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Archive for Thursday, July 4, 1996

ARTISTS CALL FOR MORE PUBLIC ART SPACE

July 4, 1996

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Several Lawrence artists demonstrated Wednesday in the city's downtown to call attention for their need for more public arts center space.

One carried a cardboard sign that said, "We've Been Waiting for 15 Years. How Much Longer?"

Another urged drivers to honk if they loved art.

And others spoke about the need for the city to provide more space for the arts in Lawrence -- "And we need it yesterday!"

About two dozen artists and their friends staged a demonstration early Wednesday afternoon on the southeast corner of Ninth and Massachusetts streets.

The goal was to get more local artists involved in the public debate concerning the proposed $5.8 million Lawrence Arts Center expansion, said Gary Smith, an artist who organized the demonstration.

"Volumes have been written and spoken about the Lawrence Arts Center expansion since the need for more 'art space' was identified more than 15 years ago," Smith said, reading from prepared text at the gathering.

"A variety of concerns by many parties are very real, and the energies exerted by city leaders to identify and to solve contentions have been mostly genuine," he said.

However, the city still has a "gross lack" of premier art space to produce high quality exhibitions or performances required for independent artists to advance properly in their fields, he said.

About $1.5 million has been raised privately for the expansion of the former Carnegie Library at 200 W. Ninth, the site of the arts center.

The latest plan, which calls for adding onto the library building's west side, would provide a 250-seat theater, classrooms, dance studios, a lobby exhibition space and other features.

Also attending the demonstration were members of a new group, Friends of the Carnegie Library, which is challenging the expansion project because it would change the look of the old library, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Jim McCrary, a Friends' organizer, said the group supports increasing the arts space in the city. However, organizers want to conduct public hearings within a month to investigate other options.

Meanwhile, Smith said artists are getting impatient and need to voice their complaint.

"Now is the time ... to start grumbling publicly," he said.

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