UPDATED — One of Wichita’s best-known – but unofficial – event centers closed when Ann Garvey moved from her home on Spring Drive in Spring Acres five years ago.
Garvey opened her 10,000-square-foot house, which was on a compound that included a guest house and recording studio, for free for all kinds of events and fundraisers.
Now, she’s going to do the same thing with her late mother Jean Garvey’s house, but it will be in a more official capacity.
“Well, I have to be reasonable – for the first time in my life,” Garvey says.
Jean Garvey bequeathed her house at 8427 E. Douglas to the neighboring Independent School, which she founded.
Jean Garvey and her husband, the late Willard Garvey, built their 10,000-square-foot house on about 40 acres just east of Douglas and Rock Road in 1957. They used some of that acreage to build the school in 1980.
Ann Garvey says the school can’t afford to spend money on the house.
“It needed to have a purpose,” she says. “To me, it seemed that this is a natural use for this house. It had actually been that during our lifetime.”
She says her parents hosted innumerable concerts, benefits, fundraisers and parties there.
“It’s just a natural evolution from that,” Garvey says.
The working name for it is the Garvey Creative Center. “Working” is the key word, Garvey says.
“I’m trying to develop a business plan that this would be truly autonomous and stand alone,” she says. “We have to find out how that’s really going to work.”
Garvey is doing the venture on her own.
The school has already had some meetings there, and there will be a fundraiser at the property in February.
To make the center truly functional, though, Garvey needs to convert the house into meeting space.
“I’ve done a lot of conversions in my life,” she says.
The first phase would be to transform the house’s already open spaces into much-larger meeting areas. The second phase would be to transform the ground floor bedrooms into an artists-in-residence area for extended stays.
Garvey says she’ll need six months at the minimum to do the first phase.
“I’m being optimistic when I say it’ll be six months,” she says. “If I got to work, we could do it.”
Garvey thinks she most likely will need to get the property rezoned but is hoping it won’t be an issue since it’s related to the school.
Much of the most important features of the center are already done for her. The walls that aren’t lined with mahogany paneling are covered with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the house’s natural setting among many trees, a pond and a waterfall.
“We grew up feeling as though we were in the country,” Garvey says of herself and her five siblings. “It was a wonderful way of growing up outdoors.”
When her parents built the house, Garvey says Douglas was a two-lane road. She recalls that it was a dirt road at the time.
Garvey says the home’s natural setting has been preserved, and she thinks that’s one of the biggest selling points of the potential event and meeting space.
“It helps the creative juices flow to be able to look on nature and see trees and water especially,” she says. “Conversely, if you’re trapped in one of those airless, soulless, sterile rooms, it saps the creativity.”
Garvey says she’s fine with her childhood home being potential meeting space, and she thinks that’s an appropriate legacy for her mother’s house.
“It doesn’t bother me if I feel that this is going to continue with her dream, her vision of a school that fills a real need. And that’s what she really wanted to do at the Independent School.”
Garvey says a creative center makes sense.
“It would break my heart if nothing were done with the house,” she says. “I want to see it serve a purpose and help my mother’s school continue.”