Front Porch artists to create new outdoor spaces in Wichita

Kevin Harrison, Engy AlGarf, Chiyoko and Sarah Myose, Elisabeth Owens, Drew Phillips and Belinda Smith will help six downtown businesses develop exterior expansions as part of a new venue creation project called Front Porch.

Kevin Harrison, Engy AlGarf, Chiyoko and Sarah Myose, Elisabeth Owens, Drew Phillips and Belinda Smith will help six downtown businesses develop exterior expansions as part of a new venue creation project called Front Porch.

Courtesy of downtown Wichita.

Starting in January, a group of creatives from the region – ranging from a horticulturalist to a college professor to a graphic designer – will help six downtown businesses develop exterior expansions that go beyond a typical patio. as part of a new place creation project called Front Porch.

Downtown Wichita, a private, non-profit organization that promotes commerce and culture in the heart of the city, recently announced the selection of creatives from its call for applications for the Front Porch and the six companies with which the creatives will be associated. They are:

  • Engy AlGarf, a painter, who will work with Wichita Cheesecake Company, 801 E. Douglas,

  • Kevin Harrison, assistant professor at Wichita State University, who will work with Public at The Brickyard, 129. N. Rock Island,

  • Chiyoko and Sarah Myose, a mother-daughter creative team, who will team up with Old Mill Tasty Shop, 604 E. Douglas,

  • Elisabeth Owens, graphic designer and fine artist, who is associated with Lucinda’s, 329 N. Mead,

  • Drew Phillips, an architectural designer, who will work with Cana Wine & Cocktails, 223 S. Broadway, and

  • Belinda Smith, horticulturalist, paired with Jenny Dawn Cellars, 703 E. Douglas.

The Front Porch project is funded by a $ 75,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts Our Town, as well as a $ 30,000 grant from the Knight Foundation Fund of the Wichita Community Foundation. Wichita was one of 63 NEA Our Town grant recipients nationwide.

As a place creation project, the goal of the Front Porch initiative is to create an imaginative outdoor space where people will want to spend time, much like people do on residential porches. This is one of the main reasons Phillips asked to participate.

“It’s spaces like this that I was looking for as a place to spend time when I lived downtown,” said Phillips, who had lived at The Lux for five years before becoming the owner a few years ago. month. He continues to work downtown at SPT Architecture.

“What caught my attention was the idea of ​​creating safe outdoor spaces,” said Harrison, a literary and record artist who was previously the community engagement coordinator for WSU. Harrison also ran a social justice project called Breathe.

“Human beings need to go out and engage with others, but they need to be safe.”

When Downtown Wichita issued its call for entries, creatives were not asked to provide specific plans for a Front Porch project. Instead, they were asked to indicate that they understood the concepts of community development and collaboration and had some creative experience, according to Emily Brookover, director of community development in downtown Wichita.

“We have had exceptional candidates,” said Brookover. “It was not an easy task” to make the selections. An eight-member committee, comprising art-related community partners and other non-profit organizations, selected the winning applicants.

Once the candidates were selected, Downtown Wichita created the matchmaking with the companies that had been approached to participate. Planning meetings will begin in January and construction will likely begin in late spring. Downtown Wichita will post ongoing stories and updates to its social media accounts, Brookover said.

For Jennifer McDonald, owner of Jenny Dawn Cellars, the timing couldn’t have been better.

McDonald’s was already planning an expansion of its wine cellar at Union Station to add more interior square footage and a second patio.

“We were just going to put up a fence and a table and chairs and call it a day. Now he will have an extra drive that we didn’t anticipate, ”said McDonald. Being paired with a horticulturalist is perfect for her cellar, she said.

As a member of Leadership Wichita, McDonald had taken a summer tour with the group to Lawrence, Kansas, where she saw plans for similar venues and was intrigued. Leadership Wichita is a chamber of commerce program that helps introduce and train residents on community issues and leadership.

“The Front Porch project is really going to be an exciting part for people to enjoy downtown. We want to increase the pedestrian potential of the city center so that these pretty little porches are attractive to customers who come to enjoy them. It will be interesting to see how the other Front Porch projects develop, ”she said.

Owens, who worked on mural projects for Avenue Art Days and did logo design work for Lucinda’s, said she was eager to take on the challenge of creating an outdoor space for the only participating retail business. . The other five are food and beverage companies, where outdoor decks are quite common.

But even these businesses will have to get creative with their space. At Public, it already has an adjacent open-air concert hall. Earlier this year, the restaurant held art events, during which it closed streets.

“It allowed us to start looking at how we can integrate the area around us,” said co-owner Brooke Russell. “This project will show how to develop safe outdoor spaces with activities rather than having stagnant and abandoned areas.”

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