Bringing the Arts to Lawrence
Ever since Fort Benjamin Harrison was closed in 1996, the old US Army base transformation has included residential housing, an 18-hole golf course, and Fort Benjamin Harrison State Park. And while the City of Lawrence, along with the Fort Benjamin Harrison Reuse Authority, is anxious to see the new commercial face of Lawrence, another group is working to rally the arts community.
The Partnership for Lawrence (“PFL”) was established five years ago as a 501(c3) non-profit with the mission to promote the arts in Lawrence Township. Judy Byron, a resident artist living on Lawton Loop overlooking the old parade grounds, is the President of the 501(c3) non-profit.
“Lawrence has a rich history of ethnic diversity as seen in it’s churches, groceries and restaurants. The city has 11 community parks and a 1,700 acre state park connected to the Indy Greenways trail system,” said Byron. “We want to add the arts to this list of notable assets.”
Like the name implies, the PFL looks to carry out their mission by partnering with other organizations, schools, and businesses to raise awareness and accessibility of all forms of art. To celebrate the arts, the volunteer board members organize every-other-month networking mixers in Lawrence homes and businesses called “Toast the Arts.” Local artisans are showcased and on-hand to network with art lovers who are entertained by local musicians. At the end of each 2-hour meet and greet, guests raise their champagne glasses in a toast to the arts of Lawrence. Organizers utilize Facebook.com and atGeist.net to spread the word.
For example, in May of this year, Geist oil painting artist Karen Seltzer and the Warren Central High School Jazz Ensemble were featured at the Sterrett Center in Lawrence. Chef Suzanne, a local personal chef, catered the appetizers and Ray Cox, owner of Elite Beverages, donated the wine and champagne.
“It’s a great way to meet local artists, hear some great music, and meet other people that have an appreciation for the arts,” said Byron.
And while momentum has been building, its hard to believe that the PFL was almost dissolved late last year.
When the PFL was organized in 2003, board members were appointed by then Mayor Deborah Cantwell and a 10-year lease was given to the group for the historic Main Post Theater next door to the Sterrett Center. Original plans were to bring performances to the old 250-seat theater; infusing some art, entertainment, and commerce into Lawrence’s historic downtown. Those plans were all but killed in 2008 when the City of Lawrence took back the theater and many of the original board members resigned.
“It was heartbreaking at first,” said Sharon Hirsch, a founding board member and wife of Stan Hirsch, attorney for the City of Lawrence. “We decided to pull up our boot straps and carry on with our mission to promote the arts, with or without the theater.”
To that end, PFL board members have been working on their first art fair called “Artique,” which will be held on Saturday, November 14th at Louis Jenn Park (just west of Sunnyside at 10450 E. 63rd Street). Over 20 local artists will have their wares showcased and for sale, including handmade jewelry and handbags, paintings, photography, wood turnings and more. Free admission and parking will be available, as well as entertainment throughout the day. In true “Toast the Arts” fashion, a toast to the arts will culminate the event around 5:00 p.m. when the winner of the People’s Choice award is announced and the silent auction ends.
Artique will also be the launch of a new revenue model for the PFL. Single ($30), family ($50), and corporate ($300) memberships will be solicited to raise funds for the arts group who hopes to acquire a traveling art collection featuring the works of local Lawrence artists. Grants are also being sought to start a community Arts center.
“We’ve come a long way in just 12 months, but we have a long way to go,” added Byron. “We want to reach out to everyone in the greater Lawrence area that supports the arts community.”
For more information about the Partnership for Lawrence or the Artique event, visit www.pflinc.org or email Judy Byron at email@example.com.