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Group Nearing Fundraising Goal To Revive Historic Dunbar Theatre

An effort to revive the historic Dunbar Theatre at 9th and Cleveland in Wichita continues.

The Dunbar Theatre is located in what was once known as the hub of Wichita’s African-American community. It was built in 1941 and closed in the early '60s.

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Credit Carla Eckels / KMUW
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KMUW
Herman Owens has lived a block behind the Dunbar for more than 50 years.

In the theatre's heyday, audiences would come to watch performances and also enjoy dime movies and nickel popcorn.

“Dunbar was quite a theatre," remembers Herman Owens, who has lived a block behind the Dunbar Theatre for more than 50 years. "People [came] down here on weekends and [watched] during the week too."

Owens says it’s time to see the theatre revived.

James Albertha with Power CDC says the local nonprofit is halfway through its fundraising effort to re-open Dunbar, with about $1.5 million left to go. Albertha compares the new Dunbar to the Apollo Theatre in New York. He says the theatre, which will hold an estimated 275 seats, will expose great talent within the community.

“Poetry, dance, ballet," he says. "Anything that covers the arts will be done at the Dunbar Theatre.”

Bands and local artists will perform at Wichita’s McAdams Park at 13th & Ohio on Saturday, June 17, to assist with the revitalization effort of the Dunbar Theatre.

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Carla Eckels is assistant news director and the host of Soulsations. Follow her on Twitter @Eckels.

To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

Carla Eckels is Director of Cultural Diversity for News and Engagement at KMUW. She produces and hosts the R&B and gospel show Soulsations and brings stories of race and culture to The Range with the monthly segment In the Mix. Carla was inducted into The Kansas African American Museum's Trailblazers Hall of Fame in 2020 for her work in broadcast/journalism.