“With an apple, I will astonish Paris,” the French artist Paul Cézanne once defiantly claimed. Today, his apples are astonishing Wichita. An exhibition of his still life paintings are currently on view at the Wichita Art Museum. Visitors really can’t make a wrong turn at the Museum this spring. Eleven exhibitions are currently on display including George Catlin’s American Buffalo (the Kansas state animal, and yes, “Oh, Give Me A Home Where the Buffalo Roam” is the state song). Not to mention the ongoing American Impressionists show (including Mary Cassatt’s Mother and Child) and more than 200 goblets of Steuben Glass.
How does the Museum do it? It has a long history of philanthropic power. In 1915, interior designer Louise Caldwell Murdock bequeathed the income from her Wichita estate to be used for the purchase of art for the city. She also persuaded Arthur Sinclair Covey to paint three murals for the interior of the Wichita Public Library. (And made sure it had custom Tiffany windows.) The munificent Murdock also founded The 20th Century Club in 1899, a private women’s club which promoted literacy, educational and scientific undertakings, and of course the arts.