Artists for the East Ninth Street Project in Lawrence were announced Tuesday – and all have ties to Kansas or Missouri. The project calls for streetscape improvements and art along 9th Street from downtown to the city’s east side, to help make the corridor more walkable and bike-friendly.
“This is a combined funding program with an ArtPlace grant that was received by the Lawrence Arts Center, along with capital improvement funds from the city for the streetscape,” says Porter Arneill, director of arts and culture, who facilitated the artist selection process. “So it’s kind of marrying a grant program with a city infrastructure program.”
Lawrence-based artists Meredith Moore, Rachael Perry, Nick Carswell, Zia, and Stephen T. Johnson make up one group of artists called East Nine Street. Kansas City-based artists Jarrett Mellenbruch and James Woodfill, as well as New York-based artist Derek Porter (who recently moved from the area) are in a category called Integrated Works.
“It’s a local and regional cadre of artists, which is exciting. And some of these artists I’ve had the delightful opportunity to watch their professional trajectory. I’m excited to see them engage in this project as well,” says Arneill, who served as the director and public art administrator in Kansas City, Missouri, from 2002 until earlier this year. He began the Lawrence job in April.
The East Lawrence Neighborhood Association has been watching the project closely. Some residents have concerns about the project and its potential impact on an affordable, and already artsy, area – although others have expressed support of better sidewalks and lighting. The artists are scheduled to tour the corridor Tuesday with the project design team, el dorado, inc., and will continue to meet this week with stakeholders and community members.
“This has been a project that has come under intense scrutiny. I always say I love how when you combine art and democracy, the results are always quite educational,” says Arneill. “The panel was really engaged and earnest in their efforts. And I look forward to the next steps and actually seeing some design start to take shape.”
In June, a call for artists generated 24 submissions, and only eight artists were from outside the region. The selection panel met in July to discuss the project and create a short list of 12 candidates, now whittled down to eight. The finalists were selected by a panel of arts professionals, community members, and the project design team.