Archive for Friday, April 12, 2013

Editiorial: Arts effort

Local leaders are working to blend the city’s arts and its heritage to make Lawrence an even more vibrant community.

April 12, 2013


Starting with its founding as a Free State bastion, Lawrence often has attracted unconventional and controversial thinking. Perhaps at least in part because of that tradition, Lawrence also seems to attract more than its share of people involved in the creative arts.

Now leaders in the Lawrence arts community are working to blend those two community assets in a project they call “creative placemaking.” The idea, they say, is to take the city’s existing artistic and cultural attributes and build on them to make our community even more vibrant.

Organizations like the Lawrence Arts Center, the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Lawrence-based Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area are working together to get this ball rolling. Their first step was to gain city designation of a “cultural district,” which covers portions of downtown and the area to the east. Included in the district are sites of both historical and artistic significance to the community.

Another major effort in the process is seeking grant funding from ArtPlace, a foundation that supports creative placemaking efforts. Lawrence is one of 105 finalists competing for one of about 40 grants to be approved by ArtPlace this year. The Lawrence proposal calls for using the grant money to bring in resident artists with experience in exploring local cultures and creating public art projects that reflect those cultures.

In preparation for seeking the grant, Arts Center Director Susan Tate has spent about a year working to build community support for the project and finding the focal point for the local creative placemaking effort. To find that theme, the organizers went back to the community’s tradition of radicalism, often thought to be fostered by the survivors of Quantrill’s Raid. That radicalism has cropped up over the years in civil rights issues and war protests. The community also has been home to radical authors like Langston Hughes and William S. Burroughs and fostered a bevy of artistic efforts based on political issues and social justice.

Conflict and controversy create a fertile atmosphere for creative expression. Whether it’s through visual arts, literature, theater or other efforts, art becomes a vehicle for expressing deeper truths or simply trying to make sense of the surrounding world.

Some East Lawrence residents are concerned that bolstering art and cultural efforts will detract from the current character of their neighborhood, but, overall, reactions to the creative placemaking plans have been positive. The plans seem like a great way to support the community’s current artists and feed local interest in the arts while also attracting more visitors and encouraging efforts to use the arts as an economic development tool.

Much of the art created in Lawrence doesn’t seem all that “radical,” but, for whatever reason, our community certainly is filled with talented and creative people. Promoting these artists and tying them to the community and its heritage is an interesting and worthwhile effort.


Richard Heckler 5 years, 1 month ago

Usually when the phrase "Economic Development" pops up what comes next is a lot of NOT necessary construction and wild spending on new infrastructure that also is not necessary. Develop the art industry first to the fullest extent possible.

Some college communities developed Art as an industry to perk up their downtown economic structures. They make use of existing resources which is of course a most fiscally prudent policy.

In my years of nosing around what I have found Lawrence to be most noted for is Art. Not strip malls and big box stores. Yet Lawrence city government is soooo slow.

I disagree with the writer that East Lawrence fears art and cultural efforts. After all quite a large segment of Lawrence Art talent and art culture resides in East Lawrence and has for decades so let's describe the writers comments as a mischaracterization. We also know Lawrence artists are scattered about throughout other Lawrence neighborhoods and some rural homesteads.

Mass street is likely the most valuable asset to this new interest in promoting art as an industry.

More galleries and fewer bars/cafe's. Street fairs on Mass Street. Encourage artists from everywhere to set up on Mass Street sidewalks accompanied with another local art form aka local musicians. A wealth of cultural art opportunity resides in Lawrence,Kansas.

George_Braziller 5 years, 1 month ago

I'd love to see street fairs and more juried art events as long as entry fees and terms are reasonable so the artist can actually make some money. Galleries charge 40-50% of the sale price so unless the artist sets an outrageously high price the artist receives very little for the time and material expenses involved.

Parks and Rec "art" events are a joke so I don't even bother exhibiting at them anymore. Very little art and lots of crap like crocheted tea towels and whirlygigs made out of plastic pop bottles. Art in the Park isn't even a real art event anymore, it's a fundraiser for the Lawrence Art Guild so they're pretty loose with the definition of art. It's really more of an art and craft festival. You have to pay a relatively high fee to exhibit and then have to turn over a percentage of your sales.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 1 month ago

East Lawrence is growing by way of new families moving into east Lawrence and/or current families having children. Retaining and maintaining existing assets such as schools has been considered fiscally responsible for probably two hundred years…. down right frugal.

--- East Lawrence is not a dying farm community....hardly.

--- East Lawrence is an attractive neighborhood.

--- East Lawrence new residents CHOOSE the east side for a variety of reasons.

--- Old East and Old west Lawrence are the choice neighborhoods for restoring old beautiful homes.

--- Eastern Lawrence is about old growth trees,character of housing, easy walking or biking to most destinations like downtown, KU and our public schools.

--- East Lawrence is not dying and is home to many many many college graduates, common” laborers", the retired, musicians/artists aka diversity.

--- Eastern Lawrence received many thumbs up by urban consultant Placemakers.

  1. Home designs.

  2. layout of neighborhood streets.

  3. proximity to neighborhood schools.

  4. sidewalks - a walkable neighborhood community.

  5. proximity to downtown.

jimmyjms 5 years, 1 month ago

"More galleries and fewer bars/cafe's"

I doubt, seriously, that Merrill understands the true economy of "the arts." Lawrence is too small to have more than a few galleries that create and sustain a lasting imprint on the town. Some level of so-called "corporate/developer" involvement is necessary because these things don't pay for themselves. You want to understand, take a good look at the Crossroads in KC.

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