Margaret Weisbrod Morris, Chief Executive Officer of Lawrence Arts Center presented the Culture Track 2017 report. Culture Track was launched in 2001 as a longitudinal study of cultural habits in the United States. After September 2011, researchers observed the dramatic impact the event had on American culture. The study is used to help institutions know how to position themselves to best reach and engage with their target audiences.
Weisbrod Morris explained that the study was originally only conducted every seven years. However, technology changes have speed up cultural change. The survey was updated to being conducted every four years and is now conducted annually.
“I’m sharing it because it contains some of the foundational thinking we use at the Arts Center for how we serve the community and what we consider.” said Weisbrod Morris. “It also shows why the arts are so critical during times of political upheaval.”
The 2017 survey collected data from 4,035 respondents representing the demographic makeup of the United States. At the same time, 2017 responses were heavily collected from residents of the Midwest and South. Weisbrod Morris explained that with changes in cost of living, “cultural consumption is becoming more concentrated” in these areas.
“Technology has radically shifted our whole paradigm on what we think of as culture. It has democratized what is considered to be ‘culture.'” While the definition of “culture” may be in flux, Weisbrod Morris argued that “its value has never been greater.”
In comparison to 2014, which Weisbrod Morris explains as a time of cultural consumers being “locusts,” gobbling up any opportunity available to them, we are now “experience omnivores.” This change in expectation and purpose challenges organizations to plan in a different way to engage with old and new audiences.
Organizations typically follow one of two approaches: Singular focus or Portfolio approach. The Lawrence Arts Center follows the portfolio approach, keeping their interests and opportunities broad. “At our core we are a community space with arts as our means.”
With all the factors the Lawrence Arts Center considers when determining programming and exhibits, a key element is evaluating the “mood” that the opportunity will inspire.
Stan Hernly, with Hernly Associates, joked that people don’t always understand historic preservation projects when the end results ends up looking “a lot like it did when you started. People get confused and wonder, ‘what the heck did you spend $2.5 million on!’.”
The recent renovation of Lawrence’s Santa Fe Station is a triumph in partnerships given the number of local, state, and federal partners and funders involved.
Hernly reviewed the structure, explaining what elements were replaced or restored in order to meet historic preservation requirements, energy efficiency needs, and ADA compliance, among other considerations. One unique aspect of the project was that the building was occupied during the entire construction process.
The Kansas Department of Transportation was heavily involved in the project, providing 80 percent of the funding. Hernly shared that they were great partners, even while they are “used to working on roads, not buildings.” Because of funding, the project required using all American-made supplies.
In addition to interior improvements, the project also involved several exterior changes, such as replacing the previous sidewalk with a new 10 foot wide sidewalk. Efforts are being made to tie this sidewalk into the shared-use path in Lawrence.
The building will now be listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places. While it will continue to serve as the Amtrak station, the City of Lawrence is also considering secondary uses for the building.
Megan Luttrell, Human Trafficking Program Coordinator for The Willow Domestic Violence Center knows what it takes to serve and advocate on behalf of vulnerable populations. Prior to joining Willow Domestic Violence Center she worked in a substance abuse treatment center in Topeka.
Luttrell works with human trafficking advocates serving Jefferson, Franklin, and Douglas counties. She explained that human trafficking is a significant problem within Lawrence and the surrounding area. While the Lawrence Police Department is fully on board to partner in addressing the issue, Luttrell said they simply don’t have the capacity “Sting operations are needed, which would take time and energy away from community policing.”
Luttrell explained that human trafficking occurs anywhere there is a vulnerable population. More often than not, trafficking occurs within intimate partner relationships, with individuals being trafficked by their partner or someone they trust.
“Victims will often think they are going crazy. The perpetrator has gaslighted them.”
Of all forms of human trafficking, sexual acts are the most common, with individuals being groomed. “Everything is great in the beginning. They get hep with rent and child care. Food and clothing is given.” Luttrell explained that often these vulnerable individuals are recruited by women called Bottom Girls, who have often been trafficked themselves.
Across America, 83% of all victims of sex trafficking are US citizens. Of that, 50% of trafficking victims are boys.
Luttrell said the profile of a trafficker can be anyone who is in touch with vulnerable populations: pastors, teachers, social workers, foster care families.
During 2018, The Willow served 72 survivors of human trafficking. Luttrell looks forward to strengthening her relationship and providing education for are hospitals and other agencies to help professionals understand and spot the warning signs of trafficking.
Each year, one in five American adults experience a mental health issue.
Bert Nash Mental Health Center is training the Lawrence community to recognize such problems and respond appropriately. Just as law enforcement professionals, educators, employers, and co-workers prepare to help in physical emergencies, they can also lend important first aid support to individuals who may be experiencing a mental health crisis.
Carla DeHerte, WRAP Program Team Leader at Bert Nash, explained the key elements of the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) protocol. The 8-hour training teaches how to recognize warning signs and provides background information on depression, anxiety, trauma, psychosis, and substance use. Participants learn a five-step intervention strategy and come away with a list of resources.
The primary goal of the training is to overcome stigmas related to mental illness and to promote understanding.
Beth Whittaker is Assistant Dean of Distinctive Collections and Director of Spencer Research Library. She described recent updates made to the North Gallery, a space that currently houses an exhibit that celebrates the library’s fifty-year history and its namesakes: “Meet the Spencers: a Marriage of Arts and Sciences.”
Kenneth Spencer Research Library is the rare books, manuscripts, and archives library of the University of Kansas. Researchers can tap into a variety of collections, including Special Collections (established in 1953), the Kansas Collection, and the University Archives (established in 1969). Topics range from photos of Kansas over the decades; materials about ornithology and other natural history topics; science fiction; the history of education; Latin American holdings; ancient manuscripts, atlases, and much more. There is even a collection about contemporary political movements.