Community members work to restore Dunbar Theatre

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WICHITA, Kan. – Community members spent Saturday afternoon raising money for the effort to restore and re-open an important piece of Wichita’s history.

The Dunbar Theatre on Cleveland Street in downtown Wichita has been closed since the 1960’s, but the POWER Community Development Corporation is leading the charge to bring back the theatre, which was a vital part of Wichita’s African-American community.

“It’s very significant that we open it up as an arts initiative community project,” said Mary Dean with the Kansas Justice Advocate, which co-sponsored the fundraiser. “We can use that again to teach our kids about some of the things involving history in the community.”

The fundraising efforts also got a boost from local legislators.

“We want to turn it into a performing arts theater for everybody,” said state Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, (D) – Wichita. “We know the arts community is so wonderful and it helps students stay connected and involved in schools and their community.”

The Dunbar was the only theater that catered to African-Americans during segregation, and hosted the likes of Duke Ellington in its heyday.

After it closed, it was on the shortlist to be condemned, but after being rescued from the brink, there’s still work to be done.

“I need 750,000 and the doors will be open. We’re close,” said James Arbertha of Power CDC.

The money raised Saturday will be used to renovate the theater’s interior, including bathroom plumbing, new stairwells, and lighting.

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