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Archive for Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Momentum builds for adding director of arts and culture at City Hall

December 11, 2013

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The idea of whether the city should add about $100,000 to its budget for a new director of arts and culture may come to the forefront at City Hall sooner rather than later.

City commissioners have directed staff members to bring back by early January more information on the cost and benefits of a new City Hall position that would be responsible for coordinating and marketing arts and cultural events in the city.

But the position already has gotten a key endorsement from City Manager David Corliss.

"I'm supportive of the position," Corliss said. "I think there is more than enough work for a staff person in this area."

The new position is one of the recommendations from a report from the city's Cultural District Task Force, which delivered its findings to city commissioners on Tuesday.

Typically, funding for a new position wouldn't be discussed until commissioners began their 2015 budget hearings, which begin this summer. But at their meeting on Tuesday, multiple commissioners said they possibly would be interested in having the position start in the second half of 2014.

Susan Tate, the executive director of the Lawrence Arts Center, said she would like the city to apply for a grant through the Kansas Department of Commerce, which could partially fund the position in 2014. The application deadline for the grant is in early February.

Tate said she hoped the position could be in place sooner rather than later because many of the major organizations that provide grant funding for the arts are now looking at whether communities have a point person for arts and culture.

"I think this really will put in play all the major national arts grant programs," Tate said.

A detailed estimate on how much the new position will cost hasn't been developed, but early estimates are for about $100,000 to fund a salary, benefits and operating budget for the position. Where the funding will come from hasn't been determined yet either.

City Commissioner Mike Amyx said he wanted more discussion on possible funding sources, because he noted the city has had to put several other projects on hold in 2014 because of funding constraints.

Mayor Mike Dever said he would like to inquire whether Douglas County commissioners have any interest in funding a portion of the position. He said a joint funding arrangement has worked well for the sustainability coordinator position that is shared by the city and the county.

The Cultural District Task Force report included several other recommendations, including the idea of a pedestrian bridge over the Kansas River to connect North Lawrence with the city's trail system south of the river. Commissioners expressed interest in expanding trails in the downtown area, but didn't take any action related to a pedestrian bridge over the Kaw.

Members of the Cultural District Task Force are City Commissioner Bob Schumm; local marketing executive Cindy Maude; Lawrence Arts Center Director Susan Tate; downtown Lawrence business owner Mike Logan; East Lawrence neighborhood representative and artist KT Walsh; East Lawrence neighborhood representative Jacki Becker; East Lawrence neighborhood representative Brenda Nunez; Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission member Grace Peterson; and Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission representative Mandy Enfield.

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