They study Greek texts, teach theater, advocate arts education, run an art gallery and design art exhibits.
They’re this year’s Phoenix Award winners, and their impacts are felt both in Lawrence and far beyond.
Each year, the Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission selects Phoenix winners from a pool of nominees. This year’s recipients will be honored during a ceremony at 2 p.m. today at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H.
This year’s winners, Stanley Lombardo, Doug Weaver, Margaret Morris, Linda Baranski and Richard Klocke, represent some of the best artists in Lawrence. Read their stories:
Sometimes Linda Baranski has trouble explaining what she does in her role with the Lawrence Art Guild.
“I’m the person behind the scenes who coordinates people and gets things going,” she says.
She’s done her own art — now mostly mosaic pieces — for decades. But she hit her stride as an organizer when she got involved with the art guild a decade ago. She served as president for 3 1/2 years and helped start the group’s new 1109 Gallery, which opened this spring at 1109 Mass. She now serves as the gallery’s volunteer director.
“Without Linda, the 1109 Gallery would not exist,” Sandy Craig McKenzie wrote in her nomination letter.
Baranski’s involvement didn’t always come so naturally.
“When I came to the art guild, I was kind of shy and retiring. I was a behind-the-scenes kind of gal,” she says. “People were just so accepting and kind, I felt like this was home. I just wanted to give back.”
Art guild membership increased from 65 to more than 350 during Baranski’s tenure as president (2005-2009), according to McKenzie.
“No matter what level you are, the art guild is supportive of that,” Baranski says. “That’s the one thing I love about the art guild — it’s supporting and nurturing.”
Now, she’s turning her attention to making the 1109 Gallery a success.
“Of course, we’d like to make more money, but we knew the first year would be the hardest, especially in this economy,” Baranski says. “We planned for that financially. We’re a nonprofit. We want to have a place area artists can show their work.”
She’s hoping the gallery can be a leader for environmentally conscious art.
Meanwhile, Baranski is continuing her own artwork.
“My goal for personal art,” she says, “is to have a collection of my mosaic to have a one-woman show at some point.”
When Richard Klocke goes to art museums, he pays as much attention to presentation as he does the art itself.
“I’m always looking around the corners and reading labels, to observe how they do things,” he says.
That’s because for the past 25 years, Klocke has designed exhibits, first at the Kansas State Historical Society (1984-1999) and then at the Spencer Museum of Art (1999-present).
A native of Clay Center, Klocke attended Bethany College in Lindsborg for his bachelor’s degree.
A few days after graduation, a woman stopped him on the street, asking if he wanted a job restoring an old mill that serves as the McPherson County Historical Society.
It planted the seed for the rest of his career. He went on to get his master’s degree from the Art Institute of Chicago.
Klocke compares the presentation of art to the art process itself.
“You’re taking materials and ideas and manipulating them in various ways to translate and deliver a message,” he says.
And Amanda Schwegler, the Spencer’s photo editor and graphic designer who nominated Klocke, says Klocke blends carpentry and art in his craft.
“Richard presents to the public the stories of artwork, and he carries the task of designing exhibitions that are at once approachable and engaging,” Schwegler wrote in her nomination letter.
Among Klocke’s favorite exhibitions at the Spencer have been “Flowers, Dragons and Pine Trees,” an Asian textile exhibition, and “Aaron Douglas: African American Modernist.”
Meanwhile, Klocke continues his own artwork, which primarily includes paper works.
“Some people, their job is what they do in the daytime, and they go home and relax,” he says. “It’s such a joy to have this space to work in (at home). My art is my No. 1 love.”
Stanley Lombardo has been lauded nationally and internationally for his translations of Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey.” But he’s still touched by the local Phoenix Award.
“It means a lot to me — your hometown always means a lot,” he says. “The prophet in his own town is not respected.”
The reference to the Bible is appropriate — Lombardo, a classics professor at Kansas University, is an expert in ancient texts.
He remembers taking a Greek poetry class during his freshman year of college and reading the “Odyssey” for the first time.
