Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Lawrence Imagining

On Sunday, June 29th Lawrence will be one of seventeen cities across the country that help launch the new U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC) with an interactive event we're calling an "Imagining." It will take place from 2:00 to 5:00 pm at Stidham Union on the campus of Haskell Indian Nations University. The event is free and open to all, young and old, who are passionate about Lawrence.

Our Imagining will be a vibrant, arts-infused gathering in which we envision Lawrence's ideal future and identify creative tactics to get there. Part performance, part facilitated dialogue, part celebration, this first Imagining will bring together diverse groups of artists, organizers, and community members to imagine what our neighborhoods (and the world) might look like in the year 2034, when art’s transformative power has been fully integrated into all aspects of public life.

Conceptually, our Imagining will be inspired by fellow time-travelers like H.G. Wells, L. Frank Baum and Doctor Who, meaning we are in the design stage of building a time portal – really. Those who come to our Imagining will leave 2014 behind as they enter our handmade portal that transports them to the year 2034.

After finding their bearings in the future, groups of imaginers will work together to explore how Lawrence has been transformed after twenty years of being infused with the vision of the USDAC and probably a few ways in which that vision fell short and other interests prevailed. In order to report back to us, in the present, they’ll fashion time capsules that go in reverse, each of them placed inside a larger vessel (a giant seed or message in a bottle?) that will be transported back through the portal to the here and now.

You are encouraged to join us for this unique journey.

 Find out more about the USDAC and all of the Imaginings here  - 
And the Lawrence Journal-World article here.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Astra Arts Festival mural project in Independence, Kansas

At the beginning of July, I'll be in Independence, Kansas working on a new mural for the first Astra Arts Festival.

Supported in large part by an Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, this new festival will compliment the community's other two well known annual gatherings, Neewollah (think Halloween backwards) and the William Inge Theater Festival. Included along with our mural project (and another mural by the graffiti artist Gear) there will be a full ten days of events that span music, theater, literature and the visual arts. 

The mural wall at the corner of Pennsylvania & Laurel

A big thanks goes out to Karla Prickett who contacted me about the project. Karla, who has been doing amazing things with the Salina Arts and Humanities Commission for years, also helped coordinate a mural I did there in 2010 called "Waiting in the Wings."

The Astra Mural Project began in earnest this March when my partner Ashley and I visited Independence to host introductory community meetings and brainstorming sessions. They were held at the Public Library, an original Carnegie Library that has been expanded and adapted to serve contemporary needs. It's a wonderful place, recognized by Library Journal and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2012 as the best small Town Library in America.

Riverside Park Fun-Ful slide

Fun-Ful playground equipment catalog

Joined by our project manager Donna Rothgeb, mural apprentice Rachel Unruh and a host of local residents, we discussed and drew, wrote and presented, eventually coming up with enough material for at least ten murals. Among the many attributes of Independence mentioned were the countless features of Riverside Park,  Little House on the Prairie, Independence Community College, former Governor Alf Landon and Independence's long tradition of community festivals. After a couple more visits to narrow down our theme and gather some fantastic drawings from students at Jefferson Elementary School, we began putting the design together back in Lawrence.

Rachel Unruh at work on the color study

Rachel visited Lawrence in mid-June as I was putting the finishing touches on the final design and the color study was just beginning. On June 19th we met back in Independence with the design team for final approval. They gave the design an enthusiastic the thumbs up,  so we're on our way!