Whether it’s the striking flowers, the thought-provoking art installations, the butterfly pavilion or its annual display of more than two million holiday lights, there’s no shortage of beauty at Botanica, The Wichita Gardens. Over the past decade, there’s been no shortage of transformation, either – with its expansion into a 20-acre space that’s still growing.
Botanica, in Wichita, Kansas, home to Koch Industries headquarters, attracts more than 200,000 visitors each year. That’s why earlier this year, Koch and the Koch Family Foundation supported the development of Koch Carousel Gardens – a new multi-purpose outdoor space for the community to enjoy. It surrounds the restored Khicha Family Carousel, which once stood at Joyland, Wichita’s beloved former amusement park.
Koch Carousel Gardens brings families together with plenty of unique experiences. It holds a stage for theatrical and musical performances and a grand lawn for festivals and field games. It also features fanciful topiaries, the DeVore Family Game Garden and a giant sleeping troll hill for kids to climb and explore. There are more climbing activities, musical swings and water features planned as the space continues to grow.
In November, Koch Carousel Gardens unveiled its newest addition: a new sculpture, named “The Attendant, 1923" by local artist John Ernatt. The piece stands 12 feet tall and weighs approximately 1,000 pounds.
John has been active in the Wichita art community for the past 25 years. He and his wife, Connie Ernatt, also helped restore the Khicha Family Carousel and worked on other pieces inside Koch Carousel Gardens.
Of John’s art, Liz Koch, chairwoman of the Koch Family Foundation, says: “His art is at the same time, calming and exhilarating. Each time I look at it, I see something that I didn't see the time before.”
Liz is dedicated to unleashing individuals’ potential through arts and education. She’s also an avid supporter of Botanica and what it means to the community. When she wanted to add another dimension to Koch Carousel Gardens, she knew John’s artwork would be the perfect fit.
"The Attendant, 1923" was more than a year in the making before its debut at Koch Carousel Gardens. John says he and his team started by building a to-scale model of the sculpture out of wood. And while he was the visionary behind the project, he says he had a lot of support from the community along the way.
“There are so many people involved," John says. "There are engineers involved. The construction company. The art community here is really wonderful, so they were all on the scene to help me figure it out.”
Now that the project is complete, John hopes people will get up-close and personal with the sculpture, literally.
“There’s some sculpture gardens where you're not supposed to touch, and I always think that's tragic, because you see those bronzes that are in the public square that everybody touches and they held up over the eons,” John says.
As for what makes Botanica such a natural fit for Koch’s continued support, Liz Koch says, "I care desperately that people want to live in Wichita. Our goal is to make sure we keep adding things that people will enjoy and will make the community a stronger place."
To see the sculpture for yourself and experience everything Botanica and Koch Carousel Gardens have to offer, you can visit Mondays through Saturdays. Visit Botanica.org to stay up-to-date on upcoming events.
See more about Koch’s support for Botanica in the latest episode of The Picture, a Koch Industries Spotlight Series. All episodes are available to watch at KochICT.com.