About The Museum

Museum History

Oil painting image of the Wichita Art Museum building as it was going to be built

J. Floyd Yewell, The Wichita Art Museum (detail of an architectural rendering for Clarence S. Stein, architect), about 1929. Watercolor on shadecloth, 26 x 51 1/8 inches. Wichita Art Museum, Gift of the Edgar E. Turner, Jr. Estate

The Wichita Art Museum, founded in 1935, has a distinguished history in South Central Kansas and the Midwest.

The bequest of Louise Caldwell Murdock and subsequent establishment of the Roland P. Murdock Collection forms the initial impetus for the museum. Mrs. Murdock’s will, written in 1915, specified that the income from her estate, following the death of her closest relatives, should be used for the purchase of art for the City of Wichita—a collection named in memory of her late husband, Roland, who was the younger brother of Wichita Eagle founder Marshall M. Murdock and business manager of the family-owned newspaper. From 1939 to 1962, Mrs. Elizabeth Stubblefield Navas, Mrs. Murdock’s friend and business associate, selected works of American art for the museum. Now 10,000 strong, the prized collection emphasizes American art and is nationally recognized for its distinction.

When the first museum building opened its doors in 1935, it was an Art Deco gem designed by New York architect Clarence Stein. As the museum grew, so did community interest and support. In 1960, the Wichita Art Museum Members, Inc. was established. Through this non-profit membership organization, interested citizens could contribute funds and service toward the development of new programs. The City approved funds for the construction of additions to the original building to provide space for storage, expanded exhibition programs, educational programs, and membership activities. Thus, in 1963, two wings, a lobby, and a new façade were added to the original building and designed by Wichita architect Robert Schaefer.

In the 1970s, the City Commission voted to construct an expanded facility. Designed by the internationally renowned Edward Larrabee Barnes, the building features brick sheathing and bold massing on the Arkansas River.

At the start of the new millennium, the City of Wichita joined forces with the community to complete another expansion project to bring the total square footage to 115,000. The new addition, finished in June 2003, provided more exhibition space, a new restaurant, museum store, research library, and much needed art services area.

Today, with a dedicated board, staff, and corps of 100+ volunteers, a nationally distinguished collection, Edward Larrabee Barnes facility, and growing audience, the museum is a public/private partnership, owned by the City of Wichita and managed by Wichita Art Museum, Inc.

Black and white photograph of a woman with a lace collar and her hair up in a bun

Louise Caldwell Murdock in an undated photo from the 1880s

Our Mission

Photo of the museum's glass and brick entrance with trees on either side of the front doors

The Wichita Art Museum connects people, ideas, and art through remarkable experiences.

To be an essential cultural leader in a thriving region, fostering creativity, joy, and belonging.

• Our welcome is real. All people have a place at WAM as we strive to be an organization of authentic kindness, joy, access, and inclusion.

• Our community is our guide. Nothing happens without collaboration and true partnership with our community.

• We aim high. We dare to deliver breathtaking art and experiences that spark creativity, conversation, and empathy.

• We care for our people. We respect the talent that powers our organization and promote a positive, problem-solving work environment.