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Meet the new director of the Wichita Art Museum

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Courtesy of the Wichita Art Museum
Courtesy of the Wichita Art Museum

Anne Kraybill is the new director of the Wichita Art Museum. But her journey to Kansas had kind of a slow start. Torin Andersen spoke with Kraybill about her decision to come to Wichita and her vision for the museum.

"I got an email from a search firm about this position, and to be honest with you, I just kind of ignored it. And then I got another email, a little bit more persistent this time, and when I read it and learned more about the museum and the community, I actually said, I'm actually interested in this. And so I think it was just kismet. "

Courtesy of the Wichita Art Museum

When Kraybill was considering moving to Kansas, her family was part of the decision-making process, too.

"My son is a big time bowler. And so then when I learned about the bowling community here and WSU, you know, we told him that we were investing in his, you know, career. And so we would be moving the family to Wichita <laugh>."

Kraybill says her guiding principles were forged during her time at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

"Bentonville was such a thriving, growing community, and I think Wichita's really positioned to be that. It's got, you know, diversity in population. It's got a lot of opportunity to make your mark."

As the Wichita Art Museum’s director, she wants to implement a visitor-centric viewpoint, something that was difficult to achieve in her previous positions.

"And so, I was just excited to take the helm of a larger organization, but also in a larger community and take the principles of community engagement and, you know, valuing the visitor just as much as the objects and the collection. The Wichita Art Museum does an incredible job of programming and events."

Kraybill is excited to bring the collection back to the people of Wichita.

"I really believe that museums should function like libraries, and in particular this one, because the collection is owned by the city. So this should really feel like every Wichitan's collection. I really want people to remember and, you know, have encounters with art and realize how special this is to have in this town. So currently we charge except for Saturdays. Colby Sandlin gave a wonderful gift. We've been able to expand his gift so that access now to the permanent collection is every day of the week. So, people can come if you just have ten minutes to come in you can experience the collection or if you want to spend hours you can do that too."

The first three months of the year will highlight smaller exhibits leading toward a complete overhaul of the main gallery space for the permanent collection. Kraybill says there will be more changes future.

"Incredibly dynamic temporary exhibition programs. Expect to see lots of collaborations, so with our local partners like the Ulrich. But we hope to have lots of partnerships throughout the state and the region as well. Expect to see us generating exhibitions that we tour nationally. Expect to see lots more contemporary artists coming through here and new acquisitions of contemporary art that really are in great conversation with the rest of the permanent collection. "
Torin Andersen explores the local arts scene every First Friday on ArtWorks.

He has more than 20 years of experience shaping and documenting the arts in Wichita.