Saturday, April 26, 2014

U.S. Department of Arts and Culture

It's a great honor to have been selected as one of the founding Cultural Agents for the new U.S. Department of Arts and Culture. Later this summer, Lawrence, KS will help launch the USDAC with a major event - stay tuned. Here is our declaration -


access to culture is a fundamental human right;

culture is created by all and thus should represent all;

cultural diversity is a social good and the wellspring of free expression;

a deep investment in creativity is critical to cultivating empathy and social imagination;

art and artists are powerful forces for accomplishing social change and strengthening social fabric;



Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Rocket Grants Rocketeer

This past winter I had the pleasure of being invited to create new images for the Rocket Grants program. (The program, now in its fifth round, provides direct funding to artists in the Kansas City region for innovative, public-oriented projects in non-traditional spaces. I received a grant in 2012 for my project Give Take Give.) In 2012 and 2013, artists created fantastic drawings that incorporated all of that round's winning projects into one image.

Charlie Mylie, 2012

Drew Roth, 2013

Unlike past years, my task was to create one or two images that represented the spirit of the program as a whole as opposed to illustrating all of the individual projects. Initially I was drawn to the idea of giant space rocket engines and the engineers who design and maintain them - so magnificently complex and cool looking. Later I recalled my own memories of rockets and how I propelled them to fly on missions far far away as a kid (one of my first memories is being awakened by my dad in the middle of the night to watch the first moon landing).

And of course there was the jet pack, my dream and desire ever since I saw the James Bond movie "Thunderball." This was probably the most direct symbol for the lift-off the grants program can provide artists, and it turned out to be the one that the Rocket Grants folks wanted me to develop. I worked it up from a quick sketch to this spraypaint stencil. In the final image, a Rocket Grantee takes off over the skyline of Kansas City captivated by a v-shaped arrow of migrating geese heading south.

The Rocketeer premiered in February and since then has appeared in a growing number of unexpected places...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Deal to re-create popular mural at Ninth and New Hampshire streets in the works

by Chad Lawhorn
from the Lawrence Journal-World

April 8, 2014

A deal is in the works to recreate a popular downtown mural at Ninth and New Hampshire streets, although in a significantly smaller form.

Lawrence city commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting were told the Spencer Museum of Art and a Lawrence-based development group had reached a tentative deal that would allow local artist Dave Loewenstein to either recreate or refashion the popular Pollinators mural on the wall of a new multistory building slated for the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

But leaders with Kansas University's Spencer museum conceded the new artwork would be about half the size of the current mural, which is on the wall of a building that will be torn down to make room for the new seven-story apartment/office building.

Susan Earle, curator for the Spencer, said design details for the new mural hadn't been finalized. She said Loewenstein's new work probably wouldn't be a copy of the Pollinators, which honors several Black artists who have roots in Kansas. But she said the new work certainly would be true to the spirit of the original work, which was created in 2007 as part of an exhibit on famed artist Aaron Douglas.

KU leaders also said they will be seeking an unspecified amount of city funding for the new mural. The development group — which is led by Lawrence businessmen Doug Compton and Mike Treanor — has agreed to pay $20,000 toward the mural project. Spencer officials are estimating the project will cost about $50,000. Commissioners took no action on the mural but asked both parties to bring back a signed agreement on the issue.

Below is my letter to the editor about this proposal,  published in the Saturday, April 12th Lawrence Journal-World -

To the editor,

Our visual environment, what stories and voices we see represented around us, speaks loudly for who we are and what we value. In Lawrence we aspire (I believe) to openness, diversity and the celebration of a rich and meaningful heritage.

Insuring that the “Pollinators” mural and the story it embodies continue to have a significant presence in our downtown says that we as a community recognize the importance of the great African-American artists depicted, and how their legacy helps to define who we are as Kansans.

I am grateful to the Spencer Museum of Art and the more than 500 individuals I have heard from for their support and thoughtful suggestions. As a work of art made by and for the community, this mural is a shared cultural trust. Not unlike the way we protect and conserve important historical places and architecture, the “Pollinators” and the resonant stories within it are worthy of our care. The Spencer’s proposal, although it is a compromise of scale, expresses that care and keeps the mural where it belongs.

I also appreciate the willingness of the developer and architect to financially and logistically support the mural’s continued life in the heart of downtown. The Spencer Museum’s proposal, when agreed to and carried out, will show that private developers, the university, the city and neighborhood residents can work together in significant ways that support the larger community.

As Lawrence moves forward embracing arts and culture as integral to community life, let’s keep this project in mind. It demonstrates beautifully how art can be woven into the fabric of our bustling downtown, helping to fully express what it means to be a Lawrencian and a Kansan.