Sunday, April 22, 2012

Plans for studios for artists in Lawrence seem too good to be true

Dream studio space: studio of artists Ruben Toledo

East Lawrence is a hub for artists and musicians of Lawrence; the rent is cheaper than other places in Lawrence and it's close to Downtown.  East Lawrence leaders, like KT Walsh, are serious about keeping its historic and artisitc integrity.  East Lawrence groups have been vocal about blocking development that does not fit the East Lawrence vision of integration, and are successful in blocking projects. 

Currently, there are investors who have plans to create loft spaces in empty industrial buildings in East Lawrence.  These developers are probably aware that former projects such as these have been rejected by the city commission due to pressure from groups like The East Lawrence Neigborhood Association, so they are dangling a carrot in in front of us in the form of promises for artist studios, gallery, and sculpture park. Developers are gambling that art loving Lawrencians will not only back this plan, but give them monetary incentives. 

The developers are good at telling the public and artists exactly what we they want to hear, stroking art egos much like a modeling agency promising desperate teens a career if only they paid for lessons and photo sessions.  One developer, George Paley, is quoted as saying in the LJWorld "I’ve always had a vision of Lawrence becoming the Santa Fe of the Midwest."  LJW continues: "Paley is convinced the studio space, when coupled with the new Poehler apartments — most of which are rent-controlled because of the use of state tax credits — will attract artists and innovators from wide and far to locate in Lawrence." According to the LJWorld, another developer, Krsnich, states “It really has happened by accident, but now I’ll be surprised if this area doesn’t become known as Lawrence’s arts district”

We are skeptical of this plan. To know the Lawrence market is to know that most artists here are not selling enough work to justify rent for studio space on top of other expenses (for reasons including the economic collapse which affected all industry and a saturated market). The studio spaces would be too small for serious artists.  If people were to move into these spaces, who would they be, art enthusiasts?  Even if there was a plan for free studio and exhibition space for artists, such as the studio residencies awarded by an application process by The Charlotte Street Foundation in Kansas City, what non-paid panel in Lawrence would decide which artists would receive these?  Who would run the gallery and maintain the sculpture park?  Would these positions be funded through city taxes?

Toledo working in his New York studio

More on the plans: 
Here is more of the plan according to the Journal World article: One of the buildings will have a ground floor art gallery with an outdoor reception space, while small offices will occupy the second floor.
Next door, Paley is leading a group that includes several faculty members from Kansas University who hope to create a center for artists, scientists and technology innovators to collaborate on projects. Paley and his group have preliminarily secured an approximately 20,000-square-foot former T-shirt warehouse that is just south of Eighth and Pennsylvania streets. Plans are in the works to fill the building with studio space for artists and innovators.  
Krsnich said he "is working to secure about two acres of vacant property on the west side of Eighth and Pennsylvania streets to create an outdoor sculpture park and place for small outdoor concerts or arts events."

deKooning in his studio

Poehler Party
On May 5, Krsnich will host a "neighborhood party" where developers will try to wine and dine us to promote their plan.  It will be from 2-5 pm at the corner of Eighth and Pennsylvania streets.  It will include music from live bands, refreshments, and an opportunity to view progress on the project.  We'll keep you updated on which bands will play and if they serve beer that will meet the high standards of @larryvillelife.  
The LJWorld article can be read here:

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