How Lawrence Arts Center is helping youth learn the business side of art

September 02, 2019

Lawrence Arts Center is one of 20 inaugural grant recipients from the $1 million U.S. Bank Market Impact Fund.

Liam Hoey-Kummerow remembers the first piece of art he ever created – a marker-on-glass print of a battle between sea monsters and land monsters. 

“I don’t remember, frankly, who won,” he laughed. “I know I still have it in my room, and it’s absolutely awful. But it really sparked my imagination.”

Over the past decade, that imagination has continued to drive the recent high school graduate to create art (in fact, his latest show featured another eternal battle – city and nature) as well as now explore a career in it. This fall, he’s starting a dual-enrollment program at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and Marquette University.

Liam smiling in front of a white board

Liam said he is ready to take on this challenge thanks to his involvement in Hang12, a program through nonprofit Lawrence Arts Center in which a board of high school students curate monthly gallery shows for Final Fridays exhibitions in Lawrence, Kansas. Each student has a specific role – such as grant writing, social media and graphic design – to make the shows possible.

“You get to see the business side of the art world,” Liam said. “Up until this year, I had no real experience working with people in the art community. I think that’s the main thing Hang12 has helped me improve: people skills.” 

And now, the program will be able to help more students. 

U.S. Bank recently provided a $50,000 Community Possible grant to Lawrence Arts Center that will fund the program for the next three school years and allow it to expand from 16 to up to 26 students.

“The arts are a big part of what makes this community special,” said U.S. Bank Lawrence Market President Brad Burnside (pictured below, fourth from left in back). “We’re excited to support the Lawrence Arts Center and to help further this phenomenal program that provides youth with opportunities to express themselves and shape their futures.”

The grant is part of the bank’s new annual $1 million Market Impact Fund that supports organizations focused on economic development in the areas of workforce preparation, affordable housing and arts and culture.

Hang12 group, staff and U.S. Bank employees smiling with an over-sized check

"This grant is transformational to the livelihood of both Hang12 members and the Lawrence community,” said Neal Barbour, program facilitator at Lawrence Arts Center. “Hang12 can now deepen the level of their artistic, gallery and entrepreneurial skills and, in turn, present Lawrence with high quality and relevant art shows from a youth perspective.”

Ella Smith, a Hang12 member and high school senior, added, “We never dreamed of getting an opportunity as big as this grant.”

Like Liam, Ella has been drawn to art for as long as she can remember. She thought back to her early days in school, when she would flip over paper and doodle instead of taking tests. These days, she has developed a talent for photography and, appropriately, manages Hang12’s Instagram.

“I discovered photography freshman year,” she said. “[Although] I didn’t know anything then, it felt like a way to express myself and to capture one moment in time that will never occur again. I just think it’s so powerful and fascinating.”

Helping youth bring self-expression to the surface is a big part of Hang12’s mission. Violet Amouak, a high school junior, said her experience in the program gave her the courage to go to the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka to lobby legislators about funding for women’s health care.

“Something as simple as having to talk to random people in coffee shops to promote shows for Hang12 has really helped me gain the courage to come out of my shell,” Violet said.

And looking to her future, she added, “I’m trying to find a synthesis between being a professional, contemporary artist but also influencing grassroots activism and legislature.”

Violet, Ella and Liam all share a passion for art, a confidence in themselves and a vision for their futures. And each is quick to point out why – Hang12.

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