Archive for Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mural honors black artists’ achievements

August 22, 2007

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Stephanie Knappe, a coordinator for Kansas University's Spencer Museum of Art

Stephanie Knappe, a coordinator for Kansas University's Spencer Museum of Art, discusses the upcoming exhibition entitled Aaron Douglas: African American Modern

Artist Dave Loewenstein works in his studio, 4-1-1 Artspace, 411 E. Ninth St., on the final design for a mural for Downtown Lawrence that will measure 20 feet tall by 65 feet wide. The community mural project, which will soon decorate the building south of the Farmer's Market between Eighth and Ninth streets along New Hampshire Street, is funded through a partnership between the city of Lawrence and Spencer Museum of Art at Kansas University. The mural pays homage to black artists with ties to Kansas. The Lawrence City Commission is expected to approve the project on Thursday.

Artist Dave Loewenstein works in his studio, 4-1-1 Artspace, 411 E. Ninth St., on the final design for a mural for Downtown Lawrence that will measure 20 feet tall by 65 feet wide. The community mural project, which will soon decorate the building south of the Farmer's Market between Eighth and Ninth streets along New Hampshire Street, is funded through a partnership between the city of Lawrence and Spencer Museum of Art at Kansas University. The mural pays homage to black artists with ties to Kansas. The Lawrence City Commission is expected to approve the project on Thursday.

It will be one large art history book.

Think 20 feet tall by 65 feet wide, and in the middle of Downtown Lawrence.

City commissioners are set to make the image a reality. Commissioners at their Thursday morning meeting are expected to approve plans for a major mural designed to raise awareness of several black artists with Kansas ties who went on to have famed careers.

"We think it can be a real history lesson," said Carolyn Chinn Lewis, assistant director of Kansas University's Spencer Museum of Art, which is commissioning the mural as part of a national conference it is hosting on Harlem Renaissance artist Aaron Douglas.

Commissioners, as part of their consent agenda, will consider issuing a permit for Lawrence artist Dave Loewenstein to paint the mural on the northern wall of the Aquila natural gas building at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

The mural will feature the images of seven black artists who either were born in Kansas or lived in the state. They are:

¢ Aaron Douglas, a Topeka native who became one of the more influential artists in the 1920s and 1930s as part of the Harlem Renaissance art movement;

¢ Langston Hughes, a Harlem Renaissance poet who was raised in Lawrence;

¢ Gordon Parks, a photographer, author and film director who was born and raised in Fort Scott;

¢ Gwendolyn Brooks, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who was born in Topeka;

¢ Coleman Hawkins, a renowned jazz saxophonist who attended high school and college in Topeka;

¢ Hattie McDaniel, who was born in Wichita and became the first black performer to win an Academy Award;

¢ Oscar Micheaux, who grew up in Great Bend and is widely recognized as the first black filmmaker.

Loewenstein said work on the mural could begin as soon as Friday or Saturday. He expects to have the work finished for a Sept. 26 unveiling that will be part of the Spencer's exhibition entitled "Aaron Douglas: African American Modernist."

Downtown leaders are excited about the project, and especially its location overlooking the Downtown Lawrence Farmers Market in the 800 block of New Hampshire Street.

"We think it is a great idea," said Jane Pennington, director of Downtown Lawrence Inc. "Adding more public art to downtown is an area that we really want to look at."

The mural, which was unanimously recommended by the Lawrence Arts Commission, is expected to last at least 20 years.

Comments

i_have_only_valid_opinions 10 years, 2 months ago

So, I guess there weren't any asians, hispanics, caucasians (et. al.) from Kansas that are worthy of being honored with a mural? Just blacks? Hmm...still dealing with our supposed slavery guilt I see.

i_have_only_valid_opinions 10 years, 2 months ago

I don't have any problem whatsoever with the idea behind the mural and honoring those people who hav emade major contributions over the years. But, I can't stand how people justify targeting black accomplishments specifically all of the time. They don't do that with caucasians. I don't see anyone putting up an asian mural for all of the food and culture they have brought us. How about we recognize everyone's contributions with a multi-cultural mural? Throw some Native American contributions in there as well since they were here before anyone.

Joe Hyde 10 years, 2 months ago

This is not meant as any disrespect whatsoever to Mr. Loewenstein or to his skills. But for a municipal mural intended to honor historical artists who were black people who came from Kansas, why didn't our City Commission contract an actual living black Kansan artist to design a mural and then paint it on the designated location?

