There is power in place. A place can connect, or it can divide. A place can intimidate, or it can inspire.
In the summer of 2017, Yellowbrick led the transformation of one of Wichita's most notorious border vacuums -- the Douglas Avenue railroad underpass -- into an engaging space of light, sound, art, and love.
The underpass had long been a dividing line between the Old Town entertainment district and the burgeoning Central Business District. Over 150 feet long and without lighting, the bridge had earned a reputation as a dark, dingy, uninviting space. Its most defining feature -- the hundreds of pigeons roosting among its steel beams, covering the brick sidewalk with their droppings.
As the districts on each side of the underpass continued regeneration, the need for a connector grew stronger. Plans had long been in place for renovation of the underpass, but funding was slow to come; finally, in spring of 2017, funds were allocated to the project from the city's capital improvement program. But there was still much work to do to help the public see the underpass as a space worthy of $4 million in public investment.
Kicked off with a $5000 grant from the Wichita Community Foundation's Up the Ambition initiative, Yellowbrick joined forces with the North End Urban Arts Festival to stage a series of three street art exhibitions in the space during the summer. The shows had a triple-purpose: transform the space into a connector to create positive public perceptions, introduce artists of color to the downtown Final Friday art crawl scene, and demonstrate the power of co-created public spaces.
To achieve these objectives, we brought in color-changing LED lights to add a vibe and visual interest to the long-neglected space. NEUAF coordinated street artists to live-paint massive panels during each show, along with DJs to overpower traffic noise with slick beats. We provided multiple opportunities for public participation and feedback, including a total of seven 4x8 community graffiti panels across the three shows and stickers prompting attendees to share their emotional response to the space and its transformation.
The project was overwhelmingly successful, drawing over 7500 attendees across the three Final Friday shows -- from teenage hipsters to bank executives and city council members. In the midst of the series, the bridge renovation worked its way through City Hall and our efforts were able to influence several design features for the updated underpass.
Under the Bridge, above all, demonstrated the power of place -- and the power of regular people, of all ages and races and backgrounds, to transform their places.
700 East Douglas Avenue
Wichita, KS 67202
$7500 Total Cost
3 Final Friday Shows
Live street art
Participatory Community Graffiti Panels
"The Douglas underpass is an area I generally speedwalk through, so for it to be reimagined and transformed into a gallery and gathering space - one that myself and others deliberately chose to spend time in rather than avoid - was a joy to experience." -- Thea Pajunen, attendee
"This is what community looks like. We need more of this." -- Kimberly Sims via Facebook
"I love what the arts are doing for Wichita! Here is another example of our artists leading the way to create community." -- Ed O'Malley, CEO of the Kansas Leadership Center
"This reminds me of when I was in New York City, walking down the street and always finding something new and exciting." -- Matt Michaelis, president of Emprise Bank