Current Exhibitions

Childe Hassam, The Manhattan Club, 1891. Oil on canvas, 18 1/4 x 22 1/8 inches. Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, California, Gift of Mrs. Sterling Morton to the Preston Morton Collection

Scenery, Story, Spirit: American Painting and Sculpture from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Santa Barbara is considered the American Riviera. The region attracts wealth and beauty--with stunning private art collections. Carefully developed over decades, Santa Barbara’s museum now holds a phenomenal American art collection, and its treasures will be featured in this special exhibition in Wichita this fall.

The show offers a compelling overview of 19th- and early 20th-century American art. It showcases 52 paintings and eight sculptures by some of America's greatest artists.

• landscapes by Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Cole, and Frederic Church,
• narrative paintings and street scenes by Winslow Homer, Childe Hassam, and George Bellows,
• portraits by William Merritt Chase and John Singer Sargent,
• and scenes from the frontier of the American West.

The exhibition is organized by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. The Wichita presentation of Scenery, Story, Spirit: American Painting and Sculpture from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art has been generously sponsored by TCK--The Trust Company of KansasEmprise Bank, and Sondra Langel and Richard Smith.

Additional support has been provided by Louise Beren, Dr. John and Nancy Brammer, DeVore Family Fund, J. Eric Engstrom, H. Guy and Carol Glidden, Norma Greever, Dr. Gyan and Manorama Khicha, Nancy and Tom Martin, Dr. Christopher A. Moeller, Ronald and Debbie Sinclair, and Georgia and Keith Stevens.

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




All museum exhibitions receive generous sponsorship from the Friends of the Wichita Art Museum and the City of Wichita.


Larry Schwarm, Douglas County, from the Kansas Documentary Survey Project, 1975. Gelatin silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. Transfer from the National Endowment for the Arts

No Mountains in the Way, 40 Years Later: Kansas Documentary Photography

The exhibition and catalogue for No Mountains in the Way first appeared in 1975. The Wichita Art Museum celebrates the 40-year anniversary of this important project of documentary photography in Kansas.

James Enyeart, Terry Evans, and Larry Schwarm--artists who have attained considerable achievement in the intervening decades--each examined particular aspects of the Kansas rural environment. Their collective visions combined to poetically reflect place, culture, and custom in Kansas.

The 1970s project was inspired by the epic documentary photography undertaken by the federal government in the 1930s and 1940s.

Under leader Roy Stryker from 1935 to 1944, the Farm Security Administration (FSA) sent some of the era's most talented photographers on a mission to capture rural poverty on film at the height of the Great Depression. This project now provides the enduring image of the hard times of this historic moment in the United States. Gordon Parks' American Gothic, Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother, Walker Evans' prints of the Burroughs family--these iconic photographs are creations taken under the FSA auspices.

The Kansas documentary photography project acknowledged the rich legacy and influence of the FSA. How had the rural American changed since the Great Depression of the 1940s, the project leaders asked? How might today's photographers document and reflect the American heartland in Kansas?

New governmental funding from the National Endowment for the Art (NEA) supported the trio of 1970s photographers to update the FSA images with their visions of contemporary Kansas life. James Enyeart focused his lens on architecture. Terry Evans documented people living on the land. Larry Schwarm trained his eye on the landscape—furrowed field to windswept terrain. The results were presented at the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas. Because the undertaking was supported by the NEA, prints were given to this federal agency. These photographs--now celebrated as vintage prints--are now part of the holdings of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The Wichita presentation of 63 classic images from this project of 120 prints are on special loan from this rich Smithsonian archive.

No Mountains in the Way, 40 Year Later: Kansas Documentary Photography is generously sponsored by Fidelity Bank Foundation.

On view in the Paul Ross Gallery and Scott and Carol Ritchie Gallery




All museum exhibitions receive generous sponsorship from the Friends of the Wichita Art Museum and the City of Wichita.



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

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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