Historic Dunbar Theater getting primed for renewal

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Wichita has had a long standing place in the nation for the civil rights movements, and a historic theater that allowed African-Americans to use it in the 1940’s and 1950’s when most theaters did not, continued that tradition.

The Dunbar Theater opened in the early 1940’s near 9th Street and Cleveland just northeast of downtown Wichita. While most theaters in Wichita would not allow African-Americans in at that time, the Dunbar was different.

“The blacks didn't have a theater to go to, but the Dunbar was open to us,” said long time Wichita resident Ferwilda Sears.

The theater now sits closed and run down, but as part of a plan to revitalize the area, the theater is hoping to get in on the renovations.

“I'm so excited I can't stand myself,” said James Arbertha of Power Community Development Corporation.

Arbertha helped coordinate a fundraiser to kick off the efforts for renovating the theater on Saturday.

He sees children in his neighborhood near McAdams Park not having creative venues channeling them to do better, but instead going down rocky paths. Abertha is confident that bringing back the theater will help kids do better in life.

Costs to renovate the theater are at $5,200,000 according to Candace Jackson of CJAM Consulting. Jackson says that the theater will have an operation cost around $375,000 in its first year and could go higher by about $25,000. She says that the theater, once operational, will have a positive impact on the economy, city wide.

“Somewhere to the tune of 5 to 6 million dollars of economic impact for the city,” Jackson said.

A fundraiser on Saturday deemed the ‘Dunbar Theater Festival’ took place at McAdams Park. Special speakers, live music and activities for kids were taking place. For more information on the Dunbar Theater and how to help, click here. *Note: some of the information on the website is outdated*

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