Lawrence landmark in danger of being torn down - KCTV5 News

Lawrence landmark in danger of being torn down

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A Lawrence landmark is in danger of being torn down.

Community volunteers designed and painted the mural, "Pollinators," in 2007 near the corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

It celebrates seven African American artists with ties to Kansas: Aaron Douglas, Gordon Parks, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Oscar Micheaux, Hattie McDaniel and Coleman Hawkins.

But now, the mural may have to go to make way for a new $25 million development.

Putting a quarter in the meter usually just buys people time. But in a lot near the mural, it also buys a view, back in time, to the Harlem Renaissance.

"To include all these other great African American artists from the state of Kansas, who had roots here," said the mural's coordinating artist, Dave Loewenstein.

The mural is called "Pollinators" because those artists spread their work around the world, and because the mural serves as a backdrop for the Lawrence Farmer's Market.

The lot in front of it is packed with local farmers and buyers on a busy day, and that is why supporters say the mural's location is such an important piece of the public art.

"Now since the mural is threatened, I've been just astounded at people's passion for keeping it here," Loewenstein said.

But the developers say that won't be possible when they build a new seven-story apartment building on the site.

They are offering $20,000 to move the mural somewhere else, and plan to include space on the new development for new public art, possibly commissioned by Loewenstein again.

"I think it's a good idea to build these new apartments and everything and bring more people downtown, so maybe sometimes things have to be torn down, but if they can repaint it, that's a good idea too," Lawrence resident Travis Amspacker said.

Brandy Johnson, who works in downtown Lawrence added, "I think the mural represents our culture here in Lawrence."

That's what supporters say they're trying to save, as Lawrence grows.

"The community's identity and its interest in preserving things of cultural significance," said Margaret Perkins-McGuinness, director of external affairs for the Spencer Museum of Art.

So now, stakeholders are drawing inspiration from a project the community created together to find a way to save it together.

"To find a creative solution for a beautiful work of art that carries a lot of symbolism for a community," Perkins-McGuinness said.

The developers say they have to dig a 30-foot hole right where the mural stands, plus they're moving the new building back from the street, and it won't line up with the mural wall anymore.

They are working on a plan with officials from the Spencer Museum of Art and other stakeholders to bring back to the board of commissioners in the next few weeks.

But no matter what, developers say they're lining up their final financing, and they'll be ready to break ground this summer.

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