Chester I. Lewis Reflection Square Park - CODAworx

Chester I. Lewis Reflection Square Park


Location: Witchita, KS, United States

Completion date: 2023

Project Team


Ellamonique Baccus


Daniel Shieh


Stephanie Yeung


Hermano Luz


Vaissnavi Shukl


Chester I. Lewis Reflection Square Park is the first government funded artwork depicting an African American in downtown Wichita by artists Ellamonique Baccus and Matthew Mazzotta celebrates civil rights leader Chester I. Lewis (1929-1990). At the entrance of Chester I. Lewis Reflection Park, his words etched in granite, challenge visitors “to be free from hypocrisy, sham and acquiescence” by putting “man and his condition at the center of our thoughts and deeds.” Within the park, six 15-foot tall steel “echos” progressively appear to open from a steel house frame at the platform stage. These “echo” structures and the house structure hold images that depict the life of Chester I. Lewis. Original oil paintings and drawings by Ellamonique are imprinted onto monolithic glass and anodized aluminum with an assemblage of school bus and airplane parts. The house structure supports two 13-foot painted aluminum wings as well as benches and original tiles. At the base of the house structure is a Lithomosaic embedded in the concrete, an artistic interpretation of the redlined map of the City of Wichita from 1937. Signage with QR codes links a virtual tour.


The NAACP advocated for the park to be renamed in the 90s, but Mr. Lewis’ transformative work as a leader in the NAACP and attorney to integrate jobs, housing, schools, pools, and restaurants was largely unknown. Community conversations made apparent the significance of the artwork to educate and activate the first space in downtown depicting the struggles and triumphs for equality of African Americans in Wichita. A house opening its roof and walls as it expands across the park symbolizes inclusion and amplification. Above, WINGS of Ma’at, and benches invoke the Egyptian principles of moral responsibility and the scales of justice. Below, the mosaic REDLINING MAP of WICHITA replicates each city block of the color-coded maps used to deny homeownership in 63% of Wichita. Each echo is filled with artworks depicting the counsel and court cases won by Lewis for Pullman Porters and Black Rosies; the youth of the first successful sit-in for restaurant desegregation in the U.S, the Lewis Family legacy, the Wichita Fair Housing March, the day the “whites only” sign came down at the pool, and the end of de facto school segregation. The work is contextualized with quotes and poetry at the site and photos, videos and audio online.


With over 70 stakeholders, both public and private, the task of representing the legacy of Mr. Lewis while balancing expectations was significant. City Councilman Brandon Johnson, a Wichita native, was a key advocate, mediator and fundraiser. Although the park is small, about .40 acres, it took over 3 years to complete discussions, design and construction. This space is also an entry point of the newly constructed Kansas College of Osteopathic Medicine. The artists’ research led to personal interviews with Lewis’ daughter and granddaughter and his 80+ year old contemporaries, including renowned architect Charles McAfee and Dockum sit-in participant Dr. Galyn Vesey. Visits to KU Spencer Library to view Lewis’ typewritten speeches, newspaper clippings and photographs, the book “Dissent in Wichita: The Civil Rights Movement in the Midwest, 1954-72” by Dr. Gretchen Eick, and the support of journalist Carla Eckels were indispensable. Eick and Eckels worked tirelessly to write and produce digital content. According to the head of Parks and Recreation, Troy Houtman, this park is “moving the needle in addressing DEI” and “a new standard for Wichita.”

Additional Information

In a letter to the editor of The Wichita Beacon on February 22, 1957, Chester I. Lewis, Jr. wrote: “Here in Wichita Negroes are denied the right to find employment suitable for their abilities, to own homes in desired locations, and to enter many places of amusement and public accommodation. This is our land… We helped to build it. We have defended it from Boston Common to Iwo Jima. We have made it a better land through our songs, our laughter, our expansion and clarification of its Constitution and its Bill of Rights, through our talents and skills… We are Americans, and in the American way…with American determination to be free, we intend to slug it out, to fight right here on this home front if it takes forty or more years until victory is ours.”