A new art gallery that champions the accessibility and inclusion of art opens on Douglas Avenue this weekend, with a grand opening celebration scheduled for Saturday.
Located in the former Hotel Patrick building in the Union Station area at 801 E. Douglas, Suite 106, the Envision Arts Gallery and Community Engagement Center is the first in the country to exhibit primarily visually impaired artists, according to Envision officials. Envision is a Wichita-based national service provider and employer of people who are blind or visually impaired.
To showcase the nonprofit, its arts program, and the works created by often marginalized artists, the gallery’s inaugural exhibition is called Envision Your Community and includes portraits of each artist exhibited along with their works.
The 18 artists included in the exhibition, which will run until April 15, range in age from toddler to seniors. The majority of the artists are from Kansas and at least one from New York, said Sarah Kephart, Envision’s artistic program manager.
The works on display will range from a colorful multimedia collage created by 2.5-year-old Grace Rosson – described as having a vivid imagination and a constant smile – to ceramic sculptures, 2D art and a concept video. All but one of the artist’s portraits were made by Dale Small, the coordinator of the new art gallery.
Many of the exhibiting artists are involved in the programs and services offered by Envision, including its children’s development center, adult day program and expressive arts workshops. Envision, which started more than 80 years ago, created its artistic program in 2009.
For Kephart, who has worked for Envision for a decade, the gallery’s purpose is twofold. It’s a place to showcase works by artists who are often marginalized due to their physical and other abilities and it’s a way to help create an inclusive community.
“Everyone has a story to tell. Whether you are sighted or blind from birth or accident, we all want to tell our story. The sighted world has set perceptions and parameters around what the blind community and visually impaired wants and can do. Envision expands those boundaries. We help people realize their potential through self-expression,” Kephart said in a statement that noted the blind and visually impaired community numbers 23 million. in the United States, according to government figures, arts education and access favor sighted people.
“It gives agency to artists who have long been marginalized. … It’s a good time to start a gallery and a movement, in that sense, to come together and celebrate commonalities and honor differences,” Kephart said in an interview.
In addition to having a major exhibition space with new exhibits rotating quarterly, the 3,000 square foot gallery includes a smaller space where exhibits change monthly. Visible to walkers from the street, this space is called the Patricia A. Peer Window Gallery. Envision will work with other organizations serving people who have difficulty exhibiting their art in this space.
The gallery will also offer educational programming and host an artist-in-residence program.
When creating the gallery, an idea Kephart presented to the Envision board in July, it was important that the gallery be easily accessible. Working with Gary Oborny, president of commercial real estate firm Occidental Management, Envision found space on both the transit lane and the free Q-line streetcar lane on Douglas Avenue.
“It’s the perfect place for us,” Kephart said.
Activities planned for the gallery’s opening celebration on January 15 are family art making from noon to 3 p.m. and an opening reception from 6 to 9 p.m. At 8:30 p.m., singer-songwriter Charlie Wilks, a familiar performer at venues such as the Artichoke and R Coffee House, will perform. Wilks is also an employee of Envision.
All proceeds from artwork and merchandise purchased from the gallery will directly support the artists and help fund the artistic endeavors of the Envision arts program, according to the press release.
Imagine Your Community Exhibition
What: inaugural exhibition of the new Envision Art Gallery and Community Engagement Center opened by Wichita-based Envision, a national service provider and employer of people who are blind or visually impaired
Or: 801 E. Douglas, Suite 106
When: to April 15. Inauguration celebration activities from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, January 15. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, plus 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for first Friday and third Thursday art tours, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. second Saturday.
More information: envisionus.com/envision-art-gallery-and-community-engagement-center
This story was originally published January 14, 2022 4:19 a.m.