Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 13, 2012

Discover art, history, fine flavors in Wichita


CNHI

— By Christine Tibbetts

CNHI News Service

Opinionated, harboring no agenda. If that’s a community of people in America today, sounds like a place I want to visit.

Kansas seems to be the location, Wichita the destination and here’s how I learned this.

Went to the movies in Wichita, the Tallgrass Film Festival. Independent films with questions and comments after thought-provoking films.

These Wichitans are comfortably independent with their own thoughts while accepting of others.

Another way I drew conclusions about the nature of this place was walking all over downtown.

Public art in Wichita is life-sized bronzes, block after block, not formal figures of the famous, but people doing things like the rest of us. Forty at least.

A bronze mother showing something to her child. A businessman with pants rolled up, cooling his ankles in a low fountain.

Play hopscotch with a bronze girl and her bronze cat.

Wichita has been serious about sharing art all over town since 1991; five museums near the river reflect city enthusiasm.

River District museums are the Mid-America All-Indian Center, Old Cowtown, Wichita Art Museum, Exploration Place, all about science and imagination, and Botanica.

Southern Plains Indians lived here, but 567 tribes came together 40 years ago to shape Indian Center.

Outdoor exhibits include an 1850s village with a grass house, important in this prairie of tall grasses.

Go for the art because paintings, drawings and editorial cartoons by Blackbear Bosin are here; he is the Kiowa-Comanche artist whose 44-foot sculpture towers over the confluence of the Big and Little Arkansas rivers.

This is a Wichita icon, known as Keeper of the Plains. Experience the Keeper at sunset when four firepots flame for 15 minutes, expressing earth, air, fire and water as the four elements of life.

Museum visiting is handy with a Go Card. Ask for one the first place you go and get $2.00 off the admission price for nine other museums and the zoo.

Think about meals in between. Wichita knows about beef. Sterling silver headlines some restaurants; Angus always ready.

Chester’s Chophouse and Wine Bar is where I ordered filet mignon resting in a port wine reduction, blue lump crab and béarnaise sauce cascading over the top.

Another way to think about beef is Old Cowtown. Wichita was just that and now the city and its volunteers support a living history museum just off the old Chisholm Trail— 25 acres showing the history of 1865-1880.

Moving immense herds was local business then, and the living history museum shows change the railroad caused here.

Costumed interpreters stay in character, running printing presses, maintaining the saloon, staging gunfights, offering wagon rides, staffing the mortuary, sometimes offering burlesque and melodramas. Chinese laundry too, veterinarian, carpenter, blacksmith and meat market.

Lunch at Tanya’s Soup Kitchen includes sandwiches. Four soups and eight books of recipe cards.

Tanya’s a San Francisco culinary school graduate who says, “The best part of my day as a chef is always being alone in the kitchen making soup.”

The best part of the day for a retired family physician I met in Wichita is sharing treasures with visitors in his vast Museum of World Treasures.

Dr. Jon Kurdatzke founded the museum. “I’ve been collecting since I was 19,” he says, “on a tour of Egypt, the Holy Land and Europe.”

Look for him when you go; he’ll be smiling, teasing and delighted to talk about dinosaurs or mummies, Roman coins or palace Buddhas, British royalty and American presidents, sea creatures from the western plains or World War II uniforms.

I suspect the Museum of World Treasures reflects modern culture: many ideas at once.

Old Town is the neighborhood where I found World Treasures and more fine food. Enter under a graceful metal arbor from Douglas Avenue.

Galleries, theaters, hotels. Lively district the night I dined at Sabor, Latin Bar & Grill.

A fiery orange pablano is the signature sauce, Chef Steven Cotter told me.

Spices lingered pleasantly after enjoying Venezuelan-inspired San Cocho soup with roasted chicken, plantain, corn, red peppers, garlic, cilantro and avocado. A remarkable $3 value.

Mahi crusted with plantain and pumpkin was my Sabor entrée, side of rice with coconut and black beans.

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Christine Tibbetts covers the world for The Tifton, Ga., Gazette. Follow her at www.TibbettsTravel.com

When you go:

www.GoWichita.com

800-288-9424