Current Exhibitions

Lester Johnson, City Women, 1974. Oil on linen, 36 x 30 inches. Wichita Art Museum, Museum Purchase, Friends of the Wichita Art Museum and the National Endowment for the Arts Museum Purchase Plan

Rhythm and Hues: Music and Dance in Art from the Wichita Art Museum Collection

Rhythm and Hues explores the influence of music on modern and contemporary art practices. Both forms of artistic expression share compositional and stylistic similarities.

In Lester Johnson's densely packed composition, City Women, the figures seem to pulse with energy. Their arms and legs are caught in beautiful stylized movements, reminiscent of a complicated musical score. Johnson’s work was heavily influenced by jazz, and it demonstrates the same shifts between tones and design, using bold colors and angled figures to mimic the sound of instruments interacting, tangling in an exchange of ideas.

Drawn from the permanent collection, the works of art in Rhythm and Hues explore the parallel nature of visual art and music. From regional musical styles such as bluegrass, to cultural expressions such as American Indian dances, to the birth of jazz in the early modern era, music and visual art are intimately intertwined.

On view in the DeVore Gallery


Stuart Allen, Kansas / Sunset No. 1, 25 Pixels, 2015. Pigment print on Somerset rag, 30 x 24 inches. Courtesy of Haw Contemporary, Kansas City, Missouri

Stuart Allen: Kansas, Low Resolution

Wichita-born Stuart Allen is a visual artist whose work deals with fundamental elements of perception such as light and time.

This summer, WAM is pleased to present a selection of work from Allen's photography. Each image is an extraction of only a few select pixels from larger photographs of landscapes taken in Wichita. The result is a beautiful chromatic square with gentle color shifts that invokes not just the moment of the image's capture but the perpetual changes of nature.

Allen studied architecture at the University of Kansas and graduated from the photography and video department of the Kansas City Art Institute in 1993. He lives and works in San Antonio, Texas.

On view in the John W. and Mildred L. Graves Gallery and Louise and S.O. Beren Gallery


Shawn Decker, Prairie (detail), 2013. 432 rods, vibration motors, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist

Shawn Decker: Prairie

Described as an electro-acoustic sound installation, Shawn Decker's Prairie recalls the sights and sounds of its namesake via a field of speakers and thin, swaying metal rods.

Thin, tall brass rods glisten in the light as individual motors, with small speakers mounted to the top, cause them to vibrate and sway. Each brass stem operates independently, and the entire installation--including hundreds of these rods--is programmed to operate in randomized patterns of sound and movement.

"It is much more fun as a creator to compose a piece that is continuously surprising you," Decker noted. "I will often laugh out loud when it does something I don’t expect. The element of change and indeterminacy allows you to become a much more active listener."

Prairie is more than a soundscape. It is an environment that will entrance both eye and ear. The concepts presented in the installation--nature and technology, sound and movement, sculpture and performance--come together to enchant the viewer and invite a reconsideration of the elements that make the prairie unique.

Decker holds a doctorate in music theory and composition from Northwestern University. He is a senior faculty member at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His work has been frequently performed, seen, and heard in the U.S. and Europe. Recent exhibitions of both solo and collaborative work have shown at venues such as the Museum of Art and Design in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the 21st Century Museum in Kanazawa, Japan, and numerous others.

On view in the Louise and S.O. Beren Gallery


Liza Lou, Gather (one million) (detail), 2008-2010. Glass beads, stainless steel wire, hemp twine, 7 x 150 x 150 inches. Courtesy of the artist

Liza Lou: Gather (one million)

This summer, WAM is proud to feature a beautiful and poetic installation by world-renowned artist Liza Lou. The exhibition will feature Lou's Gather (one million), a shimmering 150-square-foot golden field.

To make the work, nine million beads in varying shades of gold were threaded onto cut wire to make one million blades of grass. Lou systematically counted, weighed, blended and divided the blades into equal wheat-like sheaves. This work of art will be presented along with Lou's newest series of work--large wall-hanging color fields of glass beads that resemble open skies and sunsets.

The painterly freedom of the installation evokes the seasonal regeneration of landscape and the abundance of harvest.

The Wichita presentation of Liza Lou's Gather (one million) has  been generously sponsored by F. Price Cossman Memorial Trust, INTRUST Bank, Trustee, and Belger Cartage Service, Inc. Additional support has been provided by the Berry Foundation, Gridley Family Foundation, and Sonia Greteman and Chris Brunner.

On view in the John W. and Mildred L. Graves Gallery

More Art We Love

This summer, WAM continues its exhibition series, Art We Love with a second round of six Community Curators. See More Art We Love to view selections by:

And you, the Wichita Community, through the Wichita Art Museum's Facebook poll.


On view in the Vollmer Gallery.


