A graffiti-covered music festival lands in downtown Wichita this weekend

With funding from Chase Koch, the first annual Elsewhere Fest & Conference seeks to transform St. Francis and Emporia Streets — and the local music economy.

A graffiti-covered music festival lands in downtown Wichita this weekend
Wichita artists Priscella Brown and Ric Dunwoody painted a bus parked in the Wave lot on Monday. Photo by Emily Christensen for the SHOUT

Wichita-based visual artists and musicians will present and perform alongside big national acts this weekend at the first annual Elsewhere Fest & Conference. The action will take place along St. Francis and Emporia Streets in downtown Wichita on Friday and Saturday. 

The all-ages event has both a large budget and no expectation of turning a profit, due to funding from Chase Koch, an executive vice president of Koch Industries and the son of Wichita billionaire and Koch co-CEO Charles Koch. Chase is the guitarist in his own band 2Lot

Tickets cost $59 for a single-day general admission pass and $99 for Friday and Saturday. VIP tickets, which confer access to exclusive lounges and shorter entrance lines, are roughly twice the cost of general admission. Those who don’t buy passes can still catch a free music lineup at Naftzger Park, 601 E. Douglas Ave.

“There’s no way we could sell enough tickets to break even,” said Jessie Hartke, one of the festival organizers. Hartke declined to discuss numbers but called the budget “big enough to fairly pay artists, both the musicians and visual artists.” 

“Fortunately, profit is not driving us,” she said. “Our big return on investment is culture.” 

An artist who goes by the name of Gargamel Glass paints a stack of shipping containers at St. Francis and 2nd Streets on Monday. Photo by Emily Christensen for the SHOUT

Elsewhere will feature headliners such as rappers Killer Mike and Vince Staples and electronic dance music legend Steve Aoki. The festival will also include 27 local bands playing on six stages. Additionally, the event features works by 45 local visual artists and seven out-of-towners.

Elsewhere Fest & Conference is an initiative of Midtopia, a music development nonprofit founded by Jessie and Adam Hartke. Midtopia incorporated as a 501(c)(4) in 2022 and launched last year. A 501(c)(4) is a “social welfare” nonprofit, but donations are not tax-deductible. This is a designation advocacy organizations often use. Midtopia’s stated mission is “to develop a thriving and self-sustaining musical community within and around Wichita.”

The Hartkes met in 2009 and “started booking shows together two weeks later,” Jessie Hartke said. They’ve been working together ever since, from organizing LIV Fest in 2010 to becoming part owners of two music venues, the Cotillion and Wave. The Hartkes latest venture is D-Tour, a network of independent venues and promoters. 

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The struggle of local musicians inspired them to found Midtopia. 

“Seeing the cycle of people having a rising star, hitting a ceiling, and then either having to move or change paths was just so depressing,” she said. 

“We always say I just want people to be able to pay their electric bill and maybe go on vacation once a year,” she said. “If we can help get people on that path, I’m going to be so happy.”

A musical festival with a conference at its core

One of Elsewhere’s core offerings is a two-day, daytime conference. The conference requires a separate ticket, which costs $25 for both days. Similar to Midtopia, the goal is to help musicians and other music-industry professionals take the next step in their careers.

“The idea of the conference is to tear down those barriers and openly share knowledge and work together to try to build a sustainable path,” Adam Hartke said. 

For the most part, the conference takes place before the music kicks off. The opportunity to meet 1:1 with music industry professionals, panels and talks will take place at Greater Wichita Partnership, 505 E. Douglas Ave. and inside Nortons Brewing Company, 125 N. St. Francis.

Session topics include touring, working with brands, and self-promotion. At 2:30 p.m. Friday, activist and rapper Killer Mike will have a public conversation with Wichita native Rudy Love Jr. at Nortons. 

Chase Koch’s interests are also reflected in the conference lineup. Colette Weintraub of Stand Together Music, Sports & Entertainment will moderate a panel about “utilizing your platform for change.” 

Chad Houser, the founder and CEO of Café Momentum, is a panelist. Scott Strode, the founder of The Phoenix, a gym and “sober active community” will appear on another panel about self-care. 

Koch is the founder of Stand Together Music, which is part of Stand Together, a philanthropic organization founded by his father Charles. The Phoenix and Café Momentum are both funded by Stand Together. (All three organizations will also have a presence at the festival.)

“Fortunately, profit is not driving us. Our big return on investment is culture.” — Jessie Hartke

“We are very lucky to be partnering with Chase Koch, and he is helping to conceptualize and vision,” Jessie Hartke said.  “He’s doing a lot more than just helping with funding.” 

That is raising eyebrows among critics of the Kochs, who allege that Stand Together Music is a way to share Charles Koch’s staunchly Libertarian agenda with a new and hard-to-reach audience. 

“It’s been hard to hear the accusations leveled, but I understand when people question new ideas,” Jessie Hartke said. “We’re going to keep doing the good work, and I hope people can understand what we’re trying.” 

In a press release this week, Chase Koch says he is supporting the effort because it “aligns with my own goals of uniting with others to find new transformative solutions that break down barriers and empower people.”

An infusion of art on St. Francis and Emporia Streets

The Hartkes tasked Harvester Arts with the art components of the festival, which are well underway.

