Museums worth a road trip from Wichita offer can’t-miss art, history and science

·10 min read

Several Wichita attractions are hosting national-caliber exhibitions this summer — check out Exploration Place, Botanica and the Wichita Art Museum. If you want to continue exploring art, history, science and culture, an array of regional museums are presenting new exhibitions and traveling experiences.

These destinations are all within a day’s drive of Wichita.

In Kansas

“Sahara Sea Monsters,” May 28 through Sept. 18, Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Hays: The world premiere of this exhibit by Silver Plume Exhibitions features original artwork and animation. It explores the prehistoric oceans of what is now the Sahara desert — from small invertebrate animals including trilobites to massive mosasaurs. The museum is open daily during the summer; admission ranges from $6-$10 with ages 3 and younger free. More information at sternberg.fhsu.edu.

“Prairie Playscape” and “Big League Fun” at Flint Hills Discovery Center, Manhattan: This culture and science museum in downtown Manhattan is debuting a new permanent children’s exhibit on May 27 and on May 28 it opens an interactive, all-ages traveling exhibition on Major League Baseball that runs through Sept. 11. The center is open Tuesday through Sunday; admission ranges from $5 to $10 though Kansas families with pre-K-12 students can get free admission through the Kansas Department of Education program Sunflower Summer. Learn more at flinthillsdiscovery.org.

“Drawn to Combat: Bill Mauldin & The Art of War,” June 4 through Nov. 27, Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum, Abilene: This traveling exhibit features nearly 150 framed original drawings and published cartoons about war, civil rights and social justice. There also is personal material from Bill Mauldin’s Pulitzer Prize winning career as a nationally syndicated political cartoonist. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday; admission ranges from $10 to $15. There is free admission on the exhibition’s opening day, which coincides with the Symphony at Sunset annual outdoor concert to commemorate D-Day held on the grounds of the museum, library and boyhood home. Get more information at eisenhowerlibrary.gov.

Anniversary exhibition, June 17 through mid-August, Boot Hill Museum, Dodge City: This year Dodge City celebrates 150 years as an incorporated municipality and the Boot Hill Museum turns 75 years old. Museum staff curated a temporary exhibition that picks up in 1920 (where the living history museum’s regular exhibits stop) and includes artifacts from throughout the museum’s 75 years. This is included with regular admission, which starts at $12. Boot Hill Museum is participating in Sunflower Summer, which provides free admission to Kansas families with pre-K-12 students. The museum is open daily during the summer. The exhibit opening coincides with other activities planned for a city-wide Founder’s Weekend; another good time to visit is during the 10-day Dodge City Days, July 28 to Aug. 7. Learn more at dodgecity150.com.

“IN (and Out of) PLACE,” through June 26, The Volland Store, near Alma: Guest curator and artist Clive Fullagar designed this show about sense of place and highlights 10 artists, showing how their work has been influenced by their personal experiences, social interactions and identities from living in the Flint Hills region of Kansas. The gallery is free and open Friday through Sunday. Time your visit with the inaugural play to be performed June 17-18 at The Ruin, Volland’s new outdoor venue. This is a ticketed event; get details at thevollandstore.com.

Regional

“The Perfect Shot: Walter Iooss Jr. and the Art of Sports Photography,” through Sept. 4 at Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma City, Okla.: See more than 80 sports photographs spanning five decades in this new, original exhibition of photographs by iconic sports photographer Walter Iooss Jr. The exhibition is divided into five sections — anticipation, perseverance, triumph, disappointment and reflection — and covers basketball, baseball, football, gymnastics, boxing, golf, tennis and swimming. The OKCMOA is open Wednesday through Sunday. Also at OKMOA this summer: “Pop Art and Text,” featuring works by Ed Ruscha, Robert Indiana and Andy Warhol runs through July 24 and a redesigned retrospective “Chihuly Then and Now: The Collection at Twenty,” debuts June 18 and runs through June 18, 2024. Admission ranges from $5 to $12 with ages 17 and younger free; get tickets at okcmoa.com.

Other OKC-area exhibitions to visit: “50th annual Prix de West Invitational Art Exhibition & Sale,” June 2 through Aug. 7, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum; “Synesthesia by Factory Obscura,” June 23 through June 2023, Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art in Norman, Okla.

“MAYA: The Exhibition,” July 13 through Oct. 25, Union Station, Kansas City, Mo.: The latest blockbuster exhibit to come through Union Station tells the story of the early disruptors who discovered the number zero, introduced the world to chocolate and developed a calendar more accurate than any other. This immersive exhibition showcases the Maya civilization buried in the middle of the rainforest through more than 300 artifacts, most of which are traveling to North America for the first time. It is open daily inside Union Station; admission ranges from $15 to $23.50. Get tickets at unionstation.org/event/maya.

Other Kansas City exhibitions to consider: American Veterans Traveling Tribute’s Vietnam Wall, through May 30, National WWI Museum and Memorial; “Thoma Collection of Viceregal Art,” through Sept. 4, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; “Fortopia,” May 26 through Oct. 16, Powell Gardens; “Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow,” May 27 through Sept. 18, National WWI Museum and Memorial

“Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition,” through July 3, The Durham Museum, Omaha, Neb.: This is new global touring exhibition takes visitors on a personal journey through the life of the iconic freedom fighter and political leader. It is an immersive and interactive experience that features previously unseen film, photos and more than 150 historical artifacts and personal effects on loan from the Mandela family, museums and archives worldwide. The museum also is hosting the interactive exhibition “Dinosaur Revolution,” from May 28 through Sept. 4. The Durham is open Tuesday through Sunday inside Omaha’s Union Station; admission is $7-$13 and free for ages 2 and younger. Get full details at durhammuseum.org.

