Archive for Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lawrence leaders looking at creating arts district in order to compete for federal grant

March 11, 2010


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.


BigPrune 8 years, 1 month ago

Shouldn't this grant be easy to get since the figure of 1,000 visitors a day was used to justify and get the taxpayer funding for building the new Lawrence Arts Center, ultimately moving it from the Carnegie Library? With over 300,000 visitors a year at the old location, how could they go wrong? though the numbers should've gone up with the newer building, plus it got a parking garage to go with it.

I'd love to see the comparison. If memory serves me right, wasn't the testimony on the visitor numbers to justify the newer building in front of a former city commission? It should be public record, shouldn't it?

eotw33 8 years, 1 month ago

any more detail on the "art district". I understand the hiring of someone but what exactly do they mean by "art district"? Will there be more museums, art centers, what? Empty storefronts downtown is hardly adding a district, that's where all the art is already

Bladerunner 8 years, 1 month ago

Does anyone really travel to see art? I'd rather look at mountains or a beach.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 1 month ago

"Want to know where a great place to invest in real estate will be five or 10 years from now? Look at where artists are living now."

"Sociologists and policymakers have long been touting art and culture as the cure-all to economically depressed neighborhoods, cities, and regions. The reason? It has been proven that artists—defined as self-employed visual artists, actors, musicians, writers, etc.—can stimulate local economies in a number of ways.

Artists are often an early sign of neighborhood gentrification. 'Artists are the advance guard of what's hip and cool,' says Bert Sperling, founder and president of Portland (Ore.)-based Sperling's Best Places and compiler of's list of the Best Places for Artists in America."

Leading the list of cities is Los Angeles, with over 56 artistic establishments for every 100,000 people, and a young and diverse population. Other stalwarts like New York and San Francisco make the top ten, along with art meccas like Santa Fe, New Mexico. Carson City, Nevada, and Kingston, New York also make the list."

Include artists in all fun events!

Richard Heckler 8 years, 1 month ago

Creativity Leads to Growth

Artists, because of their typically lower incomes, usually need to seek out less expensive, developing neighborhoods where they can afford the rent. But because of their creativity they are able to fix up these areas, eventually attracting hip boutiques, galleries, and restaurants. Not all artists are starving. While some are able to achieve success writing, acting, painting, or dancing, others get tired of scraping by as waiters or bartenders and sometimes apply their abilities in more entrepreneurial ways.

Anne Markusen, an economist and professor at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and a leading researcher on the effects of the arts on regional economics, once profiled an abstract painter whose work is now displayed on ceilings and in MRI machines in hospitals across the country. In Markusen's research, artists have also been found to stimulate innovation on the part of their suppliers. A painter may need a certain type of frame that is not manufactured, forcing the frame maker to create a new design that happens to also work well for other artists.

But Markusen also maintains that artists bring more than culture to a community. "Businesses don't often understand the extent to which art affects them," Markusen says. "[Artists] are just as important as science and technology companies."

Nonarts businesses also use artist contractors to improve product design, help with marketing, or even use dramatic theory to solve employee relationship issues. Being a cultural center also helps local businesses attract employees who want to be able to regularly go to the ballet or the theater, hear authors read from their latest books, or attend art gallery openings.

Business Week

Richard Heckler 8 years, 1 month ago

Follow the Money

Due to the individual nature and economics of their work, artists are also some of the most itinerant professionals out there. When relocating, they often look for cities and towns that already have high concentrations of artists and a young, racially and ethnically diverse population. The presence of a nurturing art community in the form of art societies and centers is also essential, especially to young artists.

A low cost of living is important, but many artists make financial sacrifices to live near an art-rich urban center or live in a cheaper neighborhood. Few struggling artists can afford to live in neighborhoods like New York's SoHo and Greenwich Village, or even Williamsburg, which once were artistic havens before attracting wealthier residents. Now you are more likely to find New York-based artists in the Bronx, Brooklyn, or even Philadelphia.

In addition to the presence of like-minded individuals, proximity to wealth is also important. The fact of the matter is that artists can seldom earn a living, let alone become rich, selling to other artists. They need wealthy benefactors to buy their paintings or support their local symphony, which explains why each of the places in the U.S. that we found to be the best for artists are in or located near centers of wealth. Los Angeles, No. 1 on our list, is most commonly associated with the film industry. While the city provides great opportunities for actors and directors, there are equally rich prospects for musicians, artists, writers, and dancers. Of course, the majority of these people can't afford to live in Beverly Hills—at least not until they get their big break—and instead opt for more affordable digs in areas like Echo Park.

