Friends University arts center gets a $7 million makeover



The Riney Center for Fine Arts in friends university in Wichita — used not only by the school’s fine arts majors, but also as a venue for community performances — is getting a major upgrade.

On Tuesday, the school at 2100 W. University announced a fundraising campaign that will result in a $7 million renovation of the center, which was built in 1963 and has had no more than minor upgrades since.

Friends has already raised $4.5 million towards its goal, and on Tuesday it detailed plan which will include a $1 million redesign of the Sebits Auditorium and a $3 million expansion and renovation of the south side of the building.

Plans also include adding black box theater space, a recording studio, restroom upgrades, a new dance floor in one of the studios, and the addition of a chapel which will serve as a “sacred space” and will also be used for small recitals.

The addition of a chapel will be part of the renovation of the Riney Fine Arts Center at Friends University. Courtesy picture

The school’s goal is to raise the remaining money by the end of the year. If so, it will be inaugurated shortly thereafter, said Laura Fuller, Friends public relations and communications manager. The renovation should take about a year.

The project represents the second phase of the school’s “Rise Up” fundraising campaign. Phase 1, begun in May last year and completed in October, resulted in a $2.3 upgrade to the school’s Garvey Athletic Center.

“With a successful renovation of our athletic facilities last year, it’s time to focus on the fine arts,” Friends president Amy Bragg Carey said in a recorded video announcing the project. “The expansion and renovation of the Riney Fine Arts Center is long overdue.

Friends University, a Christian/Quaker university founded in 1898, has approximately 1,800 students enrolled. He has been known over the years for his Singing Quakers Symphony Choir and for its jazz and dance programs.

Her fine arts program gained national attention earlier this year after Friends student Caitlyn Fox was asked to move her senior recital from the Riney Fine Arts Center after a trustee said the school had received complaints from staff and members of the community. The recital focused on musicals throughout history that had been challenged for perceived controversial content such as nudity and queer characters. Fox found another venue for the show.

Part of a $7 million renovation of Friends University’s Riney Center for Fine Arts includes a renovated entrance that can accommodate receptions, recitals and community events. Courtesy

Denise Neil has been covering restaurants and entertainment since 1997. Her Dining with Denise Facebook page is where diners can get local restaurant information. She is a regular judge at local cooking competitions and speaks to groups all over Wichita about the restaurant business.

William E. Bennett