From Kansas - The State Of Unexpected

Artistic Havens: A Kansan Escape

by Alexis Elmore

t may surprise you to know that within the confines of the Sunflower State there is an array of serene getaways tucked away within the tallgrass prairie, bluffs and rolling hills of the Smoky Valley and beyond.

Art and culture have found their respective grooves and have lasted here for generations, transcending time and taking one back to a place where nature serves as the greatest escape.

If you happen to find yourself looking for a new experience outside of city lights, Kansas has the ideal locations to explore.

Matfield Green

Located an hour northeast of Wichita, within Chase County, the city of Matfield Green was established as an agricultural community dating back to 1867. Today, life in Kansas’ Flint Hills remains picturesque with just over 50 residents who call this tallgrass prairie home. Communities like Matfield Green are few and far between in an increasingly urban world, making a staycation here one of pure relaxation. 

The most commotion one will experience can be heard from the BNSF train that runs through town every few hours. While agriculture holds its roots, the community is made up of much more than farmers. Creatives such as artists, photographers, journalists and graphic designers nurtured a growing arts community. Take it from resident Bill McBride, who left the bustling city of Chicago, Illinois, and his architectural firm to pursue his dreams of becoming a sculptor within the state’s prairieland. “I became a prairie enthusiast when I was in Chicago,” says McBride. “So, I decided to retire early from architecture and spend more time doing sculptures inspired by the prairie. I have this path that I take care of and when I’m doing chores, I find things that inspire me and make my art out of what I find.”

McBride and his wife, Jill, along with two friends, soon purchased 47 acres of prairieland once used to transport cattle by rail and house workers. Known today as Matfield Station, visitors can stay at the on-site bunkhouse to explore the outdoor landscape and take in McBride’s art along the four-mile PrairyArt Path.

In this small community sustainability is a key focus to preserving the innate beauty of the town, which means any new development is intentional. Drawing visitors does not mean an influx of retail, but rather an avenue to enjoy the environment. “We’re located on the National Scenic Byway and there’s just no place to stop. Matfield Green Works is looking to welcome people here, so we’re building a park with public restrooms, a picnic shelter, a bike repair stand and bike racks and things of that nature,” says McBride.

A day or weekend spent in Matfield Green will help you tap into your creative self. Stop by Matfield Green Works to take in locally produced art and connect to the community. Round out the day with a stay at Matfield Station, or simply take a walk down the PrairyArt Path to catch a glimpse of the natural beauty the environment provides. Who knows? You might be inspired yourself. 

Strawberry Hill, Kansas City

Named after strawberry vines that adorned the community’s hillside, Strawberry Hill was a refuge for immigrants coming from Europe in the early 1900s. Located in Kansas City, Kansas, the bluffs region overlooks the beauty of the Kansas and Missouri rivers forming together as one. 

It can be hard to put Strawberry Hill’s history into words, especially as decades have come and gone. The best way to know is to be immersed in it firsthand. That is why one can easily spend time in the city and take off on Kansas City’s Legacy Trail, which takes visitors on a trip through the rich history and culture that made the region what it is today. Eastern European, Latino, Black and Indigenous Peoples’ cultures intertwine throughout the murals, art, museums and historical sites surrounding the community that share moments of the diverse legacy that lives on.

Art Havens and Creative Communitites-1If you find yourself in town from May to October, local art studio Epic Arts hosts an Art Walk every third Friday that takes residents and visitors around Strawberry Hill to delve into the arts scene. Here, local artists and businesses gather to share their creativity and celebrate with music, food and most importantly art to bring the community together.

With that in mind, the diverse food scene in both Strawberry Hill and Kansas City brings artistry to new levels. Forget the chain franchise: From tender barbeque to handmade tortillas and more, there are flavors bound to meet the needs of the whole crew. Don’t forget to wash it down with a trip to Rowe Ridge Vineyard and Winery or Range 23 Brewing.


One of the state’s most populous cities and capital, Topeka is home to quite the creative community. On the city’s north side, the NOTO Arts and Entertainment District houses a multitude of art from murals, sculptures, performance art to stand-alone projects. The best way to see it all? By partaking in the NOTO Art Health Walk. The art scattered throughout the entire district is clustered in a way that allows for a perfect excuse to explore by foot and interact with new and old pieces, while getting in a healthy dose of exercise fit for any age.

Colorful and intricate murals can be found around every corner and are bound to captivate visitors who can transport themselves through time to gain knowledge on the region’s history. A perfect example can be found at the United Methodist Church, a wrap-around mural created in 2014 by artists January Keifer, Norbert Kampsen and Tom Lynn. This piece encapsulates a message of healing, compassion, forgiveness and setting aside differences, connecting Native American history to every level of life found in Kansas.

Elevate this tour by stopping in at local retail and dining establishments in the district. From handmade jewelry, ceramics and glass-blown art it’s easy to make and bring home your own unique piece of the community. 

Every season provides a reason for celebration, making NOTO the ideal location to bring the family together for a new experience. To kick off the spring season, the Redbud Festival celebrates the arrival of renewed life in nature and its impact on the generations of art from April to May. From May to September, on every third Friday, gather in the district’s Redbud Park for a free concert series to listen to an array of acclaimed to emerging local artists. Who knows, you might find a favorite new band or artist. Round out the year with Celebrations of Winter in November and December to see holiday lights adorn town and view everything NOTO Arts District has to offer by carriage.

Alexis Elmore
Associate Editor of Site Selection magazine

Alexis Elmore

Alexis Elmore joined Conway Data in 2022 as associate editor for Site Selection. A 2021 graduate of the University of Georgia, she studied journalism and communications before moving back to Atlanta to pursue her career. As an editor for Site Selection and contributor to Conway's Custom Content guides, she writes about economic development efforts and corporate growth happening around the globe.


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