The Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum will close its exhibit, The Art of Wichita Flag Designer – Cecil McAlister, with a special Final Friday event this month. Admission will be free to the event, which is from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on August 25. As part of the event, they’ll also have a special one-hour program in the museum’s DeVore Auditorium about the life and art of Cecil McAlister. The program, presented by Lynn Behnke, will begin at 6 p.m.
The Art of Wichita Flag Designer – Cecil McAlister is an ongoing series of visual arts exhibits based in local history. It opened last March and will close this month.
Wichita flag designer, artist Cecil McAlister was born in Wichita in 1890. Following the footsteps of his father, a sign painter and decorator, Cecil found employment as a young man at the Western Sign Works Company. In 1918, McAlister left Wichita briefly to study at the Modern Art Studios of Chicago. By 1920 McAlister was back in Wichita and opened the Modern Studio. After ten years of operation the Great Depression forced the closure of the studio and McAlister moved his studio to his farm on South Broadway. McAlister continued his fine art work, but he was forced to return to sign painting and commercial art to support his family.
His award-winning Wichita flag design brought him national recognition. Sponsored in 1937 by the American Legion and the Rotary Club, McAlister won $40 for his entry featuring a white sun circle, a blue sun, and red and white stripes, symbolizing the Indian word “Wichita,” which means “scattered lodges.” In a statement to the Wichita Eagle on June 15, 1937, McAlister said, “These stripes running in and out of red and white are symbols of rays of light or ways to come and go, open and free to all.” McAlister’s later work was greatly influenced by his background in large scale graphics, and he became well-known for his interior murals adorning the walls of Wichita homes. He died in Wichita on January 6, 1969.