When Katie Aldritt asked her youth drawing and painting students what they looked forward to most when things returned to “normal” she wasn’t sure what to expect–drawings of friends in school, going to the movies, a trip to the library, perhaps. What she received were drawings of the “Red Dancer,” the downtown landmark sculpture that sits just outside the front doors of the Lawrence Arts Center.
Sculptor Jan Gaumnitz donated the piece to the Arts Center more than 10 years ago after placing it on the spot for her 2009 exhibition, Altogether. The form came to her after seeing little dancers coming in and out of the building in their tiny tutus. In 2019 Gaumnitz reflected on the symbolism of the piece and how it represented the institution.
“From young children to older adults, they can find community and a creative outlet at the Lawrence Arts Center,” she said.
Community and creativity. Unfortunately, during this pandemic those two things can be difficult to come by, but they are the spirit of the Lawrence Arts Center. For the past 45 years we have worked to build a city center for contemporary exhibitions, performances, and arts education for individuals of all ages and backgrounds. And although our ability to gather physically as a community is currently diminished, our determination to foster engagement in the arts is unwavering.
Today we are using our creativity to identify new avenues to continue providing access to the arts safely while not compromising its beauty or integrity. For example, while you might not find hundreds of children passing through our doors for rehearsals, you will find them online and in small groups preparing for theatre and dance performances presented via film or online. And although you see fewer aproned students in our ceramics studios, in the windows you may see the products of their work that have been dropped off for firing after being created at home during virtual classes. Last week on our YouTube channel we brought together the artist Jos Sances and Moby-Dick scholar Elizabeth Schultz for a riveting discussion of one of our current exhibits, Or, the Whale. The arts are alive, and we are still here to serve anyone seeking a creative outlet.
We are also determined to serve the community by bringing live entertainment and celebrating film, music, art and ideas. Through a partnership with the Douglas County Fairgrounds, the Arts Center was able to throw several summer parties featuring live music and dancing–all safely socially distanced. And although the Free State Festival canceled its traditional week of events, organizers continue to bring online screenings that challenge, inspire and entertain. Story Slam is utilizing Zoom and attracting yarn-spinners both locally and beyond, and this month we will also debut online 10,000, a one-woman new play development exploring complex intersectional identities and what it takes to become resilient. Though not always in person, the entertainment community is dedicated, and we are finding safe ways to bring people together.
Despite the pandemic our mission remains: to create meaningful arts experiences with and for the community through education, exhibitions, and performances. If you have been part of our journey since March, we appreciate your support. If you’ve hesitated, we miss you. And please know that we are working hard to provide creative experiences to anyone seeking an outlet in ways that are safe and that maintain your level of comfort. #staycreative