Welcome to OpenStudios, a program that pairs empty storefronts with practicing local artists. The artists get a free studio for several months, and the building owner gets an animated, more attractive space that's easier to rent!
The intention of this project is to animate key neighborhoods of Wichita, specifically under-utilized areas with high potential to become walkable, dynamic, diverse, and prosperous nodes of cultural engagement: significant stretches of empty storefronts and non-active streetscapes are the most obvious challenges. In what has become known as the Soho Effect, artists move into these depressed, and therefore inexpensive, corners of cities, and unintentionally but consistently build thriving and vibrant communities that begin to attract attention from the creative class. This then cues developers to purchase viable buildings in the new "it" neighborhood and renovate them into expensive lofts and retail spaces, which in turn causes property tax and rent to rise, resulting in the eventual displacement of the artists. This inevitable cycle of gentrification affects all cities, from the smallest to the largest (the Soho Effect is named for the transformation that occurred in that part of NYC in the 1980s); in fact, Wichita is experiencing this phenomenon right now, in its own Commerce St. Art District.
However, rather than perceiving this as a problem, the OpenStudios project intends to embrace the pattern as a tool to inspire development. We are connecting with owners of buildings that contain under-employed street-level storefronts; specifically, retail spaces that have proven difficult to rent. This unfortunate situation detracts from the walkability of our city and is self-perpetuating, as potential tenants have difficulty envisioning their business in a dusty, desolate room. Our solution is to place working artists in these storefronts, makers with productive practices who are willing to welcome interested passerby and engage with the community. The artists receive the studios for free, and the landlords donate the rent in exchange for an animated, attractive street-level presence.
OpenStudios covers liability insurance and utilities as required by the owner. If the space gets rented, our ultimate goal, the artist has 30 days to vacate their studio and may be placed in another OpenStudio if available. The artist is aware of this condition from the beginning of their time with OpenStudios: the studio is free, and in exchange, the artist must accept that the arrangement may be temporary. We will attempt, if at all possible, to guarantee a minimum duration of 6 months for each artist in each space.
The long-term vision for this project is to not only supply free studios for Wichita artists, but also to advertise the program outside of our community in an effort to draw more creatives to the region; for example, at art schools such as the Kansas City Art Institute, KSU and K-State, or even further afield. The cost of living is reasonable in Wichita, and the art scene is unusually robust for a city of this size. This makes Wichita unique, and OpenStudios is excited to capitalize on the resources we already possess to help our city become competitive on a national stage.
Read the article in the Wichita Eagle about our first space, and follow us on facebook to get up-to-the-minute news and info. We'll be celebrating Final Friday, June 29, at 105 S. Broadway, from 5-9pm. Join us for the first half of the evening, from 5-7, to help the Wisdom Tree Arts kids paint their mural!
In 2016, artist and Art Therapist Ellamonique Baccus of WisdomTree Arts was hired by Baughman Company as the Artist Consultant for the redevelopment of 9th street from I-135 to Hillside. The 9th Street Reconstruction Project is a model for public engagement and neighborhood design review, bringing together hundreds of people and community organizations interested in neighborhood revitalization.
Now, with construction on 9th street underway, Ellamonique continues to engage Wichitans in the process, with an invitation to participate in the creation of the public art for the 9th street corridor on Final Friday, June 29, at the OpenStudios space at 105 S. Broadway.
The Final Friday event is led by Ellamonique Baccus of WisdomTree Arts, Janice Thacker of Art That Touches Your Heart and Rise Up For Youth who have partnered to provide a summer arts apprenticeship program for local teens hired through the City of Wichita Way to Work Program and youth volunteers from Rise Up For Youth.
Our first artist, as of June 1, 2018, is Ellamonique Baccus, of Wisdom Tree Arts, and our first space is at 105 S. Broadway, on the ground floor of Broadway Plaza. Sudha Tokala, the owner, has been generous in her support of the project, and we are grateful to both her and the building manager, Robert Schmidt, for their patience and encouragement. Many thanks to the City of Wichita for their donation to this initial endeavor as well, and to the Wichita Art Museum for their partnership and collaboration. Our fabulous graphic designer is Carlos Palomino. Total Printing Solutions has offered to give us a great discount on all our vinyl signage, which helps a lot--thanks! Ty Tabing is our community partner, and Marcela Gimenez is acting as the Fisch Bowl Board of Directors representative.
This project has been organized and underwritten by Fisch Haus' not-for-profit arm, Fisch Bowl, Inc. If you are a building owner interested in participating, or an artist looking for free studio space, please contact OpenStudios at email@example.com or via facebook, twitter, or instagram.
All the photographs on this page were taken at the original OpenStudio: Fisch Haus in 1992, as the artists were moving in to their new building at 524 S. Commerce St.