What Inspired Horizontes?

In 2013, as a freshly arrived, new Wichita resident, I was on my way to a meeting being held at The Boys and Girls Club. If you are familiar with Wichita and the location of this facility, which I was not, you might remember that it sits in a large campus built in the northern edge of the historic African American Northeast neighborhoods, just east of highway I-135 on 21st Street.

This campus spans several blocks north of 21st St and about four blocks wide, nestled inside the predominantly African American neighborhood, with only one point of entry and exit. Unaware of this unorthodox architectural design, for several minutes I was not successful in entering the campus through its ironically named “Opportunity Drive.”

I drove, and looked, and drove, and looked, and drove around more, and could not access Opportunity Drive, despite it being visible from my perspective.

This quest to get to my meeting at the Boys and Girls Club led me to drive into and around the neighborhood, explore its streets, and to witness a horizon line, visible only through my physical presence within that space.

As I drove slowly looking for clues that would grant me the entry to Opportunity Drive, I came across two little girls playing in the street, one girl was riding a bicycle while the other one walked by her side. This unexpected sight of childhood play and joy was a welcomed break from my unanticipated and frustrating neighborhood exploration.

The backdrop to this playful childhood interaction was dominated by two monolithic creatures: a massive grain elevator and highway I-135. These omnipresent concrete giants suddenly prompted a series of thoughts and reflections that have stayed with me to this day.

What is the psychological impact of growing up around massive industrial structures?

How does the presence of a massive gray wall, spanning several blocks, impacts a child’s imagination?

Can their imagination take them beyond that visual barrier?

What personal agency do residents of a neighborhood have in the development of the built environment surrounding them? Especially, public and private infrastructure?

What if that giant grain elevator became a canvass for artists to create art?

What if it had written on it massive words of wisdom?

Images of neighborhood heroes? A landscape? A sunset?

What if the neighborhood residents could decide what they wanted to look at on that structure?

If those little girls had a chance to voice what they wanted to see every day, what would their horizon look like?

WHAT WOULD THEIR HORIZON LOOK LIKE?

After several attempts, I was finally able to find the one and only access to Opportunity Drive, I had my meeting and went on with my new life in Wichita. However, these questions and subsequent reflections stayed with me, and have since informed the emphasis and focus of my creative community work in this great city.

As for painting a mural or altering the grain elevator? I put that idea in my idea-box, inside my brain, to sit and wait for the perfect opportunity to come out into the world. That opportunity arrived in 2016 with the Knight Cities Challenge call for proposals. This was my chance to propose an artistic intervention that would transform a physical structure while addressing the long legacy of systemic discrimination and segregation of people of color in Wichita’s North neighborhoods.

The second chapter to this story begun in 2017, when Horizontes was announced as one of 33 winners of the Knight Cities Challenge and was awarded a $100,000 grant.

Join us as we embark on this new journey.

Armando Minjarez – Project Director and Curator

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