On Jan. 1, 1921, a group of art enthusiasts and Wichita community leaders got together and held a dinner at the Lassen Hotel to celebrate the founding of a new association that would promote the arts in Wichita.
Nearly 96 years later to the day, the successor of that arts association will hold more celebrations, this time in a building that can be considered a testament to just how important Wichitans feel about having a place to learn about and showcase the expanding palette of the creative arts.
On Dec. 31, Mark Arts will have its first official event in its $19 million facility that is under construction at 1307 N. Rock Road. Midnight at Mark Arts is a gala event with $250- and $100-per-person tickets. A community open house is planned for Jan. 6.
“We’re going to celebrate this tremendous gift to Wichita and thank our generous contributors,” said Katy Dorrah, executive director of Mark Arts.
The building, being built on land donated by the Charles Koch Foundation and valued at around $4.5 million, was financed with $6 million in donations from the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation, $1.5 million from the K.T. Wiedemann Foundation and $7 million raised during a capital campaign.
The gala event is a fitting way to kick off the new year in a new building with new opportunities for both Mark Arts and the community, Dorrah said.
Mark Arts traces its roots back to the Wichita Art Association, the group that celebrated its founding at that Lassen Hotel dinner. In the 1940s, it took up residence in a house on North Belmont, where it offered classes. In 1965, it moved to 9112 E. Central and became the Wichita Center for the Arts. During the groundbreaking ceremony in July 2016 for the new facility, it was announced that the organization was being immediately renamed Mark Arts and the building would be called the Mary R. Koch Arts Center.
At the time, Liz Koch, honorary trustee for the center, explained the new name as “M.R.K., or Mark, is actually an acronym for Mary Robinson Koch, but it also stands for ‘make your mark, leave your mark, create your mark,’ so it has many, many meanings, and that’s why I think we all fell in love with it.”