In 1975, a group of Lawrencians inspired by the belief that the arts are for everyone came together around an idea: to create a place where people from all over Lawrence could experience the best in arts programming. Working in partnership with the City, they launched the Lawrence Arts Center in the historic Carnegie Library Building. Starting with art classes and a gallery, the Lawrence Arts Center grew to become a creative hub for this exceptionally imaginative town.
Following a generation of growth, by 2000 the Lawrence Arts Center had outgrown its beloved Carnegie Building. Rallying in support, the people of Lawrence raised $3.5 million to build a state of the art facility that could house the full spectrum of creativity the Arts Center was known for: its innovative preschool, dance classes, Seem-to-be-Players and Summer Youth Theatre productions, and art classes. The City agreed to match this private investment, and through this partnership, a $7 million thriving public facility and city asset was born.
Today, the Lawrence Arts Center provides contemporary exhibitions, performances, and arts education for individuals of all ages and backgrounds in a 40,000 square foot, state-of-the-art contemporary building. Completed in 2002, the facility contains a 300-seat theater, a black box theater, four exhibition galleries, two dance studios, a digital media lab, graphics and printmaking studio, photography darkroom, ceramics studio, writing lab, preschool and kindergarten classrooms and outdoor creative play spaces, painting studio, and two additional visual arts studios. Driven by high demand for Arts Center programs, in 2018 the Arts Center expanded to Studio 840, an East Lawrence performance space for dance and theatre classes, small audience productions, and community events.
Honoring the idea that artists are central to its mission, the Lawrence Arts Center offers a robust resident and visiting artist program. At the core of this program is a year-round residency that offers studio space, housing, and stipends to two artists selected each year in a highly competitive juried process.
The Free State Festival and the East Ninth Street Project demonstrate our commitment to investing in community artists, and to the economic power of art and its central role in creating a great city to live and work.
Living true to the principle that art is for everyone, the Lawrence Arts Center’s community engagement is focused on partnerships with Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence, Head Start, Cottonwood, Inc., The Children’s Shelter, Douglas County CASA, and the Juvenile Detention Center among others. With your support, we are committed to ensuring that the healing and educational power of art is accessible to all.
The mission of the Lawrence Arts Center is to create meaningful arts experiences with and for the community through education, exhibitions, and performances.
Board of Directors
Whitney Lang, Chair
Ryann Galloway Tacha, Vice Chair
Stephen Gish, Treasurer
Isabel Johnson, Secretary
Margie Wakefield, Past Chair
National Advisory Board
Strategic Development & Communications, University of Kansas Center for Public Partnerships & Research
Walnut Street L.L.C. and Co-Founder & President of Steve Tilford Foundation
Chairman of Emprise Financial Corporation, Wichita, Kansas
Deanell Reece Tacha
Retired Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit
Lawrence Arts Center CEO, 2009-2016