Topic: Lawrence Arts Center. Your comments requested.

Hello all.I'll be doing an interview next Tuesday with David Leamon, the new director of the Lawrence Arts Center. He's been in charge for 40 days.Does the Arts Center represent the community? Is it an asset to the community? What needs fixing? What’s good?I'd appreciate your input on the Arts Center: opinions, observations, experiences and questions for Mr. Leamon.


Jill Ensley 13 years ago

It's certainly an asset to the community. My feelings about the LAC are mixed. It's been doing better on the snobbery front, but awhile back there was a feeling of inaccessibility when you walked in. Maybe it was the former front office attitude (note: I said former). They've been doing better by bringing in new, younger-and-not-bitchier blood. I'd say, be careful not to go back to that. Engage the public more. Be a part OF the community, not simply take up space. Don't act like you're the only game in town and lighten it up a bit. Maybe that won't help with the Current Economic Situation, but making EVERYONE feel welcome is the first step in getting the public to care and dig deep.Also, bring back the mural.

Brooke Goc 13 years ago

What are Mr. Leamon's objectives during his first year with the LAC?Which lessons learned from overhauling the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library will shape his priorities and choices?How does he propose to expand (or just maintain) accessibility, visibility, and community involvement in this lean economic time?

smerdyakov 13 years ago

How are artists selected for exhibit in the main galleries?And why are new exhibits seemingly so few and far between? It would be great to be able to count on a regular opening at the LAC a la First Fridays in the Crossroads.

Jason Barr 13 years ago

Hmmmm. I still have 1 semester @ KU. I use the printmaking lab there. I suppose I'll have to check out the arts center when I can no longer use the presses @ KU. That being said....I think I've been inside the place less than 8 times. I saw the Hobo Texino doc in the basement, visited the ill named Vintage Church, and attended the craft fair. It kinda has the feel of a pre-school....or it feels too yuppie for me. What about bringing more visiting artists? I'd definitely come out more to hear lectures. AND that sculpture out front looks like Hobby Lobby barfed there.

leslie 13 years ago

What are the plans to restructure the finances, so the Arts Center doesn't live or die by earned income and auction sales?Smerdy, as things are now, the LAC doesn't have the budget or manpower to rotate the exhibits on a 4-week schedule (sadly). Maybe once the economy improves. Would also like to know if Leaman feels the Board is working with him, rather than against him...

leslie 13 years ago

Also, give us the real answer: Is the Arts Center really about to close its doors? Rumors abound!

smerdyakov 13 years ago

That's interesting, Leslie —I would be curious then, what kind of budget it takes to put on a new exhibit with opening every month? And is there a feasible way to draw on volunteer manpower to get to a 4-week schedule? I have in mind the kind of thing Molly does down at the Pig, only drawing on more than just one volunteer to curate, promote, and run the events. With volunteers things might get a little hairy now and again, but seems like that would just add to the vitality and community involvement at Arts Center events.

leslie 13 years ago

One of the thorns for the Arts Center, in my opinion, is the size of that massive gallery. It takes A LOT of art to fill those walls. Volunteers may be possible, but you do need specific skills to curate, hang & light art correctly, pack and unpack, obtain insurance for each work, and time to de-install the previous show. Add to this the education mission of the Arts Center, which makes programming—lectures, films, etc—imperative to support the exhibits. The LAC exhibits needs additional staffing to increase the vitality.

tomking 13 years ago

From Anonymous:I would formulate the question of the emptiness of the theatre schedule along with the question of why music performances have dropped off so significantly. XXX used to play a regular gig there when the new building opened, which was cancelled due to "financial concerns". Another question: a follow up meeting and several discussions were held regarding the art auction, how to improve it, how to promote the artists to the public in advance and how to maximize fundraising while being fair to the artists... as of late January, there have been no notifications to artists for donations, no advertising or publicity for an event that happens in March (usually). This will not only catch artists off guard when they are asked to donate at the last minute, it suggests the questions formed last year have been completely disregarded and this year may yield even more problems at the auction. 3: There is a gallery committee. It has not met in many months, and so its members have no idea of or say in what happens in the gallery. 4: A number of meetings and public forums happened last year to discuss what could be done to reach out to young artists and art collectives, but nothing has happened since. The collectives and young galleries have little to no contact with the arts center except when THEY invite arts center directors to participate in shows or events... virtually noone from the arts center attends local shows or events with the exception of Ben Alhvers. I could go on, but that seems like a good start... geez.

tomking 13 years ago

From Jenny Selig:I haven't lived in Lawrence since early 2001 and I have never worked at the new Arts Center, so I don't know how valuable my input will be for your interview, but I have fond memories of teaching puppet and mask-making classes to preschoolers and acting in original shows with young people, peers, and adults in the old space. I hope that the Lawrence Arts Center will continue to be a venue for young and emerging artists, including original works and compositions, as well as a place that takes risks on people new to the educational side of the arts. Does the Center continue its after-school programs in area schools?

tomking 13 years ago

From Scary Manilow:What can he do to make the buliding look less like a prison guardhouse?

tomking 13 years ago

From Anonymous:How will his run at the art center be any different than the people that came before him and if he plans on being more transparent?

tomking 13 years ago

From Craig Comstock:Could the Arts Center have anything to do with fostering the avant-garde/experimenatal music/noise scene in Lawrence, KS?Does the Arts Center collaborate/coordinate activities with the KU Art & Music department or KC Art Institute?

tomking 13 years ago

From Patrick Giroux:The "Unsung" and the "MUNNY" exhibits were some of the more exciting art shows I've seen in awhile. Could those shows (or show like them) become a yearly event?

