Lawrence hires KCMO arts leader to serve as director of arts and culture

The leader of the public art program in Kansas City, Mo. is set to become Lawrence’s next director of arts and culture.

Lawrence City Hall officials announced Wednesday that Porter Arneill will begin serving as Lawrence’s new director of arts and culture in early May.

“It is an exciting time to be in Lawrence,” Arneill said, mentioning work that is underway to create a cultural plan for the city and an effort to convert portions of Ninth Street into an arts corridor. “I have an artist background, and I really like to work with my hands. Being in a smaller community, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to be really hands on.”

Porter Arneill has served as the city's director of arts and culture since May 2015.

Arneill has served as the director and public art administrator for Kansas City’s Municipal Art Commission since 2002. During his tenure he oversaw a percent for art program that funded multiple pieces of public art, including major new pieces at Kansas City International airport and in the downtown district.

Arneill will take over for Christina McClelland, who resigned after three months of serving as the city’s first director of arts and culture. The position is expected to play a key role in overseeing the design process for the Ninth Street arts corridor project, which envisions making the portion of Ninth Street east of Massachusetts Street into a more walkable corridor that will include public art and opportunities for performance art.

The project early on sparked concerns from some East Lawrence residents who were worried that neighborhood voices were not being adequately heard in the process. Arneill said he’s committed to ensuring that many viewpoints are considered as the community undertakes art-oriented projects in the future.

“I want to hear from everybody,” Arneill said. “I want to get a broad perspective about what people want. I think anybody who has worked with me would say that I’m very accessible. When people call and ask me to have coffee, I ask where.”

City officials said Arneill’s experience in dealing with multiple high-profile art projects is a strength that he’ll bring to the city.

“The city is fortunate to have Porter take on this role,” said Assistant City Manager Diane Stoddard. “His years of expertise, strong background in public art administration and work in the highly engaged Kansas City arts scene will be particularly helpful in this position.”

Prior to his tenure with the Kansas City Municipal Art Commission, Arneill worked as the director of public art and education for the Regional Arts Commission in St. Louis, and has been a lecturer and adjunct faculty member at several institutions, including the Kansas City Art Institute.

Arneill has a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Massachusetts College of Art and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Colorado.