Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission changes Culture Chat format to encourage more public turnout

photo by: Nick Krug

Massachusetts Street is illuminated by holiday lights and vehicles on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017.

A new year means a new way to chat with the Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission.

The commission will change the format of its monthly Culture Chat for 2019, said Porter Arneill, the city liaison for the advisory board that focuses on culture and art in town.

This year, the chat will continue to take place in the afternoon of the fourth Tuesday of every month, but it will focus on a specific topic each meeting and rotate locations throughout the city, Arneill said.

The commission, which is an advisory board for the Lawrence City Commission, began exploring a new format for the event in the fall because of a lack of public participation. While a few people attended each meeting, members of the commission expressed a need to more fully engage with the community.

In the past, the meetings had been open-ended, allowing anyone who attended to discuss any topic. Arneill said focusing on a specific topic at each meeting, which will change quarterly, might inspire the public to speak to commission members on specific issues.

Kate Dinneen, chair of the commission, said that the chat was supposed to encompass the entire culture of Lawrence, not just art. Some topics commission members mentioned at their board meetings as possible starting points were food, education and technology.

The new meetings will also occur in rotating locations, which may help encourage more turnout. Some sites under consideration are Theatre Lawrence, the Lawrence Public Library and Haskell Indian Nations University.

Arneill said the commission planned to solidify the future topics and meeting places during its next regular business meeting in February.

The first Culture Chat of 2019 is set for 3:30 p.m. Jan. 22 in meeting room B of the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St.

A topic was not selected for the January meeting. Instead, the commission invited Sarah VanLanduyt, executive director of the Arts Council of Johnson County, to discuss arts programming, Arneill said.

The Culture Chat began in the summer of 2017 as Coffee and Culture, which met in the mornings at the time. Arneill said it began as an outreach effort from the commission.

“Back then it was an early-morning meeting created to provide informal time for people to come and learn about the LCAC and share their thoughts about arts and culture in Lawrence with LCAC members,” Arneill said.

The commission changed the meetings to the afternoon and relocated to the Lawrence Beer Company in 2018 but did not see a significant increase in participation.


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