“It was just like butter,” artist Steve Murillo says of how quickly an idea and team to create it came together.
Steven contacted Murillo about doing a black-and-white cityscape in the space at 6200 W. 21st St. across from Sedgwick County Park.
Murillo, who acted as something of the producer of the mural, sent Steven some of photographer Lisa Sparks’ photos from an exhibit called Wichita Phenomena she has at the Murillo Studios and Gallery outside of KMUW at 121 N. Mead.
“Within minutes, he said, ‘That’s exactly what I want,’ ” Murillo says. “And he just gave us carte blanche. We had total creative freedom.”
Sparks spent a month collecting 1,300 photographs of Wichita sites, such as the iconic Wichita rail sign, the Orpheum, Century II and the Riverside Park rocket.
“We love Lisa’s imagery, and we really think it gets to the essence of the perception of greatness in the city,” says Josh Tripoli who, with artistic partner Rebekah Lewis, assembled the photos through what he called “quite an editing process.”
The two, who also designed this year’s River Festival button, wanted to “architecturally compose this in a way that really reflected a feeling of greatness and bigness in a way that we could see it through a contemporary lens while still reflecting on the historical and timeless qualities of Lisa’s photography,” Tripoli says. “We want you to feel this sense of, like, wow, that’s all Wichita.”
Lewis says they wanted a feeling of “all together it’s kind of grandiose in a way.”
Sparks says she shot so many pictures because “I just wanted them to have as many pieces of the puzzle to be able to work with and adjust to make sure that it all went together.”
There are a lot of clouds featured in the photos, which act as a kind of cohesive motif across the 46-by-16-foot mural that’s in the main 6S dining room.
“We really tried to focus on the geometry and how (it) kind of syncs up architecturally across the whole thing to make it feel cohesive,” Tripoli says.
There’s a lot to catch in the mural that might not immediately be evident, including Steven’s nod to his extended family’s businesses, such as Joe’s Car Wash.
“When people have lived in the city for so long, you kind of just stop looking at things,” Lewis says, “and so I just kind of want people to have this moment when they’re like, wait … that’s my city … and have to really look at it, like, OK, I do know these things, but maybe see it in a fresh way.”
Tripoli says collaborative efforts like this amount to “something that’s far greater than the sum of its parts every time.”
But is the client happy?
“It exceeded my expectations, which is the reason I partnered with the people I did,” Steven says.
“Every seat you sit in it’s a different view,” he says. “Every time you look at it, you see something you didn’t see before.”
Sparks says her photography was the easiest part of the project.
However, as someone whose Wichita history goes back four generations on both sides of her family, Sparks says this was a personally important endeavor for her. She hopes people who view the mural will feel what she was feeling as she took the photos.
“What I want people to see when they experience this, especially on such a grand scale, is a sense of pride and a sense of history and a sense of nostalgia and a sense of … we’re portraying those things in a modern way,” she says. “I want people to love their city and feel spoiled in it and feel proud of it.”