Mark Arts officials are planning a New Year’s Eve party on Dec. 31 to celebrate the new $19 million facility at 1307 N. Rock Road. Visitors can start making plans, too, on what to do when the new Mary R. Koch Arts Center opens to the public in January 2018.
The new building will replace the 1965-built, former Wichita Center for the Arts at 9112 E. Central. It will have nine studios – three more than what is at the current East Central building, with one of the new studio spaces being a teaching kitchen devoted to the culinary arts and another a technology studio.
Instructional spaces, two gallery halls, a sculpture garden and an outdoor, or plein air, studio also are planned. The center is being designed to make art accessible to youths, with kid- and youth-sized furnishings in instructional areas and a gallery dedicated to showing kids’ art. With movable interior walls, the inside of the building can configured into various-sized event spaces to accommodate either a small gathering or a major event for 700 people.
A community open house is scheduled for Jan. 6, with classes beginning the next week, said Katy Dorrah, Mark Arts executive director.
Here are seven things to do when the Mary R. Koch Arts Center opens.
▪ Be creative with food. One of the most talked-about and anticipated new spaces in the building will be the culinary arts kitchen, Dorrah said. The kitchen can accommodate a more intimate learning experience with a dozen or so people seated around the island-turned-chef’s table, or it can be opened up to a 100-seat demonstration room. With the use of video screens set above the demonstration table, students can follow along as guest chefs create the dishes. Kids can learn science and mathematics skills, like nutrition and measurements, as they whip up a smoothie or other healthy snacks during youth-oriented classes.
▪ Host an event. Surround your guests with art and green spaces. Starting April 1, contact Mark Arts’ new event center coordinator to get your event on the books for 2018. The center has three indoor areas that can be booked individually or in some combination of the three, depending on the size of your event. Two patio spaces that can accommodate 100 people each, including one with a stage, can also be accessed from the event spaces. The largest of the three indoor event areas – the 5,800-square-foot Great Hall – also has the option to be divided into two smaller spaces. Great Hall amenities include two projection screens with built-in audio systems, a green room with remote TV access and a seating capacity of 380 at round tables. For smaller events, opt to use the 5,000-square-foot main exhibition gallery that can seat 250 at round tables or the 1,050-square-foot Youth Gallery that can seat 80. If you need space for 700, rent all three spaces.
▪ Paint the outdoors. Instructors at Mark Arts are hoping students will soak up some of nature’s inspiration in the center’s new plein air studio. “Plein air” is a French term that means “open in full air,” explained instructor Virginia Grass Simmons. Being able to get up close to a tree, for example, will allow an artist to represent the tree more accurately, she said.
▪ Sketch fashion designs or take a better picture. The technology classroom will be equipped to teach graphic arts, computerized design, smartphone photography and more. A Wichita teacher has already contacted Dorrah to partner with Mark Arts to teach fashion sketching to her middle school students.
▪ Earn a scouting badge. Boy Scouts can earn art merit badges, while Girl Scouts can earn five different arts-related badges through new workshops offered in partnership with Mark Arts.
▪ Learn about the rich artistic roots of Kansas. Mark Arts’ inaugural exhibition in the new center’s gallery will feature works by artists with Kansas connections. The invitational exhibit is still in the planning stages.
▪ See what’s been behind closed doors. Not all of Mark Arts’ collection can be displayed, so when it’s not out for the public to see or for students to experience in the classroom, it sits in a vault. The center’s new vault will feature an exhibition window so visitors can still see parts of it. Mark Arts has artworks by regionally acclaimed artists, including Birger Sandzen, Peter Voulkos, Bruce Moore, John Noble and others, as well as noteworthy collections of ceramics, enamels and prints by the Prairie Print Makers, according to officials.