Participants in Horizontes, Wichita, KS

Kansas Pipelines

Artist Armando Minjarez was on his way to a meeting at the Boys and Girls Club of Wichita in 2015, and though he knew it was located in Wichita’s Northeast neighborhood, and he located the campus of the organization, he couldn’t find the entrance. Eventually, he saw it: Opportunity Drive. “It only had one way to get to it—I could see it, but I couldn’t figure out how to get to it.” As he circled the campus, Minjarez saw two girls playing in the primarily African American neighborhood that includes grain elevators in its horizons and elevated highway rushing through it. “This is what these girls see every day, and no one in the neighborhood had a say-so on whether they wanted this or not. What if the grain elevator was gone, or had something that made it more attractive? What if these girls were inspired growing up around it? Would that impact their lives, give them a chance to be creative, make different choices?”

And so Horizontes began to take shape, an ambitious, artist-driven community engagement project encompassing two Wichita neighborhoods and dozens of local artists, historians, and activists. In 2017, Minjarez took the idea to the Knight Foundation Cities Challenge grants, and was awarded $100,000 to bring Horizontes to its present status, with nineteen murals completed and in process, community engagement events, and more. Minjarez has “almost a decade’s worth of connection to the neighborhood, which is important to the project’s scale and mission. It’s hard to do this work when you’re parachuting in and don’t have community buy-in.”

At this exciting time in his career, Minjarez joined M-AAA and Harvester Arts for Wichita’s inaugural Artist INC Live seminar. The model of peer learning appealed to his history of community organizing as well as his history as an artist. Artist INC facilitators are the heart of the program because they make it come alive for their artist peers. Minjarez was glad to see the program come to Wichita and keen to find ways for the program and community to grow: “It was an affirmation that we still lack pipelines to develop artists and creatives and art producers with a diversity of race, a diversity of gender, and a diversity of disciplines. It gives us an opportunity to be bolder about taking about these things and advocating for those pipelines.”

Minjarez echoes M-AAA’s core value that everyone deserves access to cultural opportunities: “Cultural development has the ability to engage a wide range of people and do the work of health and healing, economic development, integration, and belonging, that is at the heart of a healthy and thriving community. It is so elemental.”

All images of the Horizontes project courtesy of Armando Minjarez.

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