City aims to make Final Fridays a regional event; online survey to gather input on potential changes

In this file photo from August 2014, patrons view art during a Final Fridays event at the Lawrence Public Library.

The City of Lawrence is hoping its monthly community art walk will be prominent enough to draw in weekend visitors from throughout the region.

Final Fridays has been showcasing local art and performances on the last Friday of the month since 2010, and the city recently launched a survey asking people to provide feedback about the event. Porter Arneill, the city’s director of communications and creative resources, said that after eight years of holding Final Fridays, the city wanted to evaluate it.

“(We’re) wanting to check in with people to determine what is working and what isn’t working and how might we take a look at that,” Arneill said.

At the same time, those in charge of marketing Final Fridays are preparing to expand advertising in hopes of drawing more out-of-town visitors to Lawrence for the event. Though the programming each month is decided by individual galleries, studios and businesses, the city and eXplore Lawrence, the city’s convention and visitors bureau, coordinate the event.

Andrea Johnson, eXplore Lawrence director of communications and marketing, said the visitors bureau already does digital advertising for Final Fridays in Kansas City and Topeka. Johnson said eXplore Lawrence uses a technique called mobile geo-fencing to send targeted advertisements to the mobile devices of those attending similar art walks in those cities. And beginning in March, Johnson said that advertising technique will be expanded to include people attending art walks in Chicago and St. Louis.

Johnson said one of the city’s assets is its arts and culture, and that the goal is to get people from the region who are interested in the arts to come to Lawrence for a weekend visit.

“We have all kinds of events throughout the year that kind of fit that arts and culture persona that we’re marketing to,” Johnson said. “But this is an event that’s happening all year long, so it just fits naturally as something that we can promote all the time.”

Meanwhile, the city will be using the survey to figure out how to improve or expand Final Fridays. Arneill said the city decided to create the survey following a meeting that included city representatives, eXplore Lawrence and Final Fridays participants. He said there wasn’t a consensus on what the best approach was and that the survey aims to discern the differing perspectives of artists, venues, businesses and attendees.

“It’s an open-ended inquiry at this point,” Arneill said.

The survey asks about a dozen questions, such as why those who attend Final Fridays do so and whether there is anything attendees have seen during Final Fridays that they would like to see more of. Options include street performers, public art installations and hands-on activities, as well as an option to write in a response.

The city would also like to increase the number of venues participating in Final Fridays. Arneill said about 10-20 venues in downtown Lawrence and the Warehouse Arts District participate in the event each month, with that number ranging toward the higher end in the spring, summer and fall. Final Fridays events are not proactively programed by any one entity, but Arneill said the city and eXplore Lawrence provide guidelines, advice and marketing for businesses or venues that want to participate.

“Because of the popularity of Final Fridays, we’re seeing more businesses who are interested in participating but don’t have that direct sort of arts background,” Arneill said. “And so they are trying to figure out how to participate, and we want to help them do that.”

Final Fridays events can include art exhibits as well as music, dance, theater or other performances, according to the guidelines. The Lawrence Arts Center, Downtown Lawrence Inc. and the Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission first launched Final Fridays in 2010. Arneill said that to provide more resources and marketing for the event, the city and eXplore Lawrence took over its coordination in the fall of 2016.

The Final Fridays survey is available on the city’s website and must be completed by April 4.