Campaign successful to match challenge grant for Gordon Parks photo acquisition

Students, donors contribute $150,000 to complement gift from Paula and Barry Downing

The Gordon Parks Challenge Gift Campaign has successfully ended
Bob Workman, director of the Ulrich Museum of Art, shows several photographs by Gordon Parks to Darren Beckham, president of the Student Government Association, and Brianna Kitchings, SGA vice president.

Wichita State students have joined forces with private donors to match a $150,000 challenge grant from Paula and Barry Downing to purchase more than 100 new photographs by Kansas artist Gordon Parks.

Gordon Parks Acquisition Project

The following contributed to the campaign to match a $150,000 pledge from Paula and Barry Downing to acquire 125 photographs by Gordon Parks:

  • Student Government Association
  • Emprise Bank/Mike and Dee Michaelis
  • Artworks/Reuben and Jane Saunders
  • Don and Lora Barry
  • Jane McHugh
  • Ed and Helen Healy
  • Bud and Toni Gates
  • Fleeson, Gooing, Colson & Kitch
  • Tony and Patty Vizzini

    With a $70,000 commitment from the Student Government Association and $80,000 in private gifts, the fundraising campaign to match the Downings’ gift has been completed, said Elizabeth King, president and CEO of the WSU Foundation.

    Getting the matching contributions so quickly speaks to the generosity and vision of those who donated, as well as to the worthiness of the project, Paula Downing said.

    “It’s both gratifying and humbling to see how people have responded,” she said. “Those who participated truly recognize the talent of Gordon Parks and his significance not only to Kansas but also his unique place in the world of art.”

    Wichita State and the Ulrich Museum of Art hope to complete the acquisition of the photographs this winter, said Ulrich Director Bob Workman. Once the works are processed, matted and framed, the museum will prepare for an exhibition of the entire Gordon Parks collection in early 2016, he said.

    Like Downing, he was impressed by the support the project received.

    “I see a genuine sense of pride in honoring the important achievements of Gordon Parks,” Workman said. “He is a native son who overcame societal and economic challenges to play a leadership role in not only the Civil Rights movement through his photography, but also as a kind of modern-day renaissance person through his writing, cinematography and art.”

    He commended SGA members for their investment. The group voted unanimously on Oct. 30 to commit $70,000 to the project.

    “There is no doubt that the SGA contribution made this important acquisition a reality,” he said. “This is a legacy gift that brings a very important body of art to this campus, to be a resource for our campus and our community in perpetuity.”

“It’s both gratifying and humbling to see how people have responded.”

- Paula Downing

    Workman recalled that when he was a Wichita State student in the 1970s, SGA voted to support the purchase of the Joan Mirό mosaic. “I remain proud of that fact to this day, just as I’m certain today’s students will take pride for years to come for helping to make this happen.”

    SGA President Darren Beckham said the organization’s vote will help Wichita State become a center for study on the life and work of Gordon Parks.

    “The students in SGA have a long history of supporting the arts at WSU, and we felt this opportunity was one we couldn’t pass up,” he said. “Gordon Parks has a special place in the heart of Wichita, and I think it is more than appropriate to build a collection of his works to remind us of that.”

    Private contributions to the project included a gift from Reuben and Jane Saunders and Artworks, their fine art gallery and framing business.

    Gordon Parks is one of the most important photographers of the 20th century — not to mention composer, author, filmmaker, and artist,” said Reuben Saunders. “As he was Kansas born, I think that it is visionary that the Ulrich Museum and Wichita State are dedicated to building a definitive collection and archive of Parks’ work.”

    Workman noted that Wichita State’s effort to acquire more photographs by Gordon Parks was orchestrated in large part by Ted Ayres, WSU vice president and general counsel, and former Ulrich Director Patricia McDonnell, now director of the Wichita Art Museum.

    “They not only made the initial selection of photographs for this purchase, but also helped lay the groundwork for the successful fundraising,” he said. “I am just pleased I could carry the baton across the finish line.”

circle arrow If you would like to contribute to Wichita State’s efforts to become a center for the study of Gordon Parks’ life and work, please contact Diana Gordon, WSU Foundation director of development for the College of Fine Arts and the Ulrich Museum, at 316-978-7307 or at

Velma Wallace

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