The Downing Foundation
Supporting initiatives. Impacting lives.

The Downing Amphitheater at the Wichita Art Museum

On Saturday, September 26, 2015 the Wichita Art Museum laid out a new welcome mat to the community with the Art Garden Grand Opening. 

The Art Garden transformed the lawn around the museum building into a lush oasis in the heart of the city. Features include the Downing Amphitheater, Lattner and Walker Family Plaza, Jayne Milburn Sculpture Plaza, Slawson Family North Garden, and Tom and Myra Devlin Desert Garden.

Eleven exceptional sculptures—including masterworks by Henry Moore and Wichita native Tom Otterness—have been newly sited with surrounding landscape designed to frame and showcase the art.

Planning for the $3.5 million project started in the winter of 2013, with ground broken in January 2015. The Art Garden was designed by Midwest landscape architecture firm Confluence with GLMV Architecture serving as the oversight consultant. Simpson Construction Services of Wichita brought the designer’s vision to life.

Lush plantings—more than 100 new trees, nearly 600 shrubs, and more than 20,000  perennials and grasses—replace expanses of lawn on the museum’s eight acres. More than 840 tons of Kansas limestone has been brought to the site, creating seating, signage, walls, and walkways.

Two newly commissioned artworks—Wind Screens by Vicki Scuri and Pulse Field by Derek Porter—add special luster to the new garden.

Based in Seattle, the nationally important public artist Vicki Scuri was a contributor to the Confluence team, helping to design WAM’s new Art Garden. Scuri designed a trio of screens inspired by the Kansas winds. These Wind Screens rely on a gestural pattern of circles to reference wind sailing across the landscape.

Derek Porter is a multi-disciplinary artist focused on the use of light within the built environment. Porter masterminded the lighting scheme for the Art Garden, and a new light installation, Pulse Field, which beautifully combines technological elements with natural forms. The long, aluminum light poles scattered across a newly created berm are topped with solar lights that gently turn on and off.

 

“Improvement begins with I.” ~Arnold Glasow