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Archive for Friday, April 6, 2001

Committee promotes ‘City of the Arts’

April 6, 2001

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Holding true to the banners that deck city streetlights, local artists and tourism officials want to make sure Lawrence lives up to its label as the "City of the Arts."

That's why the Cultural Tourism Committee was formed. It is about 80 members strong who want tourists to come to Lawrence and enjoy the cultural events and sites the city has to offer.

And if visitors stay awhile, spending money at area hotels and in local restaurants, so much the better.

"Of course, we want people to stay in Lawrence, but there are so many arts and culture-related activities here," said Kristi Humston, marketing manager for the Lawrence Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Why not get people together to promote that as a draw?"

The committee, founded last year, has received two $10,000 grants from the National Endowment for the Arts to develop and foster the growth of the arts in Lawrence. The first was used for plan consultation and development, and the second is being used to implement the plan.

"We know the more we work together, the programming will be more interesting and more people will want to come to Lawrence," said Ann Evans, executive director of the Lawrence Arts Center. "This is our purpose, and it ought to be."

Consisting of local artists and other arts-related people, the committee meets every month to discuss new ideas. Members have designated four goals themes, educational development, tourism, and marketing and communication.

"People are really interested in learning from each other," Humston said. "They're learning what they can do to make their venture a success."

One of the main topics being tossed around is a proposed Langston Hughes festival to occur in February. Because Hughes spent his childhood years in Lawrence and would have celebrated his 100th birthday next year, putting together a festival honoring the African-American literary figure is important and appropriate, Evans said.

"We want to build a reputation," Evans said. "For us, it's a very special thing, because (Hughes) spent a lot of time in this building after school. It was one of the places he never felt discriminated against, and that makes this a very special place."

During Hughes' childhood the arts center building, 200 W. Ninth St., housed Lawrence's library.

The committee also is trying to show members how to get their individual messages to the public. A "How-To" kit, which outlines how to generate publicity and package the artistic product, is one result of the committee's work.

"It's still a learning process, but the meetings are very productive and always well-attended," Humston said. "It's been nothing but a positive response."

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