Hopes of area artists to preserve a downtown mural were dealt a major blow Tuesday as city commissioners said they see no feasible way to avoid demolishing the wall that houses the art work.
But commissioners urged the development group that is proposing to build a new apartment building on the site of the mural to have more discussions with leaders at Kansas University’s Spencer Museum of Art about how the work could be moved or reproduced.
“I think there are some decent options on the table,” said Dave Loewenstein, the lead artist for the 2007 mural entitled Pollinators, which is on the wall of an office building at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets. “But there are just still a lot of questions about how it all would work.”
The options include cutting the approximately 20 foot by 60 foot wall into multiple pieces, moving it to another site and then putting it back to together. The development group — which is led by Lawrence businessmen Doug Compton and Mike Treanor — have offered to pay $20,000 for that project, but they said Tuesday they were uncertain that would cover the full costs of the move. An architect for the project also said there is a chance the work could be damaged.
“It will be a difficult process,” said Micah Kimball, an architect with Treanor Architects. “It will be a delicate process.”
The development group also has proposed that Loewenstein recreate the mural — albeit smaller — on a designated space on the new building. The mural was part of a 2007 exhibition sponsored by the Spencer Museum of Art that honors seven black artists with Kansas ties who went on to have an international impact.
Susan Earle, curator at the Spencer Museum of Art, told commissioners that her preference was to find a way to keep the existing wall and existing mural in place during the construction of the proposed seven-story apartment building.
But Kimball told commissioners there was no feasible way to do so because the project involved a two-story, underground parking garage that will be built directly underneath the wall.
All five commissioners on Tuesday said they agreed with Kimball’s assessment.
Commissioners asked the two sides to provide another update to the commission by its April 8 meeting. Current plans call for demolition of the building to begin around June 1, Compton said.
In other news, commissioners:
• Unanimously approved the necessary rezoning for a five-story apartment and retail building at 1101 Indiana St., which is across the street from KU’s Memorial Stadium.
• Agreed to submit a $141,000 grant application to the Douglas County Heritage Fund to finance a program to better highlight a host of artistic, historical and cultural sites in the new Lawrence Cultural District, which includes downtown and much of East Lawrence. Commissioners added $31,000 to the grant application after a community group asked for additional funds to specifically highlight the history of famed poet Langston Hughes in the community.