Weekend events to celebrate Lawrence Arts Center’s 50th birthday

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The Lawrence Arts Center is celebrating five decades enhancing the local arts scene with events this weekend, including a mural unveiling and an award ceremony complete with birthday cupcakes and a champagne toast.

The center was established May 24, 1974 from a partnership between the Lawrence Arts Commission and the City of Lawrence, according to its website. It originally launched in the Carnegie Building in 1975.

In 2000, “The people of Lawrence raised $3.5 million to build a state-of-the-art facility,” according to the website. “The City agreed to match this private investment, and through this partnership, a $7 million thriving public facility and city asset was born.”

That facility, at 940 New Hampshire St., opened in 2002. The arts center in recent years has grown to include an annex, 10th & Mass Studios, and has purchased the former Salvation Army building at 946 New Hampshire St.

During the May 14 Lawrence City Commission meeting, Lawrence Arts Center CEO Margaret Weisbrod Morris spoke in support of a city proclamation that describes the center as a “vibrant cornerstone for our community for half a century.”

Margaret Weisbrod Morris

Commissioners then recognized the proclamation and announced Friday, May 24 this year as “Lawrence Arts Center Day.”

“I just want to say thank you to the commission for this proclamation and also to the community for supporting the arts center for 50 years,” she told commissioners.

To celebrate the center’s 50th birthday, events — beginning with the unveiling of a new downtown Lawrence mural that depicts figures dancing and performing music and visual art — will span across Friday and Saturday.

Friday, May 24:

• Mural unveiling: The arts center has partnered with Kansas City-based artist JT Daniels, who’s created a new mural in the alley east of 10th & Mass Studios at 1000 Massachusetts Street, Suite D.

After it’s unveiled at 5 p.m. Friday, attendees are encouraged to head over to the arts center’s main building for the next event.

• Averill Award ceremony and 50th birthday toast: Last year, the community celebrated 50 years of the Summer Youth Theatre and the launch of the Averill Award, named in honor of the Averill family — Ric and Jeanne Averill and their adult children, Will and daughter Trish Averill Neuteboom — and their contributions to local arts.

This year, the lifetime achievement award will be presented to Summer Youth Theatre alum Kari Paludan-Sorey, who has established herself in opera, musical theater, educational outreach and other areas.

Doors open at 6 p.m. Friday and performances and the awards ceremony are set to begin at 6:30 p.m. There will be a cash bar with champagne and birthday treats. Learn more about Paludan-Sorey on the event page via the center’s website, lawrenceartscenter.org

• Art for All: Anyone can participate in an installment of the center’s Art for All programming, this time creating 50th birthday artwork. That’s going on from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, as well.

• Art Tougeau street party: The center is a partner of Art Tougeau, which is also reaching a milestone this weekend — 25 years. Those celebrating the arts center are encouraged to attend the Art Tougeau street party, scheduled for 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, to see art cars and shop at Hang 12’s Alley Art Market.

Saturday, May 25:

• Art for All: Folks can again participate in making birthday artwork from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the arts center.

• Steamroller printmaking: Community members are invited to observe the final steps a class will take to create steamroller prints.

Students taught by the arts center’s printmaking artist in residence, Rachel Beer, have worked the past eight weeks on carving colossal woodcuts, according to an event page on the center’s website. They’re now ready to use a steamroller, which the City of Lawrence has provided, to print a collaborative artwork.

The class will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday and last until students run out of “steam” or until 3 p.m., whichever comes first, according to the event page.

• Art Tougeau parade: The second day of Art Tougeau will bring a parade of mobile art down Massachusetts Street. Those participating in the parade will line up at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in front of the arts center.

The parade is then set to begin at noon Saturday, and folks are encouraged to observe along the sidewalks. It will start at 11th and Massachusetts and go north to Seventh and Massachusetts, then turn and continue back to the arts center. An awards ceremony will follow shortly after.

• Sunflower Summer: Finally, the arts center encourages community members to engage this weekend with Sunflower Summer, a Kansas Tourism program that offers Kansas families free admission to statewide attractions throughout the summer.

The program launches Saturday and will remain through Sunday, Aug. 11. Download the free mobile app, available on the Apple App Store or Google Play. Check in at the arts center to support its free programming. Visit sunflowersummer.org to learn more.

The Lawrence Arts Center is at 940 New Hampshire St. in downtown Lawrence.

All 50th birthday celebration events are family-friendly with free admission, according to the website.

Visit the website, lawrenceartscenter.org, for more information.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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