This is Perspectives, where Wichitans tell their side of a common story. Adam Hartke of Wichita Festivals and artist Armando Minjarez talk about art and music.
Welcome to Perspectives, where we give Wichitans the opportunity to tell their side of a common story.
Adam Hartke, events director at Wichita Festivals and co-owner of Barleycorn's, deserves much of the credit for the resurgence of Wichita's live music scene. Under his guidance, the Riverfest lineup has continually improved, attracting acts including The Roots, The Flaming Lips and Common. Barleycorn's is also a haven for live music from both local and touring acts.
Armando Minjarez is a Wichita-based interdisciplinary artist and community activist whose work has largely focused on the ideas of community, diversity and cultural identity. Minjarez was recently awarded $100,000 from the Knight Foundation for his project, "Horizontes," which will bring large-scale murals to north Wichita, including one on a grain elevator near 21st and Broadway.
Together, Hartke and Minjarez represent art and music — two dynamic aspects of Wichita's overarching cultural and artistic identity. Here are their thoughts on where that identity stands and how we can continue to cultivate it.
Events Director at Wichita Festivals and co-owner of Barleycorn's:
Music culture in Wichita is complex and ever-changing.
Lately, it's changed for the better. An ever-strengthening undercurrent of creativity is picking up droves of people who had been floating in the mainstream. Original shows and events are becoming more commonplace, and with each of these new experiences, Wichitans are being exposed to new ideas and fresh perspectives that challenge them to be more than just a casual observer. The humdrum of pop culture is proving to be far less engaging than the excitement of original thought.
But we still have challenges. Ever since incorporation as a city, Wichita has struggled with its musical identity. Music was once viewed as something that encouraged debauchery and delinquent behaviors. Laws were created to limit public performances. Today, remnants of this thinking still exist. We must rid ourselves of this mental pollution and approach our musical identity with an open, accepting mind — no matter how foreign the ideas being presented may seem to us. From the actual musical concepts being played, to the appearance of those attending the shows and the types of venues they are being played in, we must cultivate thought that will create a positive, nurturing environment.
From the actual musical concepts being played, to the appearance of those attending the shows and the types of venues they are being played in, we must cultivate thought that will create a positive, nurturing environment.Adam Hartke
Propagation of music is a basic concept with expected results. Many of us are continually baffled by the assumption that Wichita "isn’t ready" for certain types of music. We’ve all heard the bombastic speculations that we are a "mainstream country" and "classic rock" town. And we’ve all seen Wichitans latch onto this primitive assessment, as they’ve found no reason to think otherwise. The truth is, we are whatever we want to be. Apathetic classification only limits our potential.
From the perspective of a music promoter, Wichita is growing. While not yet in bloom, it is on the verge. The way we nurture for our musical culture will help determine if it will be an ever-bearing source of life and culture, or if it will continue to send out shoots of promise, only to wither on the vine from lack of proper mindfulness and care.
Wichita artist and community organizer:
I wave goodbye as the ark of diversity floats away, released to the tumultuous waters of 2017.
She’s gone now, but don’t despair. As she left the plains, she dragged along with her the security blanket of "Midwest nice," revealing an incredibly resilient structure underneath Wichita's communities of color, filled with ancient wisdom for community strength and powerful collaboration.
The arts exist to facilitate transformation within a community. And if we are to have sustainable and equitable economic opportunity in Wichita, then we must lean into the discomfort of addressing our challenges, including the complicity of local leadership in the displacement and disenfranchisement of communities of color.
The arts exist to facilitate transformation within a community. And if we are to have sustainable and equitable economic opportunity in Wichita, then we must lean into the discomfort of addressing our challenges.Armando Minjarez
This problematic past has left behind a legacy of segregation, redlining and divestment — and its widespread impact is omnipresent in the neighborhoods surrounding our booming downtown district. For Wichita to have a prosperous economy for the long haul, it must first come to terms with its past — and understand how it continues to lead its present.
Belonging and representation are key elements in the dignified transformation of struggling neighborhoods, and music and public art are there to facilitate this process of change. The deployment of community-engaged art practices and intentional financial support for artists of color opens up a powerful platform that elevates the voices of under-heard communities, instigates opportunity and offers fresh propositions for collective healing.
Be real about inequality, be aggressive about dismantling systemic oppression, push for economic development that celebrates identity and prioritizes people, and trust artists to foster creative transformation along the way.