From the time of ancient civilizations, the arts have provided a gathering point for communities of people to share their histories and values. For 150 years the arts have been a focal point for Lawrence, providing the community with inspiration and a sense of identity. Ten years after its opening, the Lied Center continues and has become more than a state-of-the-art performing arts center, but, more importantly, the Lied Center. It has become a gathering place where both campus and community come together. The Lied Center helps KU and Lawrence enjoy a positive town-and-gown relationship.
Lawrence is a community of learners. From preschoolers to retirees, people are willing to expand their experiences through the arts. The Lied Center looks for artists who are willing to take their creative talents beyond the stage and into the community. This provides people the opportunity to get close to the artists, and the artists appreciate the community's interest in their work. Artists and audiences feel connected to the Lied Center. In the early 1990s, John Frohnmeyer, former director of the National Endowment for the Arts, said "creativity is the currency of the future." That future is now and we must share the value of the arts with new generations and support the development of creativity in our children and our children's children.
The public schools recognize the importance of the arts in a community of learners. The benefits of an arts-based education, where we integrate the arts into the classroom curriculum, help stimulate children's learning ability and engage them intellectually, emotionally and physiologically. This year, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lied Center began participating in a cooperative program with Lawrence Public Schools, US Bank and Baker University. The smARTS project involves the design, implementation and field-testing of a framework that integrates the arts into the math and reading curriculum. By combining the expertise of professional artists and teacher practitioners, smARTS will develop an effective teaching model to integrate the arts into the classroom curriculum and stimulate children's learning ability.
In his book, "The Rise of the Creative Class," author Richard Florida says cities should develop an environment attractive to the creative class by cultivating the arts, music, night life and historic districts; in short, develop places that are fun and interesting. Florida says "there are factors that attract high-quality human capital or creative capital. Because, for a city, if you don't have them, then people won't come to your city." Economist Robert Lucas calls this "productive leveraging." Some people call it energy, as in, I feel the energy of the city, there's something in the air, in the atmosphere, that says this city gets it. I think the creative class is signaling that energy in Lawrence. I think Lawrence is very much like what they are describing.
The Lied Center is proud to be a leader in the arts community and to be nationally recognized for excellence in presenting the performing arts and for its education programs in the arts. Lawrence and the Lied Center create an environment of national presence; one that provides a positive atmosphere for family life and children's growth, and presents new experiences in the arts.
The arts are about a constant state of imagination and growth. The arts help us come up with new and different ways of looking at the world. The arts incorporate all of our intellectual, emotional, imaginative and even ethical life within them. That is the real value the arts provide to the strength and quality of a community.
The arts are a defining element in our city and make Lawrence special. The Lied Center is proud to be a leader of the Lawrence arts community and nationally recognized for excellence in presenting the performing arts.
Tim Van Leer is executive director of the Lied Center.