Historic Dunbar theater starts restoration project

Dunbar theater restoration
Published: Jun. 4, 2022 at 8:53 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Built in 1941, Wichita’s historical Dunbar theatre served as the only movie theatre for the African American community until 1963.

The theatre, named after Lawrence Dunbar, is now in the restoration process. The historical Dunbar theatre received restoration completing its first phase of creating a community center.

“This building has been the lifeblood for this community so many years ago, and they need that back. They want that back, and clearly, it’s already got everybody’s heart beating hard. Look how hard they’re working to make sure that this happens,” said Governor Laura Kelly.

The theatre represents history.

Adrienne McAlpine, with Power CDC Media and Community Relations Representative, says, “as you see, my shirt says black wall street. This was a hub for the African American community during the 40s and 50s. When there was segregation, and this is where African Americans were able to come also. They had ice cream stores. Some businesses were thriving.”

With this restoration project, the end goal is to bring more life to this community.

“It will make a huge difference. It will give the kids in our community a place to go this summer to keep them off the streets to keep them out of trouble,” said Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau.

There are three phases to the project. When all three phases are complete, there will be a community common space, visual arts center, and a 325-seat theatre for those in the surrounding community to enjoy.

Governer Kelly said, “what this will do for people’s pride in this community, what it will do for the children. The opportunities they’ll be exposed to through this theatre. It’s just absolutely amazing.”

Adrienne says it is a community center now, but the end goal is to have a prideful performing arts theatre and bring back the theatre to Wichita.

To get involved with this project, you can donate money to power CDC to help complete the remaining two phases. Call (316) 267-3036.

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