Whizit 13 years ago

The Arts center is doing some good things. There have been several good shows in the past year and we are grateful for the "Unsung" and "Munny" shows. It is good to see young artist taken seriously. Continuing to provide space to Emu theater, offering good classes and bringing in resident artists are a few things that I would like to see continue. It's hard to say wether or not the Arts center is doing it's job. What is the job of the arts center? It definitely does not feel like the center of anything especially this rad art scene that has arisen in the past few years. I think it is important to continue the family vibe but be open to more avant-guard. Encourage silliness, edginess and downright stupidity from time to time. Let us paint the side of the building and get some sculptures in that huge unused lawn!I think the Arts Center is a valuable asset to the community. I also think that is could be better. Get some young artists on the board to help stir some things up and make it a bit more enticing to visit on a regular basis.

tomking 12 years, 12 months ago

From Anonymous:With no disrespect to current teachers and staff, why aren't more of Lawrence's incredibly talented and experienced artists (theater, music, visual, etc.) teaching there? Artists need jobs. The Art Center needs quality teachers. I don't get it. Is it the pay? A lack of initiative on the LAC's part? Or is it an entrenched sense of entitlement that keeps the LAC from seeking to enhance its programming with new blood?

tomking 12 years, 12 months ago

From Anonymous:A couple (obvious and maybe difficult) questions may be:- How does the arts center see itself evolving and becoming more relevant to the local arts. This is not about educating. What is the "art" that the Arts Center represents and how is it relevant today and in the near future? - The annual arts center auction is fast approaching. Will there be any changes to how the auction will be handled after the community discussion about the aucion last year? How does this reinforce the Arts Center's role in the community as a leader in the arts and a supporter of artists?- What is on the calendar for exhibitions at the arts center in 2009 and how do these exhibitions engage the community and position the arts center as an arts leader in the region?

Adri Pendergrass 12 years, 12 months ago

In response to anonymous (posted by Tom King; two comments above mine). I agree. The economy is arguably in disrepair, but it would be nice to see the Arts Center thrive in spite. I can think of several artists offhand who would be willing to trade space use time for lessons. Perhaps there is some way to benefit local artists, the public, and the Arts Center all at once.For my own question, I am curious to know what the Arts Centers' goal for incorporating local theatre companies entails. There are several wonderful spaces in the building, one of which (the Black Box Classroom) will eventually be converted into non-performable space. The large space is very costly to rent. As a result, I fear the DIY theatre outfits may have to look elsewhere in Lawrence. I would hate for local companies to lose the opportunity to work with the Arts Center and bring in both audiences and revenue, however small they may be. Also, what grants are being looked into? Is the Arts Center doing all it can to be a fully funded entity? As a whole, I feel the Arts Center is an invaluable asset to the community. I have done some work with E.M.U. Theatre and Seem To Be Players through the Arts Center; both were and still are positive experiences for me. I hope that the LAC will take whatever steps necessary to continue as a thriving resource for the entire Lawrence community.

PatrickJoseph 12 years, 12 months ago

What is the Art Center going to change the space to?

Adri Pendergrass 12 years, 12 months ago

What i have heard is that the current black box theater will be converted into storage space. Supposedly they are building a new black box space somewhere else in the Arts Center, but I have heard (hearsay, completely) that the two projects will not overlap, leaving the large theater as the only performance space for some time. I am more looking to receive clarification on this matter than promote further hearsay.

Lee Saylor 12 years, 12 months ago

As far the Performance Studio (a.k.a black box) is concerned, this is the first time that I have heard that it is being closed. And since I am the one responsible for scheduling this space, I can tell you that I am currently scheduling it out as far as June 2010, and have applied for grants to upgrade the equipment in that room. My commitment and the LAC's commitment to Lawrence Theater is not wavering and is as strong as ever.--Lee

Molly Murphy 12 years, 11 months ago

I just received my donation request for the art auction a couple of days ago. It does seem a bit late considering the extensive meeting held about how to improve the quality of the auction. One thing that has been taken into account, there will be an online directory of donated artworks, but it appears little else has changed.

ricaverill 12 years, 11 months ago

Ric Averill here - (that's my screen name and my real name even though the little parenthesis claim I'm anonymous) I wonder at the number of anonymous comments and questions that found their way into both this section and the questions Tom asked David in the online article. It's very easy to 'run the zoo' better than the current caretakers from the outside - and especially easy to take pot shots when you don't have to reveal who you are. I think it's a sad state of journalistic affairs when the tradition of not publishing letters to the editor without a name and address is jettisoned online and allows web bloggers to shoot from the hip without being accountable for their own comments.BTW - I have NO idea where the rumor about the Black Box Theatre came, except possibly because a group of KU Architectural students drew up designs for a dream Arts Center IF we could expand across the entire block. In THOSE drawings, there were conversions of the space and replacement with even more exciting Black Box type performing arts spaces. There were also additional gallery spaces, new looks for the center and, of course, a dreamy amount of expansion of services possible because of additional space.Over the past two years, the Arts Center staff has met with members of the Music, Art, and Dance scene and talked dreams, visions, new ideas - some of these lack funding in order to be realized, some will take a little more time (and new leadership) and others are coming to fruition - like several youthful gallery shows, the new film series (come see HORROR AT THE CENTER this Thursday) new dance works, family and age appropriate theatre performances (come see THE ICE WOLF) and collaborations with the University and community groups (like the Spencer Art Museum).Proud to be an employee of the Lawrence Arts Center and a huge supporter of new work, new art and new artists - Ric Averill

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