J. Floyd Yewell, The Wichita Art Museum (architectural rendering for Clarence S. Stein, architect), about 1935. Watercolor on shadecloth, mounted on aluminum honeycomb board, 26 x 51 1/8 inches. Wichita Art Museum, Gift of the Edgar E. Turner, Jr. Estate

WAM @ 80

This summer, the Wichita Art Museum is proud to present an exhibition that explores milestones from the museum's past 80 years.

With never-before-seen archival photos, interactive ways to explore WAM's collection, and recognition of our wonderful leaders, patrons, and visitors, WAM @ 80 celebrates Wichita Art Museum's proud history and looks toward our collective bright future.

In her will, Louise Caldwell Murdock laid the foundation for the establishment of the museum. As a bequest following her death in 1915, funds could be used for the purchase of American art for the citizens of Wichita. As a challenge grant of sorts, the City of Wichita would receive the collection if it would build and maintain a museum. The collection would be named to honor Louise Murdock's husband in the Murdock newspaper family, Roland P. Murdock. Through changing structures, changing times, and changing leadership, WAM has continued an ardent commitment to its original purpose--that is, an art museum with prized collection in service to the citizens of Wichita.

The dedication ceremonies to open the Wichita Art Museum were held at 3 pm on September 22, 1935. Following a brief concert from the American Legion Band and an invocation from a Rabbi Richmond, Wichita Park Board President Walter Vincent presented the museum as a gift to the citizens of Wichita. In its first week, WAM welcomed more than 13,000 visitors through its doors, a headcount equaling almost 10 percent of Wichita's population at the time. Victor Murdock, Wichita Eagle editor, attended the opening, and he wrote:

Through generations to come, many thousands will visit the galleries of this edifice . . . Some will come in devotion to beauty. Some will come to seek the secret skill in masterpieces. But most will come . . .  instinctively feeling that art can reveal truth.

As WAM celebrates its 80th year, we do more than recognize our institution's history. We celebrate the people who made Louise Caldwell Murdock’s vision come alive—the leaders who saw the museum through construction, renovation, and expansion; the donors who have helped to build a world-class art collection and remarkable programs; and the community members of every stripe who ensure WAM remains a vibrant, cultural center of our city.


Seattle-based independent curator Vicki Halper consulted on the museum's new glass display in the F. Price Cossman Memorial Trust Gallery

Art of Fire: Glass Art from the WAM Collection

Reimagined anew and opening in April, the museum presents a compelling arrangement of the distinguished and growing glass art collection. For the new display, the museum consulted with the Seattle-based independent curator and craft scholar Vicki Halper.

Notably, Halper curated WAM's popular 2014 summer exhibition Australian Glass Art, American Links for the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington.

Revealing WAM's rich holdings , the variety, quality, and artistry of Steuben glass will be presented. In fascinating ways, the exquisite work of the Steuben Glass Works, the world-class glass manufacturer (1903—2011), continues to beguile and inspire artists. The new installation will acknowledge and examine how contemporary glass artists explore the continuing allure and legacy of Steuben. Magnificent work by such living artists as Dante Marioni and Kiki Smith will be on view.

The new collection display also features a new commission--an elaborate, Steuben-inspired candelabrum--by glass artist Andy Paiko. This special work will be effervescent! It incorporates an abundantly enthusiastic array of forms and techniques first developed by Steuben. Paiko's tapering candle holders that hang gracefully from the central form, each demonstrate the Steuben "air-twist" technique, perfected by designer George Thompson. The cinched, bell-shaped forms of upper part of the large-scale candleholder are typical of Thompson's designs. WAM's collection includes original sketches by Thompson during his time working for Steuben, making Paiko’s re-imagining of Thompson's forms particularly relevant to the collection.

On view in the F. Price Cossman Memorial Trust Gallery.


Pairpoint Glass, Candlestick (one of a pair), about 1920–1925. Blown glass, 10 1/16 x 5 3/16 inches. Gift of Robert S. Burnstein

Catching Light: Selections from the Wichita Art Museum's Burnstein Collection

Dr. Robert Burnstein, a Detroit psychiatrist, began collecting glass in the 1980s. He was attracted to American glass of the 19th and 20th centuries because, as he stated, "it was a time when handcrafted expertise and precision craftsmanship were the benchmarks of the American glass industry."

Soon he came to find that among American companies, the glass produced by Steuben was unsurpassed in quality, color intensity, and breadth of design.

Therefore, he focused his collecting first on Steuben, then on candlesticks in particular. He concentrated on candlesticks given their elegance of design and great variety of their colors and decorative techniques. Dr. Burnstein has presented his collection in honor of his parents, Donald and Arlene Burnstein.

On view in the Lulu H. Brasted Board Room.


