Typically, if you want to see art in the city you have to go to one of Wichita’s local museums. That stands to change once construction is complete on the Redbud Bike trail.
The Redbud Bike Trail in northeast Wichita is built along the former Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail corridor. Along the 11 miles on the Sedgwick County side, Wichita has 3 miles of paved concrete route. The trail passes city parks, employment hubs, and the Wichita State University campus.
The Wichita trail now intersects with the new McAdam’s Bike Trail that links to the K-96 Bike Trail. The trail also features “pause points” where you can rest in a shaded area and enjoy art by some of Wichita’s prominent artists depicting stories and images that you may have never seen before.
The largest pause point, located at 17th and Oliver, will feature multiple artists within the arched metal architecture. Charles Davis will contribute two pieces that tell the story of the not often mentioned 1965, KC-135 Tanker crash that took place near 20th and Piatt.
Todd Whipple and Tina Murano will contribute a sculpture and Greg Sullivan and Norm Terry, a retired educator from USD 259, will display community leaders and sports stars that are either from Wichita or have been connected to Wichita State University.
The honorees will each have one side of a 16 x 24 inch frame. The frames were welded onto the posts that support the arches going over the Trail. This will leave the other side open for the city’s future leaders and athletes.
Terry, who also acted as a project consultant for this task was excited when he received the call from the city asking him to work on pieces for the Redbud Trail.
“The main concept of the project deals with the history of the African American community in Wichita, Kansas,” Terry said.
The next pause point, located on 13th and Roosevelt, will showcase additional community leaders and will also feature pieces dedicated to the Dockum Drug Store sit-in.
The Dockum sit-in took place during the summer of 1958. It was one of the first organized lunch counter sit-ins for the purpose of integrating segregated establishments in the United States.
Terry will display pictures of the students at the counter, the names of all the participants on the NAACP youth council and the President during that time, Ron Walters.
The last pause point is located on 9th and Hillside. This structure will have a sculpture by Murano and Whipple as well as ceramic tiles that have been decorated by students at Adams Elementary, Spaght Science and Communications Magnet and Northeast Magnet High School. There will also be tiles depicting the history of Northeast Wichita through photos and stories collected by residents at various community and neighborhood association meetings.
Another artist that will be featured at the 9th and Hillside pause point is Janice Thatcher. Thatcher is contributing four paintings that tell the story of the Exodusters, the first Black settlers to make the exodus out of the south.
According to Thatcher, Kansas was the Ellis Island for Black pioneers, it was common to hear pioneers say, “We rather starve on the prairie than stay in the south.” Black settlers, recently freed from slavery, wanted to be somewhere that men could work, children could receive an education and women could garner some respect.
“The Redbud Trail is an opportunity to tell our story since Black pioneers are not even in the history books,” Thatcher said. “It will be enlightening; visitors to the Trail will see people working the land, gathering the harvest and the hard work that the first Black settlers put into Kansas.
Overall, the project, including the pause points received a budget of 2.8 Million federal, city and state dollars.
Councilwoman Lavonta Williams from District 1, where the bike trail is located, is grateful for the opportunity to showcase the spectacular artists and artwork on the Northeast side of town.
“Everyone is not going to make it into the museum so I wanted to bring the museum to them.” Williams said. “I love that the young people are involved and people will have a place to go in their neighborhood to enjoy art.”
Williams is also excited to see the Trail grow larger. It is estimated that once the trail is finished it will span 11 miles and will connect to Andover on to Augusta.
It is expected that the Wichita leg of the project will be completed by the end of summer. As the date approaches, Williams plans to announce a ribbon cutting ceremony that will take place at the 17th and Oliver structure.