Wichita, KS Becoming a Hotbed of Cultural Attractions
The Walt Disney Co. recently staged The Little Mermaid on Broadway, but company officials didn't like how the production turned out.
So the Disney execs contacted three top theatrical troupes from across the country to redesign the show and present it to their audiences locally, and one of the troupes chosen was Music Theatre of Wichita.
“The Disney people flew to Wichita in 2011 to view our adaptation and they loved it. This was the fifth time we've partnered with Disney on such a project,” says Wayne Bryan, producing artistic director for Music Theatre of Wichita.
Music Theatre has been in Wichita since 1972 and each summer presents five large Broadway-scale musicals that are staged at the Century II Performing Arts and Convention Center.
“Our organization creates 300 jobs every summer and we attract 65,000 spectators to the shows to see our singers, dancers and actors perform,” Bryan says. “More than 30 performers who have been on the Wichita stage in recent years are in productions on Broadway right now.”
Air of Sophistication
Music Theatre of Wichita is one of several reasons why the region has built a reputation for cultural sophistication, from live theater and music options to some 30 galleries and museums. The city is home to attractions such as the Wichita Grand Opera, Wichita Symphony Orchestra, Wichita Center for the Arts and the Wichita Art Museum – the largest art museum in Kansas.
“We have to be sophisticated because we are in competition with other large cities,” says John D'Angelo, City of Wichita director of art and cultural services. “When large businesses think about relocating to a big city, most look for communities that are strong in the arts. For example, Koch Industries in Wichita often uses our cultural amenities to attract top people to relocate here.”
Wichita's roots are in the Old West and the city gives several nods to its Western heritage, including the Mid-America All-Indian Center and the Old Cowtown Museum. But Wichita also showcases its forward thinking and modern flair at sites like the Kansas Aviation Museum and the Exploration Place science center.
Is That a Miro?
One attraction that stands out even before visitors enter the building is the Ulrich Museum of Art on the campus of Wichita State University. It has a dynamic outdoor sculpture collection as well as a 28-foot-by-52-foot mural of Venetian glass and marble on the museum's outdoor facade. The masterpiece was created in 1977 by Spanish artist Joan Miro, who was a contemporary of Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall.
“The mural is the jewel in our crown," says Patricia McDonnell, Ulrich Museum of Art director. “We have nearly 7,000 art pieces and showcase new exhibits all the time. We offer a great product and service to the open-minded, curious and creative people who live in Wichita, and who visit here.”