“I just knew this is what I wanted to do,” he says. “I wanted to merge my voice as a poet with Homer’s.”
He’s spent the rest of his career doing just that, mostly notably for Homer’s classics but also for other works.
Lombardo may have earned international acclaim, but he’s always taken time to volunteer in Lawrence. In fact, Central Junior High School teacher Michel Loomis nominated Lombardo primarily for his interaction with schoolchildren.
“He always comes and never disappoints,” Loomis wrote in her nomination letter.
“Quite the opposite. Stan takes the students seriously, and in his performance and in his responses to questions he illuminates the poetry and makes the language come alive for a yet another entranced audience.”
Lombardo says the school presentations aren’t just about public service. He says his translation of the “Iliad” proved that.
“I was very pleased with the fifth-graders, it really held their interest,” he says. “It was then I knew I struck the right level.”
Lombardo finished a translation of Dante’s “Inferno” in the spring. He’s currently working on Ovid’s “Metamorphoses.”
“It’s all stuff that I love,” he says, “and I somehow make the voice work. ... It’s about recreation and reimagination.”
Margaret Morris was a junior majoring in biological anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison when she took a drawing class.
“The teacher was like, ‘You’re not an art major? Are you crazy?’” Morris recalls.
She switched fields from the pre-med track — many in her family are doctors — and become an art major.
“My parents were disappointed at first,” Morris says. “You have a guaranteed job as a doctor.”
But she set out to make a career with that art degree. She moved to New York City and worked various art jobs before getting a master’s in art therapy at New York University.
When the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks happened — and her husband, Jonathan Morris was near the World Trade Center — the couple decided to move back to Jonathan’s home state of Kansas.
They landed in Lawrence, partially because of its art community. Margaret Morris worked as education director at the Lawrence Arts Center before going to work in 2007 as program manager for arts education for the Kansas Arts Commission. Now, she oversees state efforts to integrate arts into public schools and other organizations, in addition to continuing her own painting and being involved in such programs as the Art Tougeau Parade.
“Margaret wants Lawrence, as many of us do, to be a leader on a national level, both in the arts and education and in making the world a better place — she knows we can achieve success through creativity and initiative and get-it-done hard work,” wrote Pat Slimmer, who nominated Morris.
Morris admits she was concerned about finding an arts job when she moved back to Kansas. Now, she can’t imagine it any other way.
“Lawrence is an amazing place. It’s a deeply rich community,” she says. “I find it fascinating. Working in the arts community is a no-brainer here.”
Doug Weaver always had dreams of being a professional sports. His father, also named Doug, was a college football coach at such places at the University of Missouri, Kansas University and Kansas State University.
But even as a child, he loved to produce plays with the neighbor kids. In his mind, the career he chose — theater — isn’t that far from the one he dreamed of as a child.
“The idea of any team sport and theater is not that different,” Weaver says. “It’s a group that’s working together on a common goal and you practice that over and over and over again to get it right.”
Weaver, a former full-time professional actor in Dallas, currently is director of theatrical arts at Bishop Seabury Academy, a private school known for its emphasis on the arts. He served as an adjunct professor at KU from 1993 to 2005.
Weaver also has directed or performed in shows at a variety of Lawrence venues, including Lawrence Community Theatre, St. Luke’s AME Church, Lawrence Arts Center, the former Apple Valley Players and others.
Among his favorite shows through the years: playing the role of Falstaff in University’s Theatre’s production of “Henry IV” and playing Bottom in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” as an undergraduate student at KU.
Though he spent years working in a university setting, Weaver says he hasn’t had to adjust his teaching methods much for his seventh- through 12th-grade students. And Don Schawang, headmaster at Bishop Seabury, says that’s what makes Weaver such a good teacher.
“What makes Doug such an effective and admired teacher of young students is his refusal to condescend to his pupils or diminish his expectations of them because of their age,” Schawang says. “He understands that young actors want to be challenged, and they have surprising emotional and creative reserves that simply need to be tapped by an ambitious and thoughtful teacher.”