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In some circles Lawrence is known as the "Berkeley of the Midwest." On Thursday Hollis Ashby visited Lawrence from the Berkeley of Berkeley, or Berkeley, Calif., in other words, to make her pitch for the job of executive director of the Lied Center.
Ashby has served as associate director of Cal Performances, the performance arts center of University of California - Berkeley, since 1997. She is the first of the candidates invited to interview publicly for the position of the Lied's executive director.
In April the current head of the Lied, Tim Van Leer, announced he would retire at the end of the year after serving since 2001. In his time as director Van Leer played host to headliners such as Yo-Yo Ma and the Kronos Quartet. The 14-person committee looking for Van Leer's replacement is headed by Bob Walzel, dean of the Kansas University School of Music.
Ashby opened her talk at the Lied Center Pavilion with a short history of university performance arts centers in the U.S. With lecture hall acoustics proving ideal for theater and musical performances, a network of university arts theaters sprang up, Ashby said. Universities became central hubs for the arts in their states and often the only such hubs in the agrarian life of the U.S. before the Industrial Revolution.
From there Ashby laid out several ideas for what she would do if picked to spearhead the Lied. Among them:
- Build strong relationships with K-12 educators to help cultivate an appreciation of the arts in young people and their parents.
- Turn the Lied into a regional center of modern dance and ballet. Ashby noted that the Lied was "a great stage for dancing and ballet."
- Invite actors and filmmakers to give master courses on the KU campus as well as in-depth talks at the Lied Center.
- Host storytelling events, including radio programs such as NPR's "Science Friday" and "This American Life."
- Show silent horror movies for Halloween with soundtracks curated and performed by KU School of Music students.
- Host events for families with young children at the Lied Center Pavilion.