Heard on the Hill: KBA didn’t back off promised funds for institute that pulled money from KU program; Spencer Art Museum gets ‘yarn bombed’; Wescoe Beach renovations begin

Your daily dose of news, notes and links from around Kansas University.

• I had one question after hearing yesterday’s news that a pretty successful KU research program was losing its funding from a program that was initiated by the Kansas Bioscience Authority. And that’s what impact the decision might have on the taxpayer-funded KBA and its many projects.

First, a little background: Heartland Plant Innovations is the organization that committed $5 million over five years to KU’s Native Medicinal Plant Research Program but then backed out of it after year three. HPI is a so-called “Center of Innovation” started up by the KBA. The KBA committed to fund these independently operated centers hoping that they would eventually generate enough money to exist on their own.

After Forrest Chumley, HPI’s president and CEO, told me that as funding from the KBA went down in recent years, they had to re-evaluate their funding priorities. So I wondered if the KBA backed out of its previous commitments to HPI.

Not so, said David Vranicar, the KBA’s interim leader. The KBA had promised almost $10 million to the startup venture to date, and hadn’t backed off any payments or commitments made to the center.

“Everything we have committed to, we have honored,” Vranicar said.

That’s the case, too, for the KBA’s many funding commitments it has made to other Kansas universities and companies to date, he said.

And I’d be remiss, of course, if I didn’t thank a sweet Heard on the Hill tipster who alerted me to the funding cuts in the first place.

• A colleague told me to make sure I mentioned the “yarn bombing” that transpired recently at the Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art.

Mary K. Holdgraf, Fairway, takes a photograph Tuesday of the “Yarn Bombing” display outside the entrance to Spencer Museum of Art at Kansas University. “I’m a yarn bomber myself,” said Holdgraf, who works at The Studio, a knitting store in Kansas City, Mo. The exhibit will be on display through Sunday.

The exhibit, which as the museum’s weekly newsletter notes, features “a squadron of snuggly snails,” along with other yarn creations.

About 20 Lawrence-area knitters and crocheters (I think I’m just making up words now) apparently sneaked in over the weekend and put up a whole bunch of knitted material around the museum’s entrance. Contributions to the display came from Brazil, the United Kingdom, Maryland and West Virginia.

It will be up until Sunday.

• A loyal Heard on the Hill reader sent in a question to me on Tuesday.

“What’s going on with the destruction of Wescoe beach?” she wanted to know. It’s looking pretty ripped up these days, after all.

I wrote a bit back in March about the impending renovations that will add trees, lighting, more (and better) seating and electrical outlets.

But it’s OK if you haven’t committed the entire Andy Hyland canon to memory. I don’t mind reminding folks what’s going on every now and again.

Even though the renovations will add a few trees, I’m sure it will still be plenty sunny if anyone would like to step up and become the new Tan Man.

• Keep submitting those squadrons of snuggly Heard on the Hill tips (or burning questions you’ve always wanted to know) to ahyland@ljworld.com.