Final Fridays organizers envision full-time city position to promote arts

Lawrence resident Douglas Underwood walks by a display of photographs during a First Friday event in downtown Lawrence. Organizers of the event are now envisioning a new full-time city position that would promote the arts and work to bring “creative industries” to the city.

Lawrence resident Douglas Underwood walks by a display of photographs during a First Friday event in downtown Lawrence. Organizers of the event are now envisioning a new full-time city position that would promote the arts and work to bring “creative industries” to the city.

Final Fridays may just be the beginning.

Organizers of the year-and-a-half-old monthly arts event in downtown Lawrence are now envisioning a new full-time city position that would promote the arts and work to bring “creative industries” to the city.

“The results have been more positive than even we expected,” said Eric Kirkendall, an organizer of the Final Fridays event, and a co-author of a study that attempts to quantify the economic impact of the event. “Our recommendations going forward really are focused on the city considering the cultural arts and creativity as a major part of their economic development strategy.”

The study included results from a survey that attempted to quantify the economic impacts from November’s Final Fridays event, which featured various gallery shows and performances. Among the findings were:

• A team of volunteers counted about 2,700 visitors who attended various art venues as part of the Final Fridays event.

• A random survey of 191 people found that visitors planned to spend about $31 per person as part of the event, with the bulk of the spending on souvenirs/gifts and meals and refreshments.

• Using the survey results, the study estimates that the November event generated about $80,000 in spending for the community.

• Businesses were mixed on how they believed the event affected their sales. Of the 24 businesses that responded to a Downtown Lawrence Inc. survey, seven reported that Final Fridays resulted in an increase in sales. The majority of businesses, however, said they did not think the event affected their sales. In addition, seven art galleries reported art sales of just more than $6,000 at the November event.

Kirkendall said arts supporters likely will lobby the City Commission this summer for funding to create a new city arts position. Kirkendall said he doesn’t yet have an estimate on how much the city would need to invest in the position.

But he said the idea has been used in other comparable cities. He said Fort Collins, Colo., Bloomington, Ind., and Chapel Hill, N.C., all have city positions devoted to arts or cultural development.

Kirkendall said any position in Lawrence should go beyond just organizing and promoting arts events. He said a new position also would market Lawrence to businesses that rely on creativity. He said such businesses could include firms in the sciences, architecture, advertising, engineering and other similar fields.

“I think the key to success in the future is for Lawrence to become part of a creative hub,” Kirkendall said. “We think a fairly modest investment could pay huge dividends in the long run.”

City funding for any new position likely will be tight in the 2013 budget, but City Commissioner Hugh Carter said he wants to study the idea further.

He said a more detailed plan about how a new position could “leverage the city’s arts culture” is needed before he could commit to a new City Hall post.

But Carter said he agrees with the idea that the arts and “creative industries” can be a larger part of the city’s economic development efforts.

“We have some real resources here, and I can definitely see how some coordination of efforts could be a big part of being successful,” Carter said. Kirkendall said the Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission likely will request a study session with the City Commission later this year. In the meantime, Final Friday organizers will explore ways to better market the event and create some events on Saturdays in order to give out-of-town art aficionados more of an incentive to stay overnight in the city.


homechanger 10 years, 5 months ago

Great idea. lawrence needs higher taxes to employ another bureaucrat. Full time? I would love to see how the new art coordinator spends 40 hours per week. I will bet Kirkendall is the first to apply.

overthemoon 10 years, 5 months ago

If the investment in a single employee generates more than that position costs in both money spent and jobs created in the community then its worth it.

optimist 10 years, 5 months ago

For the city to take on this endeavor would be redundant and wasteful. As a return on investment the person in this position would have to generate nearly $2M in taxable local sales to make it a viable business investment. This assumes this position would require little to no additional resources or support from other city staffers. Given the numbers we've seen in the story I don't see it. Besides we already have an entity that is privately funded that can " Lawrence to businesses that rely on creativity", including "...firms in the sciences, architecture, advertising, engineering and other similar fields". We refer to them as the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.

I'm willing to bet that Lawrence Chamber would be willing to partner with the arts community to the mutual benefit of the arts and business. Sounds like a partnership made in heaven. This is just simply not a role for the city government or an expense the taxpayers should be forced to pay just because some other community is doing it. As my parents always used to say to me, "...if your friends were jumping off a bridge..."

George_Braziller 10 years, 5 months ago

How is it redundant? The city and the Chamber aren't marketing or promoting the arts and there isn't anyone coordinating any of it. Different entities and event organizers do their own marketing and promotion (some better than others) but it isn't done as one big "package."

I sold at two events in November and had $1,000+ in sales on which I collected sales tax. I also paid sales tax on my materials and supplies for the things I sold.

Someone coordinating and promoting Lawrence as an arts destination means I sell more (and collect more sales tax), need to buy more supplies (more sales tax), people eat at a restaurant or stay at a motel/hotel (more sales tax).

It wouldn't happen the first year, but if it was done correctly, within two or three years there wouldn't be any problem with generating $2M in direct and related taxable sales in one year.

Orwell 10 years, 5 months ago

Expect more anti-arts wisdom from the commenters who know the price of everything – and the value of nothing.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 5 months ago

This study demonstrates that the nonprofit arts and culture industry is an economic driver in communities—a growth industry that supports jobs, revenue, and is the cornerstone of tourism.

Nationally, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $166.2 billion in economic activity every year—$63.1 billion in spending by organizations and an additional $103.1 billion in event-related spending by their audiences.

