From art galleries to creative businesses and urban living spaces, Commerce Street has become a vibrant arts district in the shadow of Intrust Bank Arena.
EXPLORING WICHITA'S UNASSUMING ARTS DISTRICT
Commerce Street is a relatively small warehouse district bound by INTRUST Bank Arena, Kellogg and the BNSF railway. For generations, this area held many of the city's industrial warehouses and served as a major manufacturer of broom corn.
A small group of artists made the area their home, and Commerce Street has since evolved into a bustling district full of art galleries, creative businesses, boutiques and even apartments.
So we photographed this low-key district on a Final Friday art crawl to see how everyday Wichitans interact with the district and its galleries. We also talked with some of Commerce Street's best-known patrons to discover how the area came to be and where it could be going next.
The evolution of Commerce Street began with the artists. It's the artists who made the area viable for other businesses and homes, and it's the artists who defended the area from being turned into a parking lot for INTRUST Bank Arena.
The Fisch Haus has had the biggest impact, as it hosted gallery showings and literally housed many of the city's artists. The other Commerce Street galleries, including the Hue Gallery, Shift Space and Fiber Studio, got their starts because of the foundation laid by the artists at Fisch Haus.
Since becoming a thriving arts district, Commerce has also begun attracting creative businesses, eager to make a mark in the city's creative community.
Creative marketing and advertising agencies including Apples & Arrows, Clutch Studios, Burly Studios and RSM Marketing have, at one time, all made Commerce their home. Other small businesses have also followed, including a frame shop, a salon and a yoga studio.
A growing number of new Commerce Street occupants are not art galleries or businesses, but loft and apartment spaces. The Finn Lofts and the Commerce Street Lofts have leveraged the now-established arts scene on Commerce to attract new residents to the area.
Before it was a mixed-use district, artists like Patrick Duegaw, Elizabeth Stevenson and Kent Williams called Commerce Street home.
Commerce Street is proof that a vibrant identity can form in the most unassuming of places. The artists at Fisch Haus did not necessarily set out to create a mixed-use district, yet their tenacity in supporting the area led to one of Wichita's most unique districts — one that continues to draw new artists, businesses and residents alike.
In order for Wichita to create a unique identity we need the support and ideas of not just the government officials and large businesses driving our economy, but also the artists, small businesses, low-key workshops and gallery spaces making up vibrant districts like Commerce Street.