Lawrence falls short in bid for national ArtPlace grant

Lawrence fell short in its bid to win a competitive national grant that would have been a major springboard for the city’s creative placemaking efforts, the Lawrence Arts Center learned Monday.

Feedback from ArtPlace grant reviewers called the city’s proposal “too young” and needing greater city and business buy-in, Arts Center executive director Susan Tate said, in an email to the Journal-World.

“We are determined and will spend the next year working toward greater public identification of and city support for the Lawrence Cultural District … and working with the Cultural District Task Force and the Cultural Arts Commission on how art can play a role in this project,” Tate said.

Arts Center representatives spent nearly a year working on the grant proposal and mobilizing community stakeholders. The Lawrence City Commission’s February designation of the downtown area as a “cultural district” was a key talking point of the pitch, although the effort may have come too late to convince ArtPlace of its solidity — at least this year.

“It was a race to designate the Lawrence Cultural District before the ArtPlace final round,” Tate said. “A year for the city to develop the concept will make a major difference in our chances.”

The city and the Arts Center applied jointly for the grant, and Tate said the plan is to try again next year. She added that the Arts Center would have the opportunity to take part in critiquing sessions to further improve a future application.

ArtPlace, a collaboration between national and regional foundations and six of the country’s largest banks, announced in January that Lawrence was one of 105 finalists for one of the organization’s creative placemaking grants.

Generally, ArtPlace has awarded about 40 grants each year. Past grants for projects in other cities have ranged from about $150,000 to half a million dollars.

Lawrence’s proposal called for using grant money to fund a public art project by Sans façon — a duo composed of French architect Charles Blanc and British artist Tristan Surtees — who have embedded themselves in communities worldwide, exploring each place’s unique culture and creating public art projects that bring it to light.

The Arts Center is still awaiting word on a $75,000 state-level grant envisioned to help with developing a formal county- or city-wide cultural plan.

Tate said she expects to find out in early summer whether the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission approved that proposal, filed by the Arts Center, the city and Callahan Creek, a Lawrence-based specialty marketing agency.

City Commissioner Bob Schumm, who was mayor for most of the past year, is chairman of the Lawrence Cultural District Task Force. That group will be researching similar districts in other cities and is scheduled to present a report to the Commission in October outlining best practices in identifying and marketing a cultural district.