Billboards around Wichita are going to be the canvases of a new community art exhibition.
Starting July 1 and over the next several months, Wichita State’s Ulrich Museum of Art plans to put 25 selected works from its collection on 20 billboards throughout Wichita.
Called “Ulrich + Artists + You,” the community billboard project has several purposes, according to museum officials.
It’s a way to have an exhibition while the museum’s galleries remain closed through at least January 2021. It’s a way to feature culturally significant and diverse pieces by highly respected Wichita and Kansas artists, along with other American and international artists.
Plus, it’s putting art in neighborhoods all over Wichita, such as North and South Broadway, near McConnell Air Force Base, along I-135 and elsewhere.
Along with the billboards, several virtual events with artists showcased in the campaign and other related topics are planned as part of the museum’s upcoming programming.
The first five billboards, which will be in place by July 1, will be at 302 N. West St., 482 N. I-135, 957 W. 29th St., 5218 E. 21st St. and 1219 E. Douglas.
The other billboards will be rolled out in August, September, October and November. Exact locations, along with more details on each featured piece, are going to be available on the museum’s website and Facebook page. The museum is partnering with the Smartify app that will give information about each billboard when a user holds up a smartphone to the billboard.
“Our goal is to reach as many people as possible by selecting boards in high trafficked areas as well as neighborhoods that may be left out of a typical billboard campaign,” said Ulrich Museum director Leslie Brothers in an emailed statement. “We want people to know that they matter and that this art experience is for everyone.”
Brothers came up with the billboard exhibition idea as a “proactive approach” when the Ulrich shut down in March as a COVID-19 precaution, and museum officials looked at ways it could keep connected with audiences as its facility remains closed through the rest of the year. The Ulrich’s outdoor sculpture collection on the WSU campus can be toured in person and another summer exhibition, “10 x 10: Ten Women/Ten Prints Online Exhibition,” will be available virtually July 1.
While the billboard campaign helps share art at a social distance, it has another benefit.
“With unlimited hours of operation, residents of the Wichita area or visitors passing through (can) see the art on the billboards at a time convenient for them,” Brothers said.
In the emailed statement, she also indicated the museum hopes Wichitans will venture to other parts of the city that they may not normally frequent, which could help inspire community pride.
The works selected from the museum’s permanent collection “evoke themes of heroism and leadership, identity and family, politics and religion, and the precious routines of everyday life,” Brothers wrote. “As a civilization, we count on artists today, as we have for centuries, to embrace with empathy and brilliance the challenges of our shared humanity.”
Nearly half of the billboards will feature works by Wichita or Kansas artists or those with strong connections to the city or state. For example, Wichita artists such as Patrick Duegaw and Ann Resnick are featured, along with Kevin Mullins, Tom Otterness and Gordon Parks. Other billboards will feature pieces by a culturally and racially diverse array of both American and international artists, including Luis Cruz Azaceta, Zhang Huan, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Faith Ringgold and even Andy Warhol, Brothers noted.
Duegaw, the co-founder of Fisch Haus in Wichita’s Commerce Arts District, and Resnick are among the artists participating in a slate of virtual “in the studio” events, artists talks, book discussions and community forums that the Ulrich Museum is hosting from July through November as part of its programming.
Duegaw’s talk happens 6 p.m. Thursday, July 20, while Resnick’s is 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 18. Other artists who will be part of both the billboard campaign and the virtual events include Alice Aycock, Gajin Fujita, Huan, Larry Schwarm, Smith and Hank Willis Thomas.
Along with being featured on a billboard that goes up in August, Aycock is the creator of the sculpture Twister Grande, which is being installed Aug. 4 on the WSU campus as the newest addition to the Ulrich Museum’s Martin H. Bush Outdoor Sculpture Collection. An artist talk with Aycock is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 28.
Registration for virtual events is required. Visit ulrich.wichita.edu to register or for more information about the upcoming exhibitions and virtual programming. ‘Ulrich + Artists + You” What: a community billboard exhibition by Wichita State’s Ulrich Museum of Art featuring selected works from its collection. A slate of virtual events also accompanies the exhibition.
WSU billboard art collection
When: July 1-Nov. 30, with a total of 20 billboards
Where: Locations throughout Wichita, starting July 1 with billboards at 302 N. West St., 482 N. I-135, 957 W. 29th St., 5218 E. 21st St., and 1219 E. Douglas. Other locations will be added, with addresses available on the museum website and Facebook page.
More info: ulrich.wichita.edu