The Lied Center of Kansas is a huge asset for Lawrence and Kansas University, and the selection of a new leader for the facility is a critical choice.
The first of three candidates to replace Tim Van Leer as executive director of the Lied Center visited the campus and gave a public presentation on Thursday. Two more candidates are scheduled to meet with the public today and next Monday. The first candidate has been associate director of the performing arts center at the University of California-Berkeley since 1997. Hopefully, the other candidates also will have strong experience with the performing arts and good ideas about how to move the Lied Center forward to even bigger and better things.
The Lied Center was made possible by a major contribution from the Lied Foundation, overseen by Christina Hixson. One of Hixson’s primary goals for the center, which opened in 1993 was to provide a performance venue that served not only Lawrence and KU but all of Kansas. To make arts presentations accessible to more people, she established the Lied Performance Fund, which supports education programs and helps provide free and reduced-price tickets to student groups and other organizations.
The Lied’s first director, Jackie Davis, set a high standard for excellence and innovation at the center. After her departure, Fred Pawlicki did an excellent job as interim director of the Lied until the hiring of Van Leer. Under Van Leer’s leadership, the Lied has grown both in stature and square footage. With the help of additional funding from the Lied Foundation, the main lobby recently was expanded to its originally intended size and the Pavilion was added as a multi-purpose space for more intimate performances and other uses. Both expansions have greatly enhanced the Lied and its ability to accommodate a variety of events.
The people — staff, volunteers and donors — who have led and supported the Lied Center for the last 20 years have created a community asset that should be able to attract top-notch candidates for the executive director’s job. We hope those conducting the search will have their choice of several great candidates who will respect the valued legacy of the Lied Center while also bringing creative new ideas for attracting broad audiences for notable performing arts events.