In their own words

Wichita’s leaders on Century II

Written by Karen Long

When SPLURGE! interviewed the city’s business leaders and artistic directors for our Century II story, they were in the midst of working with consultants on the fine arts study, evaluating current and future needs. Here are some of their reflections on Century II at this point in the process, in their own words.

John D’Angelo, Director of Arts and Cultural Services,
City of Wichita

You can kind of compare it to your home, if you’d like: You probably would upgrade your home before 45 years — you would make improvements, you’d take the orange shag carpet out of it and maybe put maybe a Berber carpet in … Here at Century II we’ve done some improvements, but obviously on a public facility of this scale and size it’s difficult to make those kinds of improvements. If you look into Convention Hall in the balcony, those are the original orange seats”

It’s influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright and it’s very unique — a round building tends to not be as inviting because people don’t know where to enter — but it is very unique, and what we’ve been hearing is lots of people really identify with the blue roof — not necessarily the architecture below the roof, but the roof’s really the identifiable iconic piece.”

Jeff Fluhr, President, Wichita Downtown
Development Corporation

How does the design begin to become even more of an integral part of the urban design of our downtown? How does the building relate to everything that surrounds it? What will help draw the hotels and the restaurants and things that we want to continue to see developed in our downtown?”

Another opportunity I see, is how do we increase the relationship to the riverfront, because the riverfront is under a huge transformation…what we’re going to be seeing with the west bank project, the River Vista project and the activation of the river.”

Cynthia Wentworth, VP of Marketing, Go Wichita
Convention + Visitor’s Bureau

It’s very interesting to hear [the consultant’s] outside perspective about what the potential is for Wichita, not just in design. Some of the things that have worked for us years and years ago are things that show that we have bigger potential to grow even more now — not just for visitors who come in, but also for people who live here.”

Wayne Bryan, Producing Artistic Director,
Music Theatre

Things have changed since the building was designed 45 years ago: Music is louder these days so sound baffling between the different theatres is not ideal for today’s market.”

The idea originally was that you would drive your truck into the basement and bring things up in an elevator to the central area of the building and disperse them to the different stages. But now the trucks are longer than they were in 1969 — they don’t fit anymore, so you have to hand-carry things into the building in a less convenient way, a more costly way.”

The survey folks said yesterday, ‘This is a strange and challenging building, but it has been used so well and it is so much more fully occupied than many facilities in other cities, that all of the users have learned to adapt to its quirkiness and it has provided a very good home for some really fine arts for almost half a century.”

Margaret Pent, Artistic Director and founder,
Wichita Grand Opera

The building is unique in that it provides all these spaces — that are definitely not adequate for the number of tenants, because we’re always in conflict with scheduling — but, if we compare that with other opera companies around the country, a lot of them have to find their own spaces for rehearsal, for building sets.”

Some of our most hair-raising experiences have been when we’re in the middle of an opera and it’s a quiet scene and there’s only one star singing, and we’ll start getting these boom-boom-boom loud speakers coming from another hall doing rock ‘n roll or some kind of heavy metal.”

Don Reinhold, Executive Director, Wichita Symphony

Does the building create a ‘wow’ factor upon entering it? That’s a question people need to consider and answer…the orchestra does sound very good in [the Concert Hall] — acoustically it’s pretty good. I wouldn’t give it an “A”, but it’s good. Visually though, when you compare this to other concert halls, it doesn’t really have the ‘wow’ factor, particularly in the lobby space.”

I think that these studies, what they’ll do is to really help the community focus on how much, and how spectacular their present arts organizations are, not only in this building…That was a factor in my decision to come here. It is a very rich cultural environment, and it’s very important for people to recognize that and be proud of what they have here, and support it.”

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