The suburbs need more crime
Since returning to Wichita in November, I've heard every stripe of complaint about Wichita. "There's nothing to do." Not true. "I like ___, but around here the ______ is mostly horrible so I don't go." Well, keep trying.
People are doing more and more new things here. Of course, not everything that exists is great simply because it is happening. There are areas that need improvement. That said, you can't go to one or two shows and judge the entire available music, theater, dance or whatever particular scene by that one possibly amateur effort. Just because one band, show or venue sucks doesn't mean they all do. That's true anywhere.
A few months ago, I wrote in this space a column entreating people to GO DO THINGS rather than complain that there is nothing to do. Since returning, I've been busy doing shows and making Dead Martin happen in the eveningtime, so I haven't had a lot of chance to put my money where my mouth is on that one. So, the past two weeks, I decided to do that. I would go to whatever things existed, regardless if I knew anyone or if I really knew what the hell I was getting into. I didn't go to things I knew weren't my thing — like tiny crowded bar/inscrutably loud music, but I got out… even when I just wanted to stay home and watch Daredevil on Netflix.
I found most if not all of the events I went to through F5, and I was crafty about finding ways in sometimes. But I got out, and I had a great, exhausting couple of weeks. Obvious highlights were the Tallgrass events — Shaken, Not Stirred and The Wrecking Crew. The Color Party at the Wichita Art Museum was very nice. The Big Bang at Roxy's Downtown was something I'd have gone to regardless, but was great.
I learned an interesting thing, looking back at these events. While I saw many of the same people, people who apparently are always out there, engaged and involved in everything, there were also people particular to each event and venue. Great people who are making things happen. However, I also discovered a certain audience here who… well, I'm not sure how to describe them succinctly.
People of an apparently interested cultural mind who are willing to plunk down $65-$150 for tickets to an arts-related fundraiser, but who have never been to any sort of a Final Friday; they have maybe heard of it but have no idea what it is.
People who have season tickets to Music Theatre Wichita and might even see things like the non-union musical tours when they come through town, but have never seen a show at Mosley Street Melodrama, Roxy's Downtown, The Forum, or any other venue — and, in fact, perhaps only vaguely know they exist.
People who are on the boards of art museums who had somehow never heard of the Commerce Street scene and ask if The Fisch Haus isn't a sort of restaurant and art gallery.
I don't fault people for being uninformed, and, in fact, that's why I'm passionate about F5 — that is in part why we exist. But I don't think they're exactly seeking out this info. They're not actually looking for things to do, they're perhaps more interested in looking for pictures of themselves at these things that happened. Apparently selfies aren't good enough for some people. They are involved and passionate about Causesࡊ and The Artsࡊ but aren't aware beyond the most society-friendly and perfunctorily evident examples of what the city has to offer. I forget that there are people who are still afraid of downtown and have an opinion of Old Town that comes from either 1998 or complete urban legend.
How do we combat this? I've heard a number of suggestions, but I think the most immediate way to encourage more patronage downtown and to many of the places we take for granted as being vital to the growth and development of an awesome, weird Wichita is to make downtown the safest place in town.
I know, I know — downtown is already safe — we've covered this. It's a perception problem. I'm not even saying we need to change the perception of downtown. I'm suggesting we change the perception of those outlying other places so that they're thought of as LESS safe.
We need a series of big, well-covered heists or something. We need a supervillain — so that people are afraid to go to Bradley Fair and The Waterfront because last time they did, they were kidnapped for ransom by — just spitballing, but let's call him/her The Meddler. Nothing against those particular places, but suburban sprawl is natural supervillain territory.
Downtown, however, can easily be patrolled by a costumed vigilante. Let's not pander and call him something ICT-centric like The Keeper. No. Let's call him… The Club. The Oak. It'll depend on the costume and his tragic motivation for fighting crime in the shadows — we'll wait to see what develops. Anyway, if you come to shows, restaurants, bars, and events in the Actual Cityࡊ, you'll be safe from The Meddler, Poison Pen, The Devourer, and the West Sider, because they know they can't compete with the rough justice The Club would deal if they tried anything between Oliver and West Street.
That, and the Downtown Development people would have a deal with these criminals that downtown was off limits. My solution to get people downtown, in short, is not to decrease the already negligible crime here, but to increase crime in other areas. If people are staying away from downtown out of fear, let's flip that coin and use their fear to drive them toward downtown instead of away from it.
Send your suggestions for supervillains to email@example.com.