A distinct sign of life—of urban-energy life—has surfaced in a corner window in Wichita’s downtown. Buildings may get renovated and refreshed and repurposed, and downtown evolves in fits and starts and votes on hotel taxes. But one look at the store window in the Zelman Lofts building shows what a jolt a clever, modern design behind glass can provide to an entire block.
The common city pleasure of store-window gazing appears, at least at the corner of Douglas and St. Francis, irresistible to passers-by. Watch the people on their way to Bite Me BBQ as they stop, point, ask questions. Why a mannequin in a red chair? Why the dressmaker’s form with the long skirt made of book pages? (Artist Gustavo Escalera hand-sewed the paper dress.) The dozens of books flung about the floor, all with red covers? That means what? And what does it all have to do with the Wichita Public Library anyway?
You could ask one of the designers, if one is around, about the scene. And Seth Blume says that when he goes by in the evening to shut down the lights, people do want to know what it all means.
“I go in there and turn the lights off and on every day, and people stop and look at me and talk to me, and ask, ‘Did you make this?’ Just checking it out. It’s just cool that every time I go by there I see people looking at it.”
As for the mysterious display constructed almost exclusively in red and white, Seth explains that he could have done something with bookshelves and a sign that said “Go to the library”—like you might expect—but who would pay attention?
Ian: With a big concept, people would stop and try to figure out what it is. That was his idea.
Seth and his brother Ian Blume, both Wichita State University graphic design students, have designed and constructed the first two window displays for the (at least) year-long store-window project. The first that the Blume brothers built was a kind of dinosaurs-on-guitars tableau, with a background of an extreme-color collage, promoting the ICT Fest.
You will, if you ask both Seth and Ian a question about their work together, eventually have a complete answer. However, it will likely be built from layers of abbreviated back-and-forth between them, as one adds to or adjusts the answer the other just gave:
Have you collaborated on art projects before?
Ian: Kind of—
Seth: Yeah, we collaborate—
Ian: Nothing like, out, in public. We’ve done stuff together—
Seth: We’ve made films together. [The two competed in the Tallgrass Down to the Wire contest.]
The two have separate studios, and while they both work with graphic design, Seth says that he’s also particularly interested in sculpting. And although both of them now work mainly with two-dimensional art, Ian points out that the “skills translate”—and transferred easily to their work with a larger scale in 3-D. And Seth points out that the differences—such as the way it’s out there for people to see, but only for a short time—make it more interesting.
Their father was in the Air Force, they said, and retired in Wichita, which is partly how the two have ended up, at least for a while, in Wichita. Ian served in the Army for eight years. Both seem so at ease—they just don’t present themselves as suffering artists, or artists who will relax someday, after the record gallery sale.
Seth and Ian got involved with this project because they knew Kacy Crider, a member of the We Heart ICT team. Or, as they describe it, in their one answer/two-brothers style:
Ian: We met Kacy through mutual friends. She had these windows she needed to do, and we had ideas for them.
Seth: Right time, right place.
Ian: Yeah, right time.