If you don’t typically associate Riverfest with contemporary art, that’s OK.
Harvester Arts is trying to change that.
This year at Riverfest, the Ackerman’s Backyard area along the Arkansas River will be full of color, as designed by internationally known painter James Marshall, aka Dalek.
Custom-built chairs and benches are painted in an aesthetically pleasing color palette, a DJ booth will be painted in Marshall’s signature geometric style, and signs with his “Space Monkey” design will be spread throughout the area. Even an area of grass will be painted bright blue.
Harvester hopes this public art project will act as a sort of bridge to pique people’s curiosity about street artists like Marshall.
“If we can infuse the festival with contemporary art without people even realizing that’s what’s happening, it plants a seed,” said Kate Van Steenhuyse, co-founder and CEO of Harvester Arts. “It expands their experience and just opens up potential for other conversations.”
The furniture – which is intended to be a yearly fixture at the festival – encourages critical thinking, Marshall said.
“You see the impact of art on everyday lives,” he said. “It’s huge. It can uplift communities. ... It brings energy, and you can feel it lift people’s spirits when you start to introduce art into public space simply due to the fact that it’s color. It’s something powerful.”
The chairs and benches were cut using MakeICT’s CNC router. The designs are all open-source, downloaded through the Better Block Project.
It is a project of the Pop-Up Co-Op, a $5,000 project funded by the Knight Foundation’s Up the Ambition Grant, administered through the Wichita Community Foundation.
Marshall is the 2017 Riverfest artist-in-residence. The program, started in 2015, is a partnership between Riverfest and Harvester Arts, in an attempt to introduce more public art at Riverfest.
SunSails, the project of 2016 artist-in-residence Rachel Hayes, is also on display on the Hyatt lawn.
Marshall, who painted a geometric mural on the facade of Harvester Arts in October, said he plans on doing more projects in Wichita in the future.
“I want to paint the top of Century II,” he said. “It’s waiting to be painted.”