For several years Southwest Middle School has participated in the Future City Competition, an engineering competition for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. This year’s theme was “resilient power grids in natural disasters.” The students were required to design a city that could sustainably bounce back after a major weather event.
In addition to support from their teacher, the students consulted with a professional engineering consultant.
The project required the students to develop a model using SimCity, a software for designing a city. The students reflected how well the software worked at demonstrating the repercussions of city planning, such as the consequences of zoning and tax changes.
The students were also required to write a 1,000 work essay explaining how transportation, housing and the electric grid in their city works to protect against natural disasters.
The students constructed three-dimensional models of the city mostly out of trash. The students were given a budget of up to $100 per model.
During competition the students delivered a seven-minute presentation. Both teams qualified for nationals; one team placed sixth overall at the national competition.
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.
In early 2000 Rotary International challenged every club to have a project to celebrate the Rotary Centennial in 2005. Two local Rotarians, who were also avid and master gardeners, reached out to the City of Lawrence to develop what is now the Lawrence Rotary Arboretum.
Raising the $60,000 of needed funds for the Arboretum become a project for all three local Rotary Clubs. The Arboretum covers an area of 14 acres. The initial plot was mostly cleared land with very few native trees. Since then over 2,000 trees have been planted, in addition to adding a gazebo and pergola.
Fundraising has been made possible through the sale of tree markers. There are currently over 200 markers on trees, as well as others waiting to get a tree.
The group has also successfully raised $21,000 from the three local Rotary clubs to develop an event pavilion on the edge of the smaller pond. Plans are underway for the pavilion ribbon cutting. The space will be able to hold a group of 75 to 80 at picnic tables or 75 to 100 in chairs. With Lawrence Parks and Recreation committing to set up permanent bathrooms, the pavilion is expected to be an excellent venue for weddings and other events.
To continue to support the Arboretum, individuals, businesses, and families are invited to sponsor a tree: $100 for Rotary members and $125 for non-Rotarians.