Public invited to meet finalists for new city arts director

Before Lawrence hires its first director of arts and culture, members of the community will have a chance to meet him or her.

The three finalists for the newly created position will be the guests of honor at a public meet and greet and reception at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St.

"This position will have a key role in working with many citizens, artists and arts organizations in Lawrence," assistant city manager Diane Stoddard said. "The reception is an opportunity for anyone who would like to meet the candidates and hear their thoughts on arts and culture in Lawrence."

The city did a national search and received about 100 applications for the position, Stoddard said.

The finalists — which include one Lawrence resident and a Kansas University graduate — are:

• Christina McClelland of Denver, public art coordinator for the city and county of Denver. McClelland previously worked as public arts coordinator for the city of Urbana, Ill., and holds a master of fine arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

• Lisa Overholser of Albany, N.Y., director of programs for the New York Folklore Society and an instructor at Empire State College (arts management and arts entrepreneurship) and at Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (humanities and music). Overholser holds a master’s degree in music history and piano performance from KU and a doctorate in ethnomusicology/folklore from Indiana University.

• Josh Powers of Lawrence, public transportation manager for the Kansas Department of Transportation and formerly an art gallery owner and communications coordinator for the Mid-America Arts Alliance. He also has worked in public relations and communications for the Department of Transportation. Powers has a master’s degree in public administration from KU and resides here with his wife and three daughters.

The new hire will lead an effort to develop a city-wide cultural plan, coordinate grants, administer programs of the Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission and coordinate efforts to enhance the creative sector in Lawrence, according to the city’s description of the job.

The city’s decision to create the position was cited among reasons ArtPlace America recently awarded the Arts Center a $500,000 creative placemaking grant. The grant project, which calls for making over Ninth Street east of downtown, will probably be one of the first big projects the arts and culture director coordinates.

At Wednesday’s reception, candidates will informally introduce themselves and mingle with the public. The event is free, and light refreshments will be served.

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