Downtown Lawrence has made various attempts over the years to highlight the arts and capitalize on the additional traffic they could bring to the area. With the exception of a few signature events, like Art in the Park, the efforts have had limited success.
The business and art community is giving it another go, this time with $10,000 in city funding that should increase the chances of making the proposed monthly arts events an ongoing attraction for downtown.
Paperwork already has been filed to form the nonprofit Downtown Lawrence Arts District Corp. run by a board that includes representatives of the Lawrence Arts Center, Downtown Lawrence Inc. and other arts and business groups. The group’s first goal is to establish a monthly event, tentatively called “Final Fridays” that would highlight both visual and performance arts on the last Friday of each month.
Although they might look for a name that sounds less apocalyptic, the basic idea seems like a good one.
Organizers hope to attract about 15 performances or displays for each event. That might include a performance or display at the arts center or an existing gallery but organizers also hope to have attractions in other businesses scattered throughout downtown. The event presumably would stretch into the evening hours, encouraging people to come downtown to shop, have dinner, enjoy a performance or view an exhibit.
The $10,000 approved by the city came from money the Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission had left over because it didn’t hold an outdoor sculpture exhibit in 2009. While some of the downtown sculpture is attractive and interesting, it’s doubtful that it has driven much additional downtown traffic or tourism. Additional funding for the Friday events may be a better use for the money on an ongoing basis.
Organizers might consider increasing the event’s drawing power by scheduling featured performances or artists for individual Fridays. Interest in the events will wane if people feel they are seeing many of the same artists or performers month after month.
The influx of city money should provide a base of funding that will give organizers a good shot of getting Final Fridays off the ground. If they succeed in creating a signature monthly event, it could be a boon for downtown business as well as the Lawrence arts community.