Persistence has paid off for the Lawrence Arts Center’s efforts to pursue projects that link the arts more closely to the community.
After failing to make the cut for a couple of major grants, Arts Center officials learned this week they would receive a $150,000 Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The grant will fund the Free State Cultural Connection project, which will include an expanded local film festival in 2014 and 2015. In preparation for those festivals, the project will fund digital media classes for youngsters at Van Go Inc., and the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence. The project will culminate in a multiday film and music festival next June featuring public film showings, performance and other digital arts displays.
The grant project is aimed at promoting “creative placemaking” in Lawrence. The idea is to use art to promote a sense of community and create an atmosphere that is exciting and enticing to visitors, as well as local residents. It’s an interesting concept and it will be fascinating to see local youngsters get creative and involve the community in their artistic expressions.
The local grant is one of only 59 such grants approved this year by the National Endowment for the Arts and is on the high end of the awards, which ranged from $25,000 to $200,000. The success of this grant application lends some credence to the observation that, unlike many smaller Kansas communities, Lawrence probably will be able to maintain its arts programs even without the assistance of the former Kansas Arts Commission. The Arts Center had sought a $75,000 grant from the state’s new Creative Arts Industries Commission but received nothing, which isn’t surprising considering that the Lawrence request exceeded the entire $53,000 the Creative Commission allocated to eight projects in the state.
Lawrence is fortunate to have vital arts organizations that have what the Creative Arts Industries Commission now lacks: a strong structure and some paid staff members dedicated to promoting the arts. The efforts of our local arts organizers have paid off in many ways for many years. We wish them well in this latest venture.