You may have already noticed the newly arrived graffiti-covered shipping containers and a graffiti-tag-covered building at 226 N. Emporia St. They have been painted over the past few weeks by an 11-member crew led by graffiti artist Rob Lewis

The partnership will funnel a significant amount of money to Harvester Arts and the artists the organization hired to help with the festival. In a Kansas Arts Commission grant panel held last Wednesday, Kristin Beal, executive director of Harvester Arts, said the partnership adds roughly $320,000 to the organization’s budget this year. The organization’s budget was $233,000 in 2022, according to the most recently filed 990.

Lewis, the graffiti artist, said, “I don’t think there’s a single person on my crew that would have any complaints about what they’re getting paid.”

Beal welcomes the change to work with Midtopia on similar goals. 

“We’re all ecosystem building,” Beal said. “I think we’ve had our head down working on it on the art end and they’ve had their head down working on it on the music end, and this has really given us the opportunity to realize that we should be working together. This is providing a platform for that to happen.” 

Organizers began planning in  January, a shorter time frame than major festivals usually operate under. This led Beal to tap artists she had already worked with as well as a couple of people recommended by an Arkansas-based consultant. 

The graffiti-themed art is inspired by the train tracks that run parallel to St. Francis Street and the Wave concert venue. Passing graffiti-covered shipping containers are a regular sight. 

“This is such a strong cornerstone of this street, and it connects to Wave so well … This is really why I wanted to use street and graffiti artists throughout, and (also) because I know they’re not often platformed,” Beal said. New York City-based artist Aaron Asis worked with Harvester leadership on the overall design of the shipping container elements, which are located throughout the festival area.

Graffiti artists also painted 14 large aluminum dinosaur sculptures that will be positioned throughout festival sites. Other members of the Elsewhere art squad include Wichita native Lisa Rundstrom, who will install large lighted planter sculptures on the festival grounds, and Mike Miller, who has a large cube sculpture suspended from the ceiling at the Wave entrance. GLeo, aka Natalia Gallego, has painted a new mural on the side of the ElsewhereWorks building, 235 N. Emporia St.

Video will also be projected throughout the festival, reflecting the work of multiple artists as well as a partnership with Wichita State’s School of Digital Arts. The former Loony Bin Comedy Club space at 215 St. Francis will function as a dedicated art venue, dubbed Elsethere. The interior has been transformed by multiple artists. 

Beal said she appreciates the event sponsors for allowing artists room to be experimental. “ You have to fail to learn … and they really give room for that. And funding — these things don’t usually go together.

“That’s really a beautiful thing.”

The Details

Elsewhere Fest & Conference
The event will be held Friday and Saturday June 21-22 at multiple locations in downtown Wichita.

Festival general admission tickets are $59 for a single day or $99 for the weekend. VIP tickets are $119 for a single day or $199 for the weekend. The conference costs $25 for both days. 

The stage at Naftzger Park is free and open to the public, as are the ElsewhereWorks building, Elsethere art venue, and the installation in Gallery Alley.

Tickets are available for purchase online and at the Elsewhere Fest box office in the Wave parking lot Thursday from 2-8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m.-11:30 p.m.

More than 70 music acts will perform on six stages:

  • The indoor and outdoor stages at Wave, 650 E. 2nd St. N.
  • The temporary Where Else Stage, 234 N. Emporia Ave.
  • Nortons Brewing Company, 125 N. St. Francis
  • John Barleycorn’s, 608 E. Douglas Ave.
  • Naftzger Park, 601 E. Douglas Ave. 

Attendees will have to go through a regular security process at each venue. 

Visual art will be on view throughout the festival, including at the Elsethere venue, 215 St. Francis., where a one-night-only “immersive video and percussion performance” by Maria Finkelmeier will take place at 8 p.m. Friday. 

Pop-up dance performances organized by Smack Dab Dance Lab and Asis will take place at 1st and St. Francis Streets. Murals by multiple artists are on view to the public along St. Francis and Emporia Streets, and video will be projected throughout the festival area, including on the Little Explorers Learning Center, 530 E. Douglas Ave. An installation in Gallery Alley will also be on public view. 

Nonprofit organizations will also have a presence at the festival. Among these are the Phoenix, which will hold a block party from 4-6:30 p.m. Friday at their Wichita gym, 145 N. Wabash Ave. Café Momentum will host a pop-up at Homegrown’s downtown location, 645 E. Douglas. 1 Million Strong will host a sober tent during the festival with mocktails.

Parking will be available in the Downtown Rotary lot at Second and St. Francis Streets. Festival organizers are encouraging the use of public transportation and ride sharing. 

Food will be available from vendors organized by FestiveICT. A street market will take place on St. Francis Street west of Naftzger Park.

Only clear bags are allowed into each venue. Elsewhere Fest is an all-ages event, but other than Naftzger Park, strollers are not allowed in the music stage areas. 

Learn more and purchase tickets on the Elsewhere Fest website. For the most up-to-date schedule, you can download the Elsewhere Fest app.


Emily Christensen is a freelance journalist and news entrepreneur based in Wichita, Kansas. She is one of the co-founders of the SHOUT. 

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