From music to dance to painting, some of Kansas’ most talented artists owe their success to a Wichita family.
The Kochs may be known more for their business and politics, but it’s their support of the arts that has helped many people turn creativity into careers.
“First of all, I was born and raised here so I know no better,” said Liz Koch with a smile. “Kansas is just a culture of really hard working people with great ethics.”
So it’s no surprise perhaps that she also loves Kansas art, including a painting in her home by local, Ron Christ.
“The clean lines,” Koch nodded. “I liked his style.”
That style perfected, in part, by training funded by the “Koch Cultural Trust,” a program started 30 years ago that grants up to $5,000 to budding artists of all kinds, people who have what Liz says she does not– talent.
“Zip! I seriously have no talent,” said Koch. “I don’t apologize for it because you need people like me to enjoy people who do have talent.”
People like Kimme Whittemore and Rachelle Goter, both middle school band instructors who won grants to study chamber music at a festival in Austria.
“Meeting people from all over the world and participating in music, it’s really just the universal language,” said Whittemore.
It was a fairy tale experience they now share with their students.
“To be able to tell them I went to where Mozart was born this past summer, and to tell them about that, it really adds to the experience,” said Goter.
Another Kansas artist, Robert Elliott, calls his grant from Koch a ‘blessing.’ He’s one of only a few artists in the country who restores old churches, like St. Anthony’s in Wichita.
“All we had to go by was one black and white photograph, as well as the paint studies I did where we would remove layers of paint and re-create each and every pattern,” explained Elliott.
Though his work is award-winning, Elliott’s grant applications for further training were turned down until he looked closer to home.
“Ironically in Kansas, it narrowed down to only two organizations, and the Koch Cultural Trust being one, that would even consider what I was doing an art form and entertain helping,” said Elliott.
The Koch Cultural Trust paid for him to study icon writing, the painting of holy images.
Robert now hopes to use what he’s learned to create an icon for a chapel in Newton, but it’s not the kind of art that matters to the Koch Cultural Trust. It’s the passion behind it.
“You can find that spark, something unique, something that could be developed,” explained Liz Koch.
It’s an investment in people that’s added up to almost two-million dollars in grants.
Koch believes it pays off when Kansans share their art with the world and at home.
“I find that people from Kansas, you don’t have to ask. They naturally want to do it,” said Koch.
The Koch Cultural Trust grants are awarded every quarter. If you’d like to apply, click here for an application.
WEB EXTRA | Mark Arts
Liz Koch is also proud of “Mark Arts,” which is expanding into a new building.
It’s under construction right now on land donated by the Kochs at 13th and Rock Road.
“Mark Arts” offers art classes, exhibits and events.
The building used to be called “the Wichita Center for the Arts,” but changed its name to reflect the influence of Mary R. Koch, Liz’s mother-in-law who asked her to carry on the family tradition of supporting the arts in Kansas.
The new building is slated to open with a gala on New Year’s Eve.