“Once you’ve seen one great place, you’ve only seen one great place”- Peter Kageyama, author of ‘For the Love of Cities’).
This is the story of Arts for Lawrence, a grassroots organization building a great place where arts and community connect. In Lawrence, Indiana, on the decommissioned Fort Benjamin Harrison, Arts for Lawrence (AFL) is creating a vibrant arts destination - The Fort Ben Cultural Campus. This great place integrates a unique military history with a future of tech-heavy installation art. Most importantly, it is great because of the people attracted to it. It’s a place for everyone.
As you walk the Fort Ben Cultural Campus you’ll find the historic Theater at the Fort, once the Post Theatre, the only building on the decommissioned base still used for its originally intended purpose, community gathering and entertainment. Entering the theater you’ll discover its historic charm enhanced with high-tech sound and light equipment. New movie capabilities restore its past as a movie house.
In 2020, the Fort Harrison Communications building found a new home, saving it from demolition. The two-story brick structure traveled across the Fort to be repurposed as the Visual Arts Center. Inside the rejuvenated Visual Art Center community members gather to explore the gallery of monthly art exhibitions. In the lower level, you’ll hear the hum of pottery wheels turning as students learn the art of ceramics. Journey upstairs to reveal classes in painting, photography, digital art, or felting.
Explore the park-like plaza and you will come upon the world’s first permanent set of Musical Swings, a peaceful, cooperative experience for all ages. The marching sidewalk is an interactive encounter that is reminiscent of the military presence of the past. You will follow bronze footsteps of soldiers amidst the sounds of military cadences and at the appropriate time of day, you can hear bugle calls. Wander down the History Walk and observe hand-carved limestone benches showing the progression of feet that walked the land before us. Fort Ben is now a public space where future embraces history, the ultimate experience of placemaking through the arts.
Thanks to generous donors, Arts for Lawrence breaks barriers to ensure everyone has access to the arts, including you. Join the community and bring your lawn chair to enjoy Fridays at the Fort, a free concert series of rock, jazz, and pop music, or the Classical Sundays at the Fort orchestra music. Or bring your neighbor to Films at the Fort, a free movie series, Poets Laureate of Lawrence poetry reading, or weekly urban line dancing. Veterans and active military, students and seniors, will find discounts to stage performances and art classes.
AFL is dedicated to inclusion, diversity, equity, and access through the arts. Juneteenth Jubilee, a free community festival, commissioned fifty black performers and visual artists in 2021. A full need-based scholarship is provided to 50% of Summer Art Campers annually. LGBTQ+ community is celebrated in our recurring Children’s Storytime with the Queens, with participating Drag Queens who are also educators. No matter who you are, or how you identify, Arts for Lawrence welcomes you.
Arts for Lawrence envisioned the Fort Ben Cultural Campus as a place for everyone. A place to celebrate the past and the future through art experiences. A place where all are welcome and many cultures are celebrated. A place that is inspiring and offers a platform for creativity. Please consider making a monthly pledge to help ensure everyone has the opportunity for a vibrant and creative life.