“Becoming Jane: The Evolution of Dr. Jane Goodall,” will appear through Sept. 5 at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas.
“Becoming Jane: The Evolution of Dr. Jane Goodall,” will appear through Sept. 5 at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas.

“Becoming Jane: The Evolution of Dr. Jane Goodall,” through Sept. 5, Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Dallas: The world-renowned conservationist and ethologist who has famously dedicated her career to studying the lives of chimpanzees is celebrated in this special exhibition produced for the Perot Museum’s 10th anniversary and in partnership with the National Geographic Society and the Jane Goodall Institute. The exhibition takes guests on a journey with immersive projection of Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park, a life-size replica research tent featuring a hologram-like projection of Goodall and hands-on projects, and a variety of interactive augmented reality activities. The museum is open daily through the summer. General admission is $15-$25 and “Becoming Jane” carries an extra ticket charge, $6 to $8 and free for children younger than 2. Buy tickets at perotmuseum.org.

Other Dallas-Fort Worth metro exhibitions to consider: “Immersive Frida Kahlo,” through June 24, Lighthouse ArtSpace Dallas; “Immersive Van Gogh,” through June 26, Lighthouse ArtSpace Dallas; “Focus: Jamal Cyrus,” through June 26, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; “The Language of Beauty in African Art,” through July 31, Kimbell Art Museum; “Immersive Monet & The Impressionists,” July 1 through Sept. 11, Lighthouse ArtSpace Dallas; “Cartier and Islamic Art: In Search of Modernity,” through Sept. 18, Dallas Museum of Art; “Art Making as Life Making: Kinji Akagawa at Tamarind,” through Oct. 30, Amon Carter Museum of American Art

“Bruce Springsteen Live!” through Sept. 25, Woody Guthrie Center, Tulsa, Okla.: This experience explores the evolution of Bruce Springsteen — considered one of the greatest live performers. Curated by the Bruce Springsteen Archives & Center for American Music and the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, the exhibition has artifacts, live performance footage, instruments and stage costumes, exclusive interviews, concert posters and photography, plus interactive displays that immerse fans in Springsteen and the E Street band’s creative process. General Admission tickets, which include this exhibit, are $10 to $12 with ages 17 and younger free as well as K-12 teachers. The center is open Wednesday through Sunday.

Another music icon to explore in Tulsa is singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. The Bob Dylan Center opened its doors May 10 and includes a 29,000-square-foot complex of curated exhibitions that use cutting-edge technology to create unique experiences and highlight artifacts from among 100,000-plus items created or collected by Dylan throughout his seven-decade career. Among the displays are an interactive Church Studio Control Room, a Columbia Records Gallery and a 16-foot-high metalwork sculpture designed and built by Dylan. The center is open Wednesday through Sunday and costs the same as the Woody Guthrie Center. Both centers operate under the American Song Archives, a project of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, which acquired Dylan’s archives in 2016 and Guthrie’s in 2010. You can purchase a dual ticket to get into both for a discount of $20.

Other Tulsa summer exhibitions: National Geographic Photo Ark, through July 31, Gathering Place; “Besa: A Code of Honor–Muslim Albanians Who Rescued Jews During the Holocaust,” through Aug. 14, Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art; “Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism,” July 6 through Sept. 11, Philbrook Museum of Art

“The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse,” through July 25, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Ark.: Organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, this touring exhibit features 100 years of visual art, material objects, sound and music including accompanying instruments, music videos, costumes, lyrics and personal effects to explore how Black culture has shaped and influenced the South and U.S. contemporary culture at large.

The museum just announced “We the People: The Radical Notion of Democracy,” which will display one of the 11 known original prints of the U.S. Constitution among other founding documents and works by influential historical and contemporary artists. This exhibition opens July 3 and runs through Jan. 2; it is free but requires timed tickets that become available online starting May 25. Crystal Bridges is open Wednesday through Monday, and general admission is free. Access to “The Dirty South” is $12 for adults, free for veterans and those aged 18 and younger. Get tickets at crystalbridges.org and see related special events plus other summer exhibitions.

The contemporary art satellite space to Crystal Bridges, The Momentary, also has a full line up of exhibitions and performances this summer. “A Divided Landscape” runs through Sept. 25 and features seven contemporary artists confronting the historical and cultural narratives of the American West. General admission is free and the galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday; see details at themomentary.org.

“Gridiron Champs: George Halas & the Chicago Bears” at the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, centers on George Halas, who played a significant role in the formation of the National Football League
“Gridiron Champs: George Halas & the Chicago Bears” at the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, centers on George Halas, who played a significant role in the formation of the National Football League

“Gridiron Champs: George Halas & the Chicago Bears,” through Nov. 6, National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa: George Halas, a first generation Czech-American whose parents immigrated from Bohemia, played a significant role in the formation of the National Football League and spent time as a player, coach and owner with the Chicago Bears. This exhibit follows his story and includes artifacts such as Halas’ famed fedora and a Dick Butkus helmet. The museum is in the heart of Cedar Rapids’ Czech Village and is open daily; admission ranges from $3 to $10 with ages 5 and younger free. Get more information at ncsml.org.

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