After 35 years of fostering local arts of all kinds, wonderful to see the Lawrence Arts Center not only celebrating its past but also looking to the future.
During the last 35 years, the arts center has been a focal point of community activity for people of all ages. It has gone the extra mile to make its facilities and programs available to everyone in Lawrence.
Most of that time, former director Ann Evans was at the helm, using every inch of the old Carnegie library building at Ninth and Vermont for performances, exhibits and events. Evans and a group of committed volunteers dreamed of a larger space to accommodate even more activity and were able to work with the city and raise the necessary funding to build the new arts center at 940 N.H.
Evans’ retirement prompted some unsettled times at the center, but Susan Tate, a former Lawrence High School teacher, who took over as executive director late last year is working hard to get the center back on track. A story in Thursday’s Journal-World indicates she is trying to preserve the best arts center traditions but also look at ways to build the facility’s programs and prestige.
We never want to lose the opportunity the arts center gives Lawrence residents to explore their own creativity and enjoy the creative accomplishments of others. The center truly is one of the city’s most treasured melting pots.
However, it’s also good that Tate is thinking broader and pursuing her vision of turning the center into a destination for artists who want some time to immerse themselves in their work and teach others about what they do. The arts center already offers yearlong residencies in printmaking and ceramics. You wouldn’t necessarily think Lawrence was a mecca for such opportunities, but the two existing residencies each attract 20 to 30 applicants each year.
Working with the fine arts and education programs at Kansas University, Tate hopes to expand residency offerings. The plan also would help support tentative plans to establish a better-defined arts district in downtown Lawrence. Performances, exhibits and other activities that draw visitors from inside and outside Lawrence to the arts center and other downtown locations would be a boon to the local arts scene, as well as benefiting the local economy.
The Lawrence Arts Center has been a great gift to this community for 35 years. It’s great to see its leaders trying to make sure it’s a gift that keeps on giving.