The East Ninth development has caused the city difficulties and has created its share of tension. Neighbors and artists have worries about the true nature of these types of gentrifying projects and if they really benefit the community. Advocates say place making through art creates economic opportunities.
Local artist and citizen’s advisory committee member for the East Ninth project, Dave Lowenstein, shares his concerns for artists who become involved in such projects.
“Artists engaged in the Lawrence art place project I think for the most part just don’t have the experience to know that this is even possible,” Lowenstein said. “That they could be leveraged in an effort to sort of send a signal to real estate developers that this is an up and coming neighborhood.”
Another local artist, community activist, and teacher, K.T. Walsh, has concerns about which artists were involved in the selection process.
“So what we were always pushing for was that we have all these artists, filmmakers, poets, novelists all these people in the neighborhood,” said Walsh. “Let’s include kids, students, everyone. We can create art and stories and write music, it’s here already.”
Another important point of contention in the community has been the transparency of donors and financial information relevant to the project.
“So, walking that fine line has been challenging. We certainly learned that transparency is very, very important,” said Director of Grants and Special Projects Sarah Bishop. “It’s something that needs to start from the very beginning.”
The Lawrence Arts Center used the Art Place America grant. The grant is private, which provides a legal grey area for the release of financial records, even though the project is public. The arts center has not defined the validity of the numbers that came out.
The project has halted because of issues regarding street design and the barrier between public and private property as of now, but that doesn’t mean development by private corporations has stopped at all. El Dorado is the architecture company hired by the city. They cancelled the last citizen’s advisory committee meeting, because the company had not thought of a proposal.