Artists, vendors try to brighten up Douglas

Artists paint a mural Sunday on a pillar supporting Interstate 135 over Douglas. (May 1, 2016)
Artists paint a mural Sunday on a pillar supporting Interstate 135 over Douglas. (May 1, 2016) The Wichita Eagle

Murals, chalk drawings and street art brought some vibrant color to an otherwise dreary Sunday.

Artists set up shop on a stretch of Douglas between Grove and Hydraulic, painting murals on walls, sidewalks and the pillars of a highway overpass.

“We believe public art brings a lot of the vibrancy out in the community,” said local artist Armando Minjarez, who was painting an overpass pillar as Interstate 135’s southbound traffic roared overhead. “It engages people with their environment and their neighborhood.”

The Pathway to Peace Chalk Walk and Mural Reveal on Sunday also featured more than a dozen community groups promoting social causes ranging from supporting community mental health or refugees to eliminating human trafficking.

“I’m glad a lot of these vendors and nonprofits are out here,” said Alisha Hall, who attended the event on Sunday. “A lot of people don’t realize how bad human trafficking and domestic violence are in Wichita.”

Most of the vendors were bundled up during the windy and somewhat chilly afternoon.

“I think it’s been a positive experience, but I wish Mother Nature had cooperated,” said Amy Nickell of the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center.

Nickell was presenting art that local sexual assault survivors had made during group sessions.

“Art definitely has a way to be therapeutic,” Nickell said.

Other vendors weren’t tied to causes but wanted to chip in. Carson Bank was handing out free hotdogs.

“It’s nice to see these free things for families to get out to,” said bank employee Mark Koch.

It was an event organized by businesses that participate in the Douglas Design District, which promotes a 3-mile stretch of Douglas near downtown.

Janelle King, who owns a shop called the Workroom, said some businesses embraced decorative murals on their buildings after initial skepticism.

“We actually had more artists than we had locations,” King said. “We went out and found more spots. So we were able to get everybody involved.

“We’re using the art to create a bigger message,” King added. “We want to create something that brings people down here and gives them a reason to walk around and find all the cool little gems.”

Some artists painted murals on businesses Sunday.

“All of these people working together are donating their time or just making my property cooler,” said Leon Moeder, a co-owner of the property that includes the Donut Whole.

Other artists, such as those with the group ICT Army of Artists, painted ancient symbols on a series of pillars under the I-135 overpass.

“There’s a lot of history to this land and this continent that precedes those of us who are today and the cultures we represent,” said Margi Ault-Duell, a member of the Army of Artists.

Minjarez said painting the pillars would make a bike and walking path underneath the highway more vibrant.

“We wanted to create a sense of exploration by painting the pillars that run along the bike lane,” he said. “When people are engaged, good things come from that.”

Daniel Salazar: 316-269-6791, @imdanielsalazar