Lawrence leaders are working on a $200,000 effort to create an arts district that could become a significant player in the city’s tourism efforts.
The city’s Cultural Arts Commission has begun the process of applying for a $200,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts that would fund the creation of a downtown and East Lawrence arts district.
“Lawrence really has everything money can’t buy as far as an arts district goes,” said Susan Tate, executive director of the Lawrence Arts Center. “But we do need a few things money can buy.”
A major part of the grant proposal is $65,000 for salary and benefits for the city to hire an arts resource officer. The new position would work to get the arts district off the ground, create new events and better connect the business community with the arts community.
Lawrence is one of 600 communities the NEA has invited to submit a statement of interest for the grant program. Lawrence will learn in early April whether the NEA wants to receive a full application from the city. Winners — perhaps up to 15 — will be announced in June.
The grant funding — which would require a $10,000 cash match from the city — would be for only one year. City commissioners have signed off on submitting the grant, but have stopped short of saying that the arts community should count on a long-term financial commitment from the city.
“If we do receive the grant, I have concerns about where the money would come from once the grant expired,” Mayor Rob Chestnut said.
Kathy Porsch, chair of the Cultural Arts Commission’s grant writing committee, said the hope is that the position would become self-supporting after a year.
“A lot will rest on the shoulders of whoever we would hire,” Porsch said. “The hope is that person would end up supporting the position by generating other grant funds and having some events that would generate some funding.”
The proposal has created some interest in the private sector. Tate said organizers have had good conversations with some downtown landlords about donating vacant storefronts to house art galleries on a temporary basis.