The public is invited to tour the new $20 million Mary R. Koch Arts Center during an unveiling event on Saturday, Jan. 6. A special ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 9:45 a.m. followed by tours from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event will include activities along with art and cooking demonstrations in the new studios, which for the first time includes studio space built specifically for culinary arts, digital arts and children.
The new center is the home of Mark Arts, a 98-year-old privately funded nonprofit that serves as the oldest visual arts organization in Wichita. The mission of Mark Arts is to be a vibrant arts hub in Wichita and the region by providing opportunities to appreciate and create art in an atmosphere of lifelong learning. It was founded in 1920 as the Wichita Art Association, later became The Wichita Center for the Arts and took the name Mark Arts in 2016 to honor beloved benefactor Mary R. Koch and to reference the maker’s mark that artists leave on their work.
Here are five things you can do at Mark Arts’ new prairie-style center when it opens this month:
1. View and appreciate art for free
Visitors will find art throughout the new center, but the jewel of the building is the 5,000-square-foot gallery, which will host national juried exhibitions throughout the year: Abstract National Exhibition March 31-July 8, Oil Painting National Exhibition July 20-Sept. 30 and Kansas Watercolor Society National Exhibition Oct. 19-Dec. 31. Gallery admission will remain free at the new center, which opens for regular hours starting Jan. 8.
Wichita’s beautiful new art gallery will open with the Mark Arts Kansas Invitational, featuring works by prominent artists who have lived or worked in Kansas. More than 100 high-caliber pieces have arrived from as far away as New York City and Italy. The vast array of works include abstract, realism, landscape and portraits in a variety of mediums such as oil, acrylic, watercolor, photography, printmaking, mixed media, ceramics and sculpture. There is something for everyone’s unique aesthetic in a variety of price ranges.
In addition to the gallery, there will be art on display in commons areas, the outdoor sculpture garden, the lobby gift shop and the vault, a new area behind a glass wall that allows guests to see some of the pieces that belong to Mark Arts’ collection but are currently not on display.
Mark Arts does not have a permanent art collection but it does have a study collection. Particular highlights include the work of the famed Prairie Print Makers and an enamel collection.
“You would be hard-pressed to find another institution with the depth and breadth we have in these two areas,” said Katy Dorrah, executive director.
2. Take a class or workshop
Marks Arts is one of the region’s few arts centers that includes a school, offering classes and workshops for ages ranging from preschool through retirement age. The new building has nine art studios and for the first time Mark Arts will have studio space built specifically for culinary arts, digital arts and children.
The School of Creativity offers a supportive environment and expert instruction through one-time workshops or art classes that meet weekly. Mark Arts offers instruction in: culinary, dance, digital arts, drama, drawing, enameling, jewelry, metalsmithing, painting, photography, printmaking, pottery and sculpture.
The culinary arts kitchen can accommodate intimate workshops for about a dozen seated around a long chef’s table or it can host a larger demonstration using state-of-the-art video screens.
Visit MarkArtsKS.com for a schedule.
3. Enjoy art outdoors
The Mary R. Koch Arts Center is designed to be an art oasis in the city. Even driving by the beautiful building, you’ll be able to see art by the nation’s leading artists that is currently on display inside Mark Arts highlighted on a large LED screen visible from Rock Road, the busiest street in the city.
There will be continuous development of the outdoor space on the arts center campus. Already, there is an outdoor sculpture garden, two outdoor terraces and plans for plein air classes. There’s also plenty of green space for art fairs and special events.
4. Host an event
Looking for a place to throw a creative birthday party, a kitchen gadget bridal shower while enjoying a champagne and cupcake tasting or a team-building activity like recreating a classic painting? The Mary R. Koch Arts Center is available for event rentals starting in January 2018.
The arts center offers one-of-a-kind event space in Wichita, including three indoor spaces and two outdoor terraces that can be rented individually or in combination.
The gift shop at Mark Arts will be just inside the main entrance and will include art supplies, branded Mark Arts items and original art by local artists, including original greeting cards, paintings, prints, jewelry, sculpture and more.