Lawrence ArtWalk gears up for 10th birthday party

Preview exhibition, free T rides new to tour of area artists' studios


Richard Gwin/Journal World-Photo

John Wysocki, a Lawrence photographer and organizer of the Lawrence ArtWalk, sorts through posters and guide books from previous years of the annual event. Wysocki and other area artists are gearing up for the 10th anniversary of the self-guided tour of artists' studios.

Most 10th birthday parties consist of a few guests, cake and maybe a creepy clown. The Lawrence ArtWalk, an annual self-guided tour of area art studios, will have a celebration that lasts three weeks and includes hundreds of artists and visitors.

John Wysocki, ArtWalk director, wanted to make sure the event got the party it deserved. The ArtWalk is unique because the public has a chance to interact with artists in their creative environments, Wysocki said. He has run the event since he co-organized the second ArtWalk with Sarah Oblinger in 1996.

"It takes more and more time each year," Wysocki said, "but this year I've made a conscious effort to play up the fact that it's the 10th anniversary."

One of the changes Wysocki instituted for the anniversary is a preview exhibition for the public to view examples of artists' work before the actual event. The exhibition kicks off with a public reception at 6 p.m. Saturday at Ad Astra Galleria, 205 W. Eighth St. The party will feature a retrospective of promotional items from years past, food catered by Pachamama's and live music by folk-rock band Uncle Dirty Toes.

The exhibition will be open through the ArtWalk, which takes place 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 23 and noon to 6 p.m. Oct. 24.

This year, galleries have been taken off of the ArtWalk. Instead, the businesses will feature their artists during the regular Downtown Gallery Walk, scheduled for the Friday evening before the weekend tour. About a dozen galleries will have opening receptions from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 22. Wysocki said emphasizing solo artists on the actual ArtWalk gave the event a more intimate atmosphere.

Enormous growth

The first event, which Lawrence artist Diana Dunkley and Raven Bookstore co-owner Pat Kehde started in 1995, featured 24 participants, which were mostly downtown galleries. Nine years later, more than 90 primarily solo artists will exhibit their works at 41 locations in and around Lawrence.

"People love this event because they get to see everybody's studios," Dunkley said. "They are always asking when the ArtWalk's going to be. John has done a terrific job marketing it."

Saturday 10.02

  • 6pm :: Lawrence ArtWalk 2004 Preview Exhibition
  • more info

One of Wysocki's marketing strategies is to involve local businesses. In the first year, only a few businesses bought ads on the 8-by-11-inch guide map. The ArtWalk now enjoys full sponsorship, allowing for a 64-page guidebook packed with information. The comprehensive guidebook will cost money for the first time this year, but the map is still free.

Because the event has grown so much since the first ArtWalk, driving has become necessary. To accommodate visitors without cars, Wysocki created another change for this year's event. Most galleries are directly on the bus route or a couple blocks away from a stop, so Wysocki convinced the city of Lawrence to make the Saturday of the ArtWalk a free ridership day for the T, the city's bus system.

"You could walk the whole route," Wysocki said, "but it might take you the entire weekend, so I saw the T as a natural complement."

Art as attitude

After learning about the business side of art through his experiences with the ArtWalk, Wysocki has decided to make marketing a career. He recently started his own company, ARTful Marketing.

It might seem like a big change, but Wysocki said art and marketing go well together. A graphic image can stick in a person's mind much easier than just a name or words alone, he said.

This is not the first time he has changed careers. Wysocki, who is from London, came to this country as an architecture exchange student. He decided to stay and earn his master's degree from Kansas University.

"The program was supposed to last 18 months," Wysocki said. "It has lasted 28 years."

Just before he received his license to work professionally as an architect, Wysocki decided his calling was to be a professional photographer. He worked shooting architecture and weddings. He said his watercolor paintings influenced his personal photography, which blur the line between photography and abstraction.

Although art always has been part of his life, Wysocki said being an artist had more to do with a way of life.

"I'm an artist, not just somebody who paints pretty colors on a canvas," he said. "That's the least of it. It's more about an attitude and a philosophy."

Dunkley said Wysocki's enthusiastic attitude was one reason the ArtWalk had been so successful in a city that knows its art.

"It's an incredible thing for the artistic community," Dunkley said. "I couldn't even begin to tell you how much work he's put into this."


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