With the help of some volunteers and community members on Monday, work began on a mural for the north side of the historic Dunbar Theater located at 1007 N. Cleveland in the McAdams neighborhood.
The event was a collaboration between WSU Student Involvement, WSU's Ulrich Museum, Power CDC and the city of Wichita. The artwork being painted helps detail the history of the theater gathered through firsthand accounts and public records at Wichita State University.
Constructed in 1941, the theater served as a performing arts center for Wichita’s African-American community during the 1940s and '50s and housed big acts like Duke Ellington. It also doubled as a movie theater that ran second- and third-run movies during the days of segregation.
However, as attendance declined in subsequent years, it was left in a deteriorating state after the theater closed. In 2007, there was a threat of demolition, but the community rallied to raise enough money to buy the theater and save it from destruction.
The effort has now shifted into restoring the theater for use in the community. The group behind this push is Power CDC, a nonprofit that raises funds to encourage revitalization of neighborhoods in central and northeast Wichita.
The theater received state and federal grant money that helped restore some of the building, including the ceiling and marquee.
“With the exterior being renovated, we received some calls to book events, but we are not ready to do that just yet,” said DeAnn White, a coordinator for the event. “We need a $100,000 for the theater just to be open and operable.”
Wichita Councilwoman Lavonta Williams, who help paint the mural, and State Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau also attended the event.
“I’m excited as a member of Power CDC and as a member of the community,” said Faust-Goudeau. “Arts are very important to young people and it allows them to express their creativity. This theater would offer them a place to go.”