John Steuart Curry, Kansas Cornfield, 1933. Oil on canvas, 60 3/8 x 38 3/8 inches. Wichita Art Museum, Roland P. Murdock Collection

Storytelling: Highlights and Insights from the Wichita Art Museum Collection

Every work of art has a story to tell.

When John Steuart Curry was growing up in on his family farm near Dunavant, Kansas, he would often wander into the high fields of corn. "I remember," he wrote, "wandering through them and being over-powered by the fear of being  lost in their green confines."

At 35 years of age, Curry returned to those fields to capture in his work the same sense of drama he felt, "beneath our windblown Kansas skies." For Curry, Kansas Cornfield represented the story of his youth on a Kansas farm.

When Curry's Kansas Cornfield entered WAM's permanent collection, a new chapter in its tale was written and a new story began. The work was the first painting collected by the Wichita Art Museum. As the foundational work of art for the new museum, the painting came to symbolize WAM's commitment to both the highest caliber American art and to Kansas audiences.

Today, Kansas Cornfield has become a part of many visitors' personal stories. Brett Zongker, an Associated Press journalist based in Washington D.C., recently featured the painting on his popular Twitter feed. As a self-described "son of Kansas," the painting represents home to Zongker.

Museums, by their very nature, are repositories of incredible stories. The Wichita Art Museum has introduced its visitors to the best American artwork and has been a part of thousands of engaging stories. In celebration of the museum's upcoming 80th anniversary in 2015, Storytelling, a reinstallation of the permanent collection, celebrates the histories, mysteries, and anecdotes that make the Wichita Art Museum collection unlike any other.

Each and every one of WAM's objects has a story to tell. What influenced its creation? Who is pictured? How did the work come to Wichita? Storytelling invites visitors to take another look at familiar favorites from the collection as well as important works that have been off view for many years. We hope that the artworks inspire a meaningful encounter with the past, one that is relevant to everyone's personal story today.

On view in the Louise Caldwell Murdock Gallery, Elizabeth S. Navas Gallery, and the Excel/Cargill Cares Gallery.


Thomas Moran, The Waterfall, 1857. Oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 40 1/2 inches. Wichita Art Museum, Gift of the Robert M. Beren and Joan S. Beren Foundation

An American Salon: 19th-century Paintings from the Wichita Art Museum's Permanent Collection

The term salon style derives from the exhibition of the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, which began in 1667 in Paris.

In order to display work by all the Academy's students, the paintings were hung as close as possible from floor to ceiling. In the nineteenth century, this salon-style hanging became increasingly popular across Europe and in the United States. The gallery has been transformed into an American salon featuring remarkable 19th-century paintings from the museum's permanent collection.

On view in the Carlene and Lee Banks Rotunda Gallery.


Unknown (Costa Rican), Seated Man on Tripod Base, 100 B.C. - 550 A.D. Terra cotta, 3 1/2 inches. Gift of Louise and S. O. Beren with assistance from the Wichita Art Museum Endowment Association

Pre-Columbian Art and Artifacts from the Museum's Collection

This display showcases WAM's unique collection of Pre-Columbian art. These sculptures and vessels in terra cotta and stone represent the ancient Indian cultures of Mexico and Middle America including cultures such as the Maya and Aztec.

This collection complements the museum's outstanding American art collection by bridging the gap between the indigenous American cultures and the post-European cultural developments in America.

In Mesoamerican culture, pottery was appreciated as an artistic medium--a way people could express emotions and ideas--not solely as a utilitarian material. To make ceramic art, these ancient peoples gathered clay from local sources and formed shapes using only their hands by pinching or coiling the clay. After shaping the objects, they were placed in very hot, open fires and baked until hard.

On view in the Cessna Art Investigation Gallery.


Charles M. Russell, Indian Buffalo Hunt, 1897. Oil on canvas, 36 1/4 x 48 1/4 inches. M. C. Naftzger Collection

Heritage of the West

Charles Russell was one of the great painters of the American West. With little formal training but much firsthand experience of his subject, he captured the western landscape, wildlife, cowboys, and Indians in all of its wild if nostalgic moments.

In 1880, when he was only 16, Russell went to Montana for the first time to work on a family friend’s ranch. Ranch life was not for Russell, but he would stay in Montana for two years working for a hunter and trapper.

He began to draw and paint animals at this time and learned a great deal about their anatomy. In 1882, he went to work as a night herder for a group of cowboys called the Judith Basin Roundup, and on and off for the next 11 years he would work watching cattle by night and painting during the day.

In 1888, Russell returned to St. Louis for a short time and submitted some of his art to Harpers Weekly, where it was published. His work had become very popular in the Montana territory, and he began to sell pieces and take commissions for works when he returned.

With the advent of the railroad to Montana, the territory became more civilized, and Russell mostly gave up cowboy life in order to become a full time painter of the life he had known in the West that was now slowly fading.

On view in the Charles M. Russell Gallery.

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