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Being Modern

This exhibition follows (and is directly patterned after) the Museum’s previous exhibit Art Deco on the Plains. It takes the timeline forward to explore modern design experienced locally in the 1950s and 1960s. The exhibition is a feature of the Lois Kay Walls Local Visual Art History Series.

Wichitans desired to be modern since the City’s beginning in 1870. The Modern era had been evolving for a century at that time and it would take another 100 years before Wichita achieved a “modern” look. World War II (1939-1945) greatly disrupted development in design.

Over the next two decades, postwar prosperity propelled design of the modern era to its zenith. By that time, Wichita’s modernization was most apparent in its new urban 1969 skyline, which remains in place today.

In the 1950s and 1960s, modern design from architecture to fashions and furnishings became familiar as people followed popular trends replacing old with new. Visual art and advertising led the way for the modern look – which by the 1960s, people referred to as “Mod.” This new look coincided with changes as  society became more pluralistic and increasingly aware of its diversity. The post-war baby boom gave rise to a prominent youth culture creating new markets. New technology improving the ability to travel and share information led to wide acceptance of modern style.

This modern sensibility cast a popular and unifying mindset. This era featured non-representational abstract design to create engaging effects rather than portray objects or scenes. The effects were both dazzling and confusing, challenging everyone’s perception of reality. Our visual world was forever changed.

On view through 2024 in the Slawson Gallery, 4th floor.

Slawson Gallery

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