Bill Woodard 10 years, 2 months ago

The Loewenstein mural project was commissioned by the Spencer Museum of Art as part of the local programming for a national touring exhibition about Aaron Douglas that the Spencer has organized. This exhibition, which after its debut here in Lawrence this fall will travel to Nashville, Washington D.C., and New York, will honor one of the 20th century's most important visual artists, African American or otherwise.

To learn more about the exhibition, the mural project, the national conference and other related programming for Aaron Douglas: African American Modernist, I encourage you to visit http://www.aarondouglas.ku.edu

Emily Hadley 10 years, 2 months ago

This is cool. I am so glad to see this in the works!

Every time I walk by that hideously blank and prison-like building south of the Granada, I hear it screaming for a mural. After an enlightening little stroll under the gently arched redbuds in South Park and the delightful passage through the Hedgehog House to our beautiful, historic courthouse, that ugly-arse building and its adjacent rubble-filled lot is the biggest imaginable killjoy.

So much potential! I hope these artistic endeavors continue around town!

Nate Poell 10 years, 2 months ago

This is great news. Dave Loewenstein's murals kick serious butt.

Sharon Roullins 10 years, 2 months ago

Congrats on the decision to do the mural. Thumbs down to the ones that are trying to make this a racial issue. There are contributors of every nationality/race in Kansas. The fact that someone felt to target African-Americans in a positive light this time is making some squirm in their seat. I am sure if you were to submit a list of all the other contributors, someone will make sure they get the recognition they deserve.

i_have_only_valid_opinions 10 years, 2 months ago

scenebooster (Anonymous) says:

""They don't do that with caucasians. "

Oh, poo. Poor whitey"

Did you really just say that? Wow.

Bubbles 10 years, 2 months ago

You know what they say about people that have to tell you about their unsolicited achievements.

daddax98 10 years, 2 months ago

Americorps that was great and spot on!

Bubbles 10 years, 2 months ago

You'd think that the city could find a black artist to do the mural. I guess it takes a white to tell us how great black artists are.

i_have_only_valid_opinions 10 years, 2 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

i_have_only_valid_opinions 10 years, 2 months ago

py...go wacket

If you read my post it says that I understand the accomplishments of the black community. I just don't want to become over-zealous in recognizing them more for their skin color than for their contributions to society. That is what we have a tendency to do as a country because of our past. That is a fact. Go get pissed at someone spewing non-facts, wacket. I guess all that whacking has made you blind and you didn't finish reading my post. You are forgiven.

Tom Miller 10 years, 2 months ago

...and we question why we can't become closer, more embracing of our own uniqueness...we all know each of us is different, one from another, and generally we do embrace that uniqueness, so why not "embrace" one or two more differences and just all become truly color-blind...isn't life it's own self really just varying shades and hues and contrasts in gray? Now just go one more tiny step and apply the same process to your vision...Yes, we HAVE lived, most of us, in a world and country that's been rife with biased, unreasoned and unreasonable b.s. and hipocrosy...it's our job to do it better, and different, and that can't be done by hanging onto all th' baggage from yester-year...baggage of ANY type or "color"...like Seger said, turn th' page, remove just a bit of your visual acuity, and relax...just look around you...nice world, if you open your eyes.

Kontum1972 10 years, 2 months ago

Isn't ART great...it brings up deep seated feelings from just about everyone...with one exception and that is if your without sight, then your.... SoL.

Everybodies a CRITIC..!

it doesnt matter what you do..! your always wrong in someone else's eyes....PEACE

John Reeves 10 years, 2 months ago

Do something positive with your energy and time. Visit the mural site to learn about volunteering and participating in the project.

heidizeller 10 years, 2 months ago

Right on, Dave! As a relative newcomer to Lawrence from California - and a student of public art - it's been a pleasure to come to a place that enriches its surfaces with such vibrant murals and sculpture. I appreciate being able to walk down the street every day and discover art tucked away in passageways between buildings and prominently along Mass St. (Incidentally, I thought it was particularly progressive of John Reeves and the Lawrence Arts Commission to place Dylan Mortimer's "Prayer Booth" in front of the Eldridge, and I was disappointed to see it moved by the Court building). ANYway, it's impossible to satisfy everyone when art is placed in the public realm, but wouldn't we prefer to have something that earnestly attempts to beautify or provoke or inspire, as opposed to nothing at all? So thank you Dave for your soon-to-be latest contribution to the walls of Lawrence.

As for this bickering about the African American subjects of the mural, I say this to i_have_only_valid_opinions: You say "I just don't want to become over-zealous in recognizing them more for their skin color than for their contributions to society." Well guess what, artists such as Aaron Douglas and Gwendolyn Brooks were chosen PRECISELY BECAUSE they are being recognized for their contributions to society!!

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