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City looks for new director at Old Cowtown Museum

Cowtown volunteers Gregory and Rachel Hunt break out into song during the Emerald City Steampunk Expo at Cowtown. (Nov. 13, 2010)
Cowtown volunteers Gregory and Rachel Hunt break out into song during the Emerald City Steampunk Expo at Cowtown. (Nov. 13, 2010) File photo

David Flask has resigned as director of Old Cowtown Museum.

Flask’s last day at the living history complex will be Jan. 22. He has served as Cowtown’s director since September 2008.

“When I arrived at Cowtown, I had a set of goals I wished to attain,” Flask, 57, said Wednesday. “Those goals included getting the staff to work as a team, freshening and improving the physical appearance of the facility, re-introducing Wichitans to Cowtown and increasing the attendance.”

But he also had to overcome a public perception that Cowtown was failing. When The Eagle interviewed him in 2008, he said, “When I asked somebody about Cowtown, they said it was a huge hornet’s nest.”

At that time, Cowtown was struggling with finances and low attendance. It also struggled with defining its mission – how it should educate and entertain visitors while preserving frontier history and artifacts. The living history museum, tucked between Botanica and the Arkansas River at 1865 Museum Blvd., changed in 2007 from being owned by a nonprofit board to being owned by the city.

David has done some great things for Cowtown and helped us get it going. We are in a good place and anxious to get somebody else in to continue down our path and get our strategic plan going.

John D’Angelo, director of Wichita’s Arts and Culture Department

“David has done some great things for Cowtown and helped us get it going,” said John D’Angelo, director of Wichita’s Arts and Culture Department, which oversees Cowtown. “We are in a good place and anxious to get somebody else in to continue down our path and get our strategic plan going. Sorry to see him leave.”

The city has already posted the job opening. Flask told D’Angelo about the resignation on Jan. 7 and told the Cowtown staff on Friday.

The position pays between $51,114 and $72,564 a year. The new director is expected to start work on Feb. 29.

Before coming to Cowtown, Flask was director of the McPherson Museum and Arts Foundation from 1997 to 2004. During that time, the museum changed ownership, developed a strategic plan, created a board and outgrew its building.

While at Cowtown, Flask added some events to the museum lineup, including Civil War Day, Steampunk Day, Frozen in Time, A Day in the Life, Once Upon a Time and the Roaring ’20s. He helped revamp other events, including An Evening of Hay, Hooves and Halloween and a Dickens Christmas.

Attendance at Cowtown increased from 27,000 a year to 56,000 from 2008 until now.

I feel like I have, with a great staff, achieved those things I came to Cowtown to do. The board has just written a new strategic plan. We have a new curator; this is a good time for a new person to come in.

David Flask, who has resigned as director of Old Cowtown Museum

“I feel like I have, with a great staff, achieved those things I came to Cowtown to do,” Flask said. “The board has just written a new strategic plan. We have a new curator; this is a good time for a new person to come in.”

Beccy Tanner: 316-268-6336, @beccytanner

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