The donors who made the Lied Center possible intended for the facility to be used to share performing arts and education with everyone in Kansas.
An additional $2.5 million gift, announced Tuesday from the Lied Foundation Trust in Omaha, will fund an expansion that will be a concrete step in furthering that goal.
The project will include an extension of the main lobby and the addition of an education pavilion and expanded office space along with displays honoring the center’s benefactor, Ernst F. Lied and his foundation trust. According to Lied Center Director Tim Van Leer, the plans will provide space for teacher workshops, master classes and other educational programs. New space also will add flexibility for receptions, meetings and other center activities.
The expanded lobby actually will restore space that was in the original plans for the Lied Center but was trimmed to reduce construction costs. The size of the lobby never has seemed adequate to handle the crowd at high-attendance events, and the expanded lobby will be a welcome addition for Lied Center patrons.
Christina Hixson, who now administers the Lied trust, has never wavered from the mission set by Lied to use the Lawrence center to reach across Kansas and share the joy of performing arts, especially with schoolchildren. Most Lawrence public school students have an annual opportunity to see a Lied Center performance, but the center’s reach is far broader than that, offering education and performance opportunities to more than 80,000 Kansans of all ages each year. For many children, it is their first exposure to live artistic performance and can spark a lifelong interest in the arts.
It is an incredible gift. On a regular basis, performers and out-of-town audience members remind Lawrence and KU what a gem they have in the Lied Center. They couldn’t be more right.
The $2.5 million gift announced Tuesday is just the latest installment in the Lied Foundation’s support of KU, which has included $10 million for construction of the Lied Center, $3.1 million for outreach programming there, $5 million for student scholarships and $1.5 for medical research.
Hixson and the Lied Foundation Trust have proven to be great friends not only of KU but of the entire state of Kansas. The funding they have provided for the Lied Center and the performing arts will have an impact that will extend for generations to come.