For 40 minutes Wednesday, Lawrence arts leaders came face to face with the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.
And the chairman, John E. Frohnmayer, said he liked what he saw and heard.
"It was a very enthusiastic and involved crowd of people," Frohnmayer said at the end of the meeting in the Lawrence Arts Center.
Frohnmayer came to Lawrence as the first stop in a daylong tour of the Kansas arts scene at the invitation of the Kansas Arts Commission. His other stops included arts centers in Topeka, Salina, Russell and Hays. He was scheduled to visit Overland Park today.
"We're trying to show him as much as we can," said Dorothy Ilgen, director of the Kansas Arts Commission. "He should get a pretty good overview of what's between KCI (airport) and Hays. We're trying to show him a wide range of the arts.''
The chairman met with more than 20 people in Lawrence, including Mayor Bob Walters and State Sen. Wint Winter Jr. As a dance company rehearsed in the background, Frohnmayer took a tour of the center and fielded questions and comments on funding matters.
"I CONSIDER this the chance to show off the wonderful community facility we have in the Lawrence Arts Center," said Stan Shumway, a Kansas University music professor, who played host to Frohnmayer.
Frohnmayer seemed at ease discussing with some of the guests specific grant problems, including a program to help fund relationships between theater companies and schools. He said he didn't mind being quizzed on such specific areas of his job.
"I think it's important to go out and talk to constitutents," he said. "One of our main goals is to make the arts accessible, and we need to find out how we can do that better.
"My father was a lawyer, and he told me you couldn't take a property case without going out and seeing the property. The only way to see what's happening out here is to go see it.''
AT LEAST one of the assembled artists agreed.
"He needs to find out what's happening west of the Alleghenies," said Cynthia Schira, a KU design professor and a 1983 NEA funding recipient.
Nominated by President Bush, Frohnmayer has led the NEA since October 1989. The NEA is injecting $714,000 into Kansas this year, including grant support for the Kansas Arts Commission, which passes the money along to state organizations. The NEA also directly funds the Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art and the KU New Directions series.
The agency also gives separate money to the Mid-American Arts Alliance, which helps support tours and other events in Kansas as well. In recent years, the NEA has also given challenge grants to the Spencer and the KU Concert Series.