WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Historic Dunbar Theatre in Wichita is hosting two benefit concerts on Feb. 27 to celebrate the history of black voices and art in the local community. These socially-distanced concerts will have limited seating, and take place at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. respectively at the Crown Uptown Theatre in Wichita. There will be temperature checks at the door. Tickets are $26 and available on the Crown Uptown Theatre’s website.
The Historic Dunbar Theatre, which opened in 1941, was always more than a movie house in Wichita.
“The marquee was like a beacon in the McAdams neighborhood, it signaled a welcome place for African-Americans to go to in a segregated city,” said Injoy Fountain with the Historic Dunbar Theatre.
“The theatre anchored a lively corner at 9th and Cleveland streets, it was a place for residents to catch a movie, hit the cafe or drugstore or hair salon, grab an ice cream cone, be social, be seen,” Fountain said. “There were no barriers, the Theatre was a building and a place — a place for all.”
Fountain shared the following mission for the Historic Dunbar Theatre:
“Our mission is to rehabilitate and redevelop the vacant Dunbar Movie Theatre into a community-based visual and cultural performing arts center that would also anchor commercial redevelopment at the intersection of 9th St. and Cleveland. The McAdams Neighborhood Revitalization Plan, adopted by the Wichita City Council in June 2003, would be utilized for guiding neighborhood revitalization.
The Dunbar Theatre was built in 1941 at 1007 N. Cleveland St. located in the McAdams Neighborhood. It’s been closed since 1963. As of now P.O.W.E.R. CDC and its wonderful Board of Directors are currently raising funds to renovate and reopen.”
‘Turning the Lights Back On’ — that’s the theme Fountain initiated as she envisions bringing the theatre back to its heyday. The theatre currently stands darkened and vacant.
“Our plan is to fully renovate the building and return it to use as a community-based cultural performing arts center,” Fountain said. “It will also serve as an anchor — once again — for retail and other development on the corner, as part of the McAdams Neighborhood Revitalization Plan, adopted by the city in 2003,” she added.
Fountain said though a new marquee is already up, there is still much to be done before the lights shine again.
“We are planning a Benefit fundraising concert and really need the support of our community,” she said. “The Crown Uptown has graciously offered to help us put on shows until the building is renovated, with all socially distant guidelines applied,” she added.
Fountain, who was born and raised in Wichita, attended Collegiate for nine years and graduated from East High. She moved to NYC to pursue a career in musical theatre, graduated from Amda College of Performing Arts, and lived in NYC for over a decade. Fountain traveled internationally with a theatre company and performed not only all over NYC but across the region. In 2019, she appeared on the hit television show “The Voice.”
Rudy Love Jr., a well-known talent in Wichita’s music scene, has also been an instrumental voice in creating awareness about the Historic Dunbar Theatre.
“If the residents of Wichita knew the amazing things that have happened and are happening in their city, perhaps they would speak about it with more respect,” Love said.
“This is why we need to make a concerted effort to strengthen the platforms of our biggest advocates. It is no longer just about promoting the events and arts, it’s about supporting the people supporting us,” Love said. “Every person that loves ICT and promotes ICT art and culture should have a large network available to them,” he added.
To purchase tickets for the Feb. 27 Benefit Concerts, click here. To learn more about the Historic Dunbar Theatre’s renovation efforts, click here. For more information on the Historic Dunbar Theatre, click here.