many of the major art projects that came about in 2018 were grant-funded.
2. LevelUP parking garage party
The summer of 2018 brought with it many cool events — but none cooler than this one (though not in a literal sense, as it was quite hot that day). LevelUP was a massive event hosted by an army of volunteers, essentially, to create a multi-story community block party in a downtown parking garage. The project, led by Janelle King of The Workroom, took a ton of time and effort to organize — and it ended up being a highlight of the summer. It goes to show what kind of things Wichitans are capable of doing when different entities collaborate, and perhaps think a bit out of the box.
3. One theater comes, another one goes
Wichitans are clearly very passionate about their movie theaters. Two of the Eagle’s most-read stories of the year, at least in the arts and entertainment world, were about the opening of the AMC Northrock 14 and the closing of the Palace West. The AMC theater, which opened in March in the former Northrock 14 building, finally gave Wichita’s Warren Theatres (now owned by Regal) some competition in town. Just a week later, the second-run movie theater technically known as the Warren Palace 8 quietly closed and was quickly torn down to make way for a Cracker Barrel restaurant.
4. Horizontes Project curates head-turning murals
One of the most-buzzed-about art stories of 2018 was the Horizontes Project — which most people in town know for creating a humongous mural on a grain elevator in North Wichita. But the art project — funded by a $100,000 grant and also from local backers — did much more than just the one mural. It was responsible for a whole host of new murals in Wichita’s North End and Northeast neighborhoods. It’s safe to say project organizers achieved their goal of drawing attention to and shining a spotlight on minority artists working in those neighborhoods.
5. McConnell opens its gates to the public
It had been six years since the general public stepped foot onto the grounds of McConnell Air Force Base — at least until September. Early in the month, the base hosted Frontiers in Flight, a weekend-long air show, free of charge. The event was slightly hampered on its most popular day by low cloud cover, but that didn’t stop thousands of people from coming to the show this year. The base is currently planning its next air show for 2020.
6. Derby gets prehistoric
One of the most popular entertainment stories of 2018 on Kansas.com was about the opening of Field Station: Dinosaurs, a $6.5 million family attraction in Derby. It opened in May. The 14-acre park features 44 life-size animatronic dinosaurs spread among three distinct areas of the park. The dinosaur park, which had been eagerly awaited for years in Derby, was an immediate hit among parents and kids alike.
7. March Madness hosting success
Quite of a bit of the city’s collective civic effort early on in 2018 was in anticipation of the city’s first time ever hosting March Madness basketball games. For a solid week in mid-March, the city was a much different place than normal, with nightly parties taking place around Intrust Bank Arena — lining Commerce Street, vacant parking lots in the area and filling a well-received glass-walled tent. Higher-than-average temperatures for March drew many downtown just to party, even if they weren’t particularly interested in basketball. Now Wichita will get to do it all over again in 2021.
8. The Starlite Drive-In saga
It was a strange couple of months for those passionate about Wichita’s Starlite Drive-In from October to December. First, the drive-in was closing and expected to be razed to build warehouses. But a steadfast “Save the Starlite” movement swiftly gained a lot of allies in Wichita, including city officials. It resulted in an anonymous local person buying out the warehouse deal and assuming ownership of the Starlite so that it could remain a theater. The new owner — whoever is behind “3900 Hydraulic LC” — will lease drive-in operations out to Tulsa-based Blake Smith, co-owner of the Admiral Twin Drive-In.
9. Changes to Wichita’s music scene
Adam Hartke, who has becoming increasingly well-known as one of the Wichita area’s busiest concert promoters and music professionals, had quite a busy year. After helping Wichita Festivals with its annual concert lineup, Hartke turned his attention to The Cotillion, where he partnered with longtime Kirby’s Beer Store owner Alex Thomas to buy the classic Wichita venue. Later on in the year, Hartke opened his own venue, Wave, in Old Town — and it has since become a popular spot. Meanwhile, jazz continues to maintain a foothold in town, as more venues are seemingly hosting jazz jam sessions on a monthly basis. There is still progress yet to be made in Wichita’s music scene (namely providing more opportunities for people under 21 to see and participate in Wichita’s live music scene), but these developments indicate people are interested in and are investing in Wichita’s local musicians.
10. Wichita’s turn on national television
Wichita got some prime national screen time in 2018, as the city and its people were featured in a variety of ways. Wichita State basketball — and Intrust Bank Arena’s first time hosting the first and second rounds of March Madness — brought national television to the city for sports purposes. But the city also got some reality-TV love when Fetch Bistro, now known as Fetch Bar & Grill, was featured on Gordon Ramsay’s “24 Hours to Hell and Back” on FOX in July. Then, in late November, HGTV’s “House Hunters” aired the first-ever Wichita episode, filmed in town in February and March of this year.