Business Week

Richard Heckler 8 years, 1 month ago

p> and Sperling's Best Places came up with a list of the best places for artists in the U.S. by identifying the metro areas that have the highest concentrations of artistic establishments. We also looked at the percentage of young people age 25 to 34, population diversity, and concentration of museums, philharmonic orchestras, dance companies, theater troupes, library resources, and college arts programs. Lower cost of living played a part in the selection of some cities but had to be overlooked in others because of other very favorable factors.

Some of the top ten are traditional art "super cities"—one of the reasons Los Angeles leads the list is because it has 56 artistic establishments for every 100,000 people, a diversity index of 84.2, and an arts and culture index of 100 (on a scale of 1 to 100). New York City and San Francisco are also in the top ten. Other places are midsize cities, like hippie havens Santa Fe and Boulder, and country-music nucleus Nashville. Smaller, less-obvious additions include Carson City, Nev., which ranks third for its high concentration of art establishments, and the city of Kingston in New York's Hudson River Valley.

Ready to quit your day job and make art your profession? These metro areas are good places to start. And with all the economic benefits you'll be providing, they should welcome you with open arms. "

Business Week

Zachary Stoltenberg 8 years, 1 month ago

I see the copy machine is up and running this morning...

beaujackson 8 years, 1 month ago

When times are tough, you can't eat art.

Flap Doodle 8 years, 1 month ago

I would take the director/office/czar job if I could delare that Friday would be no trousers day in Lawrence.

lmb 8 years, 1 month ago

Wilbur--I certainly don't know the details of the grant proposal, but the article is pretty clear that it would be a CITY job, not an Arts Center job. And while there would no doubt be much communication between the two, it's not the same thing.

Plus, does anyone have any idea how many application federal grant making organizations get? Don't get your panties in a bunch, folks. The odds of this happening are extremely poor.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 1 month ago

Taxpayers are footing the bill on growth that does not pay back:

*with increased numbers of houses you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by residential housing does not pay for the services, they require from a municipality.”

*Adding miles and miles and miles of new infrastructure is like adding miles and miles and miles of new taxes. In a bedroom community this is not expanding the tax base it is expanding our tax bills.

*“Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You with the Bill)”

*Basic findings:

  1. Lawrence is overbuilt in housing: Homes were built faster than popualtion growth supporting these homes. Excessive subdivisions caused an outmigration from older neighborhoods causing a severe loss of value, a loss of dwelling units, and a variety of other problems such as school closings.

  2. Lawerence is overbuilt in retail: Stores were built faster than retail spending growth supporting these stores. This excessive growth has hurt the public and private investment in downtown redevelopment (e.g.: the empty $8 million parking garage, the empty Hobbs-Taylor space, etc.) and has caused deterioration and blight in existing shopping centers (e.g.: Tanger Mall, Food-for-Less, etc.)

  3. Douglas County is overbuilt in manufacturing and warehousing; employment in these sectors is declining, not growing. Yet, the Chamber calls for more and more space in the false belief that more supply creates more demand.

  4. Office space in Douglas County is relatively well balanced, but the market for office space is severely crippled by the excessive supply of unused retail space which is competing for office tenants.

All of the above is not paying back the community BUT community is paying for all of the above.

It's time to focus on what Lawrence is known for aka the Arts. This would bring visitors to town so they could enjoy themselves,spend some money and the return to their home. Lawrence needs more tourist traffic not more residents.

The arts attract money that is what Business Week is communicating.

nobody1793 8 years, 1 month ago

I'm glad to see that Lawrence has a good balance of "Artsy" and "Fartsy".

Peripheral Artery Disease, Mumbo Jumbo, and Viagra smoothies something something, Gesundeit.

Shane Garrett 8 years, 1 month ago

Willie Nelson, who performed six years ago to a crowded Topeka Performing Arts Center, will return there April 20 bringing with him the Academy of County Music Award-nominated Randy Rogers Band. Just think, if the Pott County Pork and Bean Band moved from Saint Marys to Lawrence, who else might follow.

Boston_Corbett 8 years, 1 month ago

I heard the new Oread Neighborhood Association Board was the real group behind this initiative. But they don't really want to publicly admit it.

Scruggsy 8 years, 1 month ago

Tell me how the hell calling something an "arts district" does anything to attract visitors? A $200,000 government handle doesn't make the art any better...

Now what might work is more "native prairie grass" signs on weeded vacant lots, and call it "Pioneer Lawrence". And we're already letting the streets return to pioneer conditions. They can feel what it was like to travel here on the Oregon Trail!

beatrice 8 years, 1 month ago

"Does anyone really travel to see art?"

Yes they do. And the people who travel to see art are generally fairly wealthy. They are the people you want to bring to your community. Personally, I'd rather see the funds go to help promote the Spencer. It is an exceptional museum and one people do travel to see.

Kontum1972 8 years, 1 month ago

go for it..i am an us the money

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