The study is the most comprehensive study of the nonprofit arts and culture industry ever conducted. It documents the economic impact of the nonprofit arts and culture industry in 156 communities and regions (116 cities and counties, 35 multicounty regions, and five states), and represents all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The $166.2 billion in total economic activity has a significant national impact, generating the following:

* $5.7 million full-time equivalent jobs
*$104.2 billion in household income
*$7.9 billion in local government tax revenues
*$9.1 billion in state government tax revenues
*$12.6 billion in federal income tax revenues

Our Arts & Economic Prosperity studies continue to be among the most frequently cited statistics used to demonstrate the impact of the nation’s nonprofit arts industry on the local, state, and national economy.

  1. Economic Impact :

  2. Information and Services:


Richard Heckler 10 years, 5 months ago

Is investing in the arts, as it relates to placemaking, profitable? Try this quote, coming from a real estate development organization (ULI), “There is a growing body of evidence that thoughtful investment in arts and culture initiatives can generate significant economic benefits for cities large and small.

Looking at data collected across numerous studies, along with the broad array of recent arts and culture plans and projects, one will likely conclude that the right strategy and implementation approach—whether initiated by the public sector or by private interests—can result in significant increases in property values, revenues, and jobs.“

Finally, what are the key ingredients in creative placemaking success? The report provides its six Components of Successful Arts-Oriented Placemaking Initatives, as follows:

  1. Creative Initiator - Finding that one person or small team that starts it all.
  2. Designing Around Distinctiveness - Build on existing expertise and characteristics of place.
  3. Mobilizing [Government Will]
  4. Garnering Private Sector Support
  5. Securing Arts Community Engagement - This is more than working with arts leaders, this is about crowd sourcing the time and investment of thousands of its patrons.
  6. Building Partnerships - Figuring out a way for all of the above to work together.

So, who’s your community’s Creative Initiator?...

Richard Heckler 10 years, 5 months ago

Kansas City is known as the City of Fountains.

It is famed for its rich art scene, including the Plaza Art Fair, which is in the top five ranked art fairs in the nation, and the thriving Crossroads Arts District.

Also convenient are numerous great museums, galleries and performing arts centers.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 5 months ago

How many places do you know that are both historic and hip?

With diverse, first-class shopping and dining, creative arts venues, and festive happenings all year round, Downtown Holland is the place to be.

You can enjoy the funky street performers in the summer as you stroll past the traditional Victorian architecture. Delight in a festive Tulip Time parade and then experience a stimulating art exhibit.

Shop at a trendy boutique or a tried-and-true clothier. Satisfy your hunger at a brew pub for lunch and an elegant restaurant for dinner.

And join in all the holiday activities without a slip, thanks to the snowmelt system on our streets and sidewalks. Find out why Downtown Holland has earned the “Great American Mainstreet” award and the accolades of thousands of tourists each year.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 5 months ago

Can The Arts Save Your Small Town

=============================================================== Nestled in the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, breathtakingly beautiful Boulder, Colorado, is the place to be for outdoor enthusiasts. Approximately 30,000** of Boulder's residents are students at the University of Colorado, one of the greenest universities on the planet, according to the Sierra Club's "Cool School" rating. Boulder was recently rated the #1 Sports Town in America by Outside magazine, but hikers, cyclists and mountain bikers, skiers and rock climbers aren't the only people who flock to the city.

Boulder's vibrant culture, thriving art scene and renowned music, dance, film and Shakespeare festivals draw people of every interest. For a real sense of the people who live here, stroll along Pearl Street's pedestrian mall and rub shoulders with just about everyone in town. Is it any wonder Boulder is known as America's "Happiest and Healthiest City 1," and ranks as one of "America's Top 25 Towns to Live Well2," "Best Places to Live—The 30 Coolest Neighborhoods3," "Top 25 Cities for Small Art4" and, of course, "Coolest College Towns5"?

============================================================== Nicknamed "the Southern Part of Heaven," Chapel Hill is home to the University of North Carolina (the oldest public university in the United States)—and legendary Tar Heel basketball (2009 Division 1/Men's Champions—and that's a little bit of Southern heaven, too!).

Both the town and the school date back to the late eighteenth century, but the vibe here is totally fresh with a thriving downtown scene, featuring an eclectic mix of: shops and restaurants the FRANK (Franklin Street Arts Collective) and museums * a planetarium, sports memorabilia and performing arts—all within walking distance from one another on the Mile of Culture.

When the sun goes down, Chapel Hill offers a hot mix of rock, blues, jazz, alternative music—and dancing—every night of the year. Nickel Creek, Lyle Lovett, Tony Bennett and Bonnie Raitt have all played here, while clubs like Local 506, The Cave and Nightlight offer a constantly changing lineup of bands and DJs for anyone who wants to shake some booty.

Best of all, getting around Chapel Hill couldn't be easier: Chapel Hill Transit services approximately 25 miles throughout the Chapel Hill, UNC and Carrboro communities. And everyone rides free!

Richard Heckler 10 years, 5 months ago

Final Fridays are obvious. Lots of people not only on Mass street but also on New Hampshire which is a little unusual for New Hampshire.

Clark Coan 10 years, 5 months ago

I'd rather use tax monies for an Environmental Planner. When the economy recovers, then think about an arts coordinator.

homechanger 10 years, 5 months ago

I think the money should be spent on a sensitivity coordinator. That way we could market our sensitive side to any industries who need sensitive men and women to produce goods and services. I want to live among the softest men in the country and they can be found right here in Lawrence. Men who are most comfortable in the submissive fetal position.

Don Whiteley 10 years, 5 months ago

If the city hires this position, the taxes to fund it should be placed on the businesses and artisans who directly benefit, not on the population in general. We have enough people in Lawrence who earn no or little income, wanting everyone else to pay for their ideas.

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