Longtime Wichita art program could be on chopping block

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A longtime Wichita art program could experience some serious changes in the near future.

“This room means excitement, energy, interest, camaraderie,” said Mary Sue Foster.

“Oh, it’s like home. It really is,” said Nancy Squire.

Mary Sue Foster and Nancy Squire, 73, are passionate about a lot of things, especially Wichita’s City Art’s fabric classes.

“Weaving is my love. It’s always been my passion and so wherever the looms go, I go,” Squire said. “There is an excitement about finishing something and seeing it and knowing that you have created it and figured out all of the parts of doing it.”

“It means getting something accomplished. I can come down and be absorbed and be in control of what I’m working on and it’s my idea,” Foster said.

Squire and Foster have been weaving for more than 50 years.

“Fifty-four years! I was sitting at a loom, I think Mary Sue was also sitting at a loom at KU except she was in the graduate program and I was in the undergraduate program when Kennedy was shot,” Squire said.

The ladies have been weaving together with the City Arts program for more than 20 years. However, they said that might soon change after getting news this week that the weaving and spinning programs could be on the chopping block.

“Kay (City Arts executive director) informed us that we were not going to have weaving past December,” Squire said.

KSN reached out to the City of Wichita about the possible cancellation of the weaving and spinning program.

John D’Angelo with the City of Wichita, Division of Arts & Cultural Services said the city has not made any decisions on the program, yet. However, D’Angelo said the city is reviewing the program’s financial viability. He said one of the city’s concerns is the amount of space the looms take up in the City Arts building. D’Angelo said the space where the looms sit could be used for other, more popular art classes.

Squire admits the looms do take up quite a bit of space, but she said her class is popular.

“It’s not a dead art and until we get to virtual clothing, which I don’t think we are ready for, we are still going to have weaving,” she said.

Squire added the class only has 16 looms and each class participant must have a loom to work with. She said it’s not fair to compare a class with fixed equipment to other classes that do not require the same materials.

Squire and Foster said they would ideally like to stay in the City Arts building. If that isn’t possible, the pair said they will find another way to keep the weaving and spinning program alive in Wichita.

“We would like to take the looms and find a place because we want the program to continue, but this would be ideal to stay here because, you know, this is an art resource for the community,” Squire said.

“Maybe I will have to invite people to come to my studio,” Foster said.

D’Angelo said he is planning to meet with the weavers and spinners on Tuesday to discuss program options which could include moving locations or downsizing.