BY CARRIE RENGERS
In the four years Jason Van Sickle has been president of the Old Town Association, he says he’s focused on infrastructure and safety.
Now, in the four months he has left as president, he says he’s turning to something equally important but often overlooked in Old Town: art.
He’s opening Gallery Old Town at 151 N. Rock Island to have a place to support local artists. However, Van Sickle wants to think bigger than that by taking a cue from the Douglas Design District and creating murals throughout Old Town and having concerts and other live performances in the area.
“It’s the idea of making Old Town a gallery,” he says. “Nobody’s taken the lead on activating Old Town and really focusing full time on activities.”
The gallery will open with next week’s Final Friday and a sculpture show by students from Wichita State University.
The gallery, which is where Prairie Vistas Photography used to be, will have movable walls for extra space to hang art. Van Sickle says the gallery will be free for artists to use, and they’ll get to keep all of the proceeds from the sale of their pieces.
“A lot of times artists have to give up to 60 percent to a gallery,” he says.
Van Sickle, who draws and does other art himself, says he knows how hard it can be to be an artist.
“We don’t want to make it even harder.”
Van Sickle says he’s already working with the city on a site for the first new mural, which will be done in October. He says he plans to continue to work with the city and private property owners on other sites in order to “really try to liven up a lot of facades.”
Initially, Van Sickle says he’s investing his own money in the gallery and some bigger projects.
“I’m OK paying the bills for a while.”
He eventually wants to generate enough money that the gallery can be self sustaining, though it will be a nonprofit.
Van Sickle says there could be situations where artists donate pieces to sell to raise money or some shows could be sponsored.
“The money will come,” he says.
“My goal is to eventually have somebody hired and running the gallery.”
For now, Van Sickle says he’ll be organizing “events and packing the calendar.”
“We’re also going to try to promote music events and live performances.”
Van Sickle says even after his term as president is up, he’ll still be on the Old Town board and heavily involved. However, he says not being president means “I’m going to have a pretty good chunk of time freed up.”
“It’s a lot of work,” he says of the job.
Van Sickle says as he goes forward, his work will all be about “making Old Town more vibrant.”
“I spent the last four years focused really strongly on security and infrastructure, and that’s important,” he says. “But what’s important to Old Town is marketing and activities.”
Van Sickle says he’s willing to commit the time the new gallery and broader artistic ventures will take because of his love for Old Town and art.
“I love the art community,” he says. “This combines two passions.”