By Mary Ellen Stone
All across America paradigms are shifting—
inner-city entities, businesses, families, churches, (and especially jobs) are migrating to the suburbs – leaving behind to wither – the institutions, which for generations had been the cornerstones of their lives.
Locally, although the proliferation of suburban living and commerce is abundantly evident across Fayette and contiguous counties, thankfully some local institutions have chosen to remain, and ‘to grow where they’ve been planted’—in the core of our city.
Preeminent among these entities is the Living Arts and Science Center (LASC), comfortably nestled and proudly entrenched on North Martin Luther King Boulevard, just north of downtown. For nearly four decades, this amazing institution has been a respected force in creative education for children and adults, plus schools and organizations throughout the region. Through dynamically creative art and science programs, the LASC fosters exploration, discovery, and inspires creativity and imagination – virtually on a daily basis.
Understanding the need to ‘help ignite the imaginations of kids’ especially those in schools in rural counties, LASC has dramatically expanded its service outreach programs and is now creatively augmenting school and library programs in twice as many counties as it previously served. Concurrently, the very popular LASC field trip program which brings school groups to the Center has doubled and now reaches 7,500 students or more each year—that’s a statistically larger number than is represented by the entirety of the University of Kentucky’s freshman class!
It may be that as you read this article you realize that you haven’t visited this magical place recently, or even ever. If that’s the case, consider investing the time to visit the Center; absorb some fascinating history, be impressed by the energy which pervades the entire facility and prepare to smile – BIG TIME! And, if as a result of this venture you realize that you ‘have time on your hands and a creative skill (like reading, drawing, story-telling, singing, or playing an instrument) you could share with some incredibly fascinating youngsters’, VOLUNTEER! Your life, and the lives of the children which will gleefully surround you, will benefit from the experience.
Sitting across the table from LASC’s effervescent Executive Director, Heather Lyons, listening to her contagious commitment to the ongoing success of this iconic Central Kentucky institution, one can’t help but be amazed at the energy and enthusiasm which pervades this historic structure; the acknowledged ‘corner stone’ of the Center’s long-established residence near the heart of our city. Situated at 362 Martin Luther King Boulevard, a short walk from Lexington’s downtown area, the Center is totally committed to ‘growing where it’s planted’—right where it’s been located for nearly a century. With area schools on summer break, the LASC campus was brimming with children; energetic, smiling children are either everywhere in the two main buildings, or they’re off campus – on a fascinating field trip – created to broaden their horizons and enrich their awareness of all that makes Lexington such a special place.
The best ways to describe this lady? She’s justifiably proud of the past history and is committed to the future of the Center; capable of frequent multi-tasking; and incredibly well respected by faculty, Board members, parents, donors, kids, and our city as a whole. As we sat across the table from each other and intently watching the massive on-site construction underway on the front lawn facing MLK, Director Lyons shared what have been and will continue to be the Living Arts and Center’s core values:
A commitment to life-long learning: LASC believes that people of all ages deserve accessible opportunities to learn and to be creative.
Community Outreach: The proven fact that our Bluegrass community has been made stronger through LASC-initiated opportunities for individuals of all ages to work, to create, and to learn together.
Thrive where you’re planted: LASC has broken ground on the renovation and expansion of its facilities in Lexington’s downtown on land the Center owns.
THRIVE WHERE YOU’RE PLA NTED
All three of these core values were included within the recent announcement that The Living Arts and Science Center has broken ground on a $5 million dollar renovation and expansion of its facility in Lexington’s historic east end. The project, now already underway, will more than double the existing space and will dramatically expand the LASC’s capacity to serve students of all ages in the Lexington community and significantly beyond.
At the announcement ceremony, Lexington’s Mayor Jim Gray noted that for decades, the Center has been a dynamic, respected force in creative education for children and adults, schools, and organizations throughout the region. Utilizing innovative art and science programs, the organization has fostered exploration and discovery and, along the way, has inspired creativity and imagination.
The announcement included some impressive statistics, among them:
Over the past 5 years, the LASC has expanded its service reach from seven Central Kentucky counties to serving schools and libraries in over 30 counties yearly; while the field trip programs, which bring school groups to the Center has doubled, is now reaching 7,500 students annually. Resultantly, it became clear to all concerned that the existing facility would not be adequate in meeting growing programming demands.
LASC Board President Hanna Huggins noted, “When we started the conversation about how to expand our services, we wanted to continue our commitment to Lexington’s East End – our Center’s home for more than four decades. We launched a capital campaign and worked with
DeLeon & Primmer Architecture Workshop and our construction managers Burchfield and Thomas in a way that would meet our programmatic needs, infuse exciting design principals, and keep us where our roots are, in Lexington’s East End.”
The project will include a complete renovation of the historic Kinkead House, which was built in 1847 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The renovated space will house a new Children’s Art and Fascinating Retail Gallery. The current art gallery, classrooms and office spaces will be renovated as well.
The expansion will more than double the LASC’s programming space, from its current 7500 sq. feet to over 18,500.
Of special interest – the new facility will include Lexington’s only planetarium, an expanded hands-on ‘Discovery Exhibit’, four new art and science classrooms, a digital art studio, additional art gallery space, a teaching kitchen, a clay studio, more urban green space, rain and butterfly gardens, and a rooftop garden. The innovative “Glo Gallery”, named in honor of long-time LASC supporter Gloria Singletary, will feature a 15 by 28 foot glass wall for projecting digital art presentations.
Executive Director Lyons noted “Inspiring design is critical to the success of a center dedicated to creativity and discovery, but our primary goal will be to powerfully impact those who visit the Center virtually every day, they are our inspiration. This new facility is critical to the success of a center dedicated to inspiring creativity and discovery.”
LASC’S CAPITAL CAMPAIGN
It’s worthy to note that transformational projects such as this one do not “happen in a vacuum”. The Living Arts and Science Center’s multi-year “Imagine This!” campaign has attracted a fascinatingly diverse group of donors and grant providers. The new structure, the Lucille Caudill Little Discovery Center, is named for an amazing lady who was the founder of the organization back in l968; her namesake foundation provided LASC with a $1 million matching grant to launch the capital campaign. Will Farish extended his legacy of generosity with an initial contribution of $1 million. Other major donors include Joe Craft, Jim Kenan, Tom & Susie Bell, and Tom Dupree, Sr., all of whom contributed substantially to make this dream a reality.
Harriet Dupree Bradley, the Capital Campaign Chairperson, noted that although a substantial amount of funding has been committed to this long-awaited undertaking, additional dollars will be necessary to acquire educational technology, furnishings and equipment for classrooms and exhibit spaces. She added “We plan to expand our endowment fund to support scholarships and aid for students and families eager to participate in our programs.”
The expansion and renovation is scheduled to take 12-14 months, and (weather permitting) will be completed in the late summer of 2015. In the interim, programming workshops and exhibitions should not be dramatically impacted during the construction phase; it’s anticipated that the LASC will remain open during the entirety of the project.
Learn more about LASC’s impact on children and families across the Commonwealth at visitlasclex.org.
How can you be involved with this amazing transformation? Please contact Andrea Ooten, Development Director, [email protected]