WSU students spruce up Dunbar Theater

WICHITA, Kansas – Thirty gallons of paint and more than 800 hours of work are giving a new look to the north side of the once-forgotten Dunbar Theater. 

A local economic development corporation started the project and got Wichita State students involved so they can honor the past with the present. 

“The 40s and 50s and all the great acts and actors and actresses and traditions.  That’s what the mural’s all about,” explains artist Danielle Stephen. 

Built in 1941 as the only movie theater available for the African-American community in Wichita, the Dunbar Theater was part of a thriving neighborhood. 

“A lot of the people from the community remember going to the theater and tell the stories of getting popcorn and watching movies and seeing entertainers come to the Wichita area.”

Forgotten and abandoned for decades, the ‘People Organized Working for Economic Recovery Community Development Corporation,’ or ‘Power CDC’ is working to redevelop the building. 

“We were looking for that historical value, but we didn’t know how to bring that to life.” 

But local artist Danielle Stephen did. 

Her design won approval.  

Now about a week into the project, on Monday Wichita State University students got to leave their mark on the city. 

“My word is standing ovation and I painted ticket booth and…” explains Wichita State Sophomore Jospeh Backhus. 

“I painted the action, cinema and with my friend I painted the ticket booth,” says fellow student Mrig Gorgoi. 

They’re learning about new parts of their community. 

“I have never been on Cleveland Street until today,” says Joseph. 

They’re ncouraging others to learn the history, while another generation moves forward.

 “I did a little bit of research and I found out this building was abandoned,” explains Mrig.  “It was built in the 40s and people forgot about it.  I think it’s kind of like a history for the community.”

 Artist Danielle Stephen expects the project to be finished by the end of this week.

 If you’d like to check out the Dunbar Theater, you can find it at 1007 North Cleveland here in Wichita.

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