East Ninth: Artists Shaping City Planning

Posted on January 28th, 2016 at 11:36 am by


As part of a major ArtPlace America grant, the City of Lawrence engaged el dorado to propose a new streetscaping plan for East 9th Street in downtown Lawrence and East Lawrence, a seven block stretch that connects Massachusetts Street to Delaware Street. At the core of the project approach is an innovative urban planning model that, through thoughtful public engagement, embeds artists into the planning process of the street itself, allowing art practices to pro-actively shape the way our cities and neighborhoods look, feel and function.

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Photo by Nick Krug; Lawrence Journal World


Lead Artist Sans façon joined el dorado to assist with this project approach and, together with Project Stakeholders and the East Ninth Citizen Advisory Committee, developed several initiatives that integrate a healthy mix of local and national artists into the project’s planning processes. Results of this integration include:
— Five Lawrence-based artists are engaged as East Ninth Artists, commissions that, through multiple mediums, consider a wide range cultural dimensions surrounding the project
— Three artists are engaged as Integrated Artists, and have been asked to work collaboratively with the Design Team, Stakeholder input and the City of Lawrence to produce permanent installations that are fully integrated into the new infrastructure of the street.
— Local Associate Artists will join the team’s Integrated Artists, as part of an initiative suggested by the Citizen Advisory Committee. Together their working processes, centered around movement, light, and gathering, have informed planning discussions central to the project.

Last fall, el dorado introduced the commissioned artists at an East Lawrence Neighborhood Association meeting, and shortly after hosted a reception for the artists and East Lawrence residents at Lawrence Creates Makerspace, catered by Culinaria. Since then, we have all spent a great deal of time walking the neighborhood and, specifically, East 9th Street. Concept statements from each Integrated Artist were including in the East Ninth Concept Plan, submitted to the City and Project Stakeholders for review and feedback last fall.


James Woodfill, a Kansas City based artist and one of the selected Integrated Artists, has been thinking about multi-modal movement along East 9th from the onset of his commission. He challenged the notion of East 9th Street as a linear site, connecting one part of the city to another. James’ early drawings and diagrams suggested more complex and nuanced patterns of movement, focusing on circulation patterns that intersect East 9th and form stronger connections to the greater East Lawrence neighborhood and community. These early drawings introduced an idea of what James refers to as crosshatching, and rendered East Ninth as a site whose many transverse movements, including street and alley intersections, serve to connect the street, physically and perceptually, to its place, its neighborhood and its city. Rather than asking us where we might be going, James is asking us where we are. His work asks us to slow down at times, and look closely.

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Joined by Lawrence-based Associate Artist John Sebelius, Jim and John have begun to document the site through video footage that collapses linear movement with lateral perception. These video collages set crosshatching into motion. John’s experience with film documentation will play a critical role as the project unfolds, and while their actual installation strategies are still under discussion, their research and ideas have already impacted the design team significantly.

In a recent project work session with Jim and John present, el dorado and the project’s landscape architect, Coen+Partners, adopted crosshatching as a planning concept, allowing native landscaping and stormwater management strategies along East 9th Street to potentially “turn the corner” at selected intersections and weave more strongly into the surrounding East Lawrence neighborhood. Though our site is currently defined by the right of way along East 9th Street, the potential for our site to engage a deeper connection to its surrounding context remains central to our focus.

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linear landscape and stormwater management

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crosshatching landscape and stormwater management

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Concept rendering of native grasses and stormwater management strategies

Kelly Kindscher, a Lawrence based botanist, community activist and professor at the University of Kansas, has joined the team as a volunteer to further explore these sustainable landscaping strategies as a neighborhood project, suggesting that much of the plant material for East Ninth streetscaping could be collaboratively germinated and cultivated in East Lawrence.

We look forward to how this planning process will unfold and will provide more artist updates as the design progresses. In the mean time, the project progress is updated regularly on the City of Lawrence Website.