The Free State Festival returns this week with even more films, music, art and ideas.
This week-long celebration of art and creation will happen throughout Lawrence’s Cultural District Monday, June 20 through Saturday, June 25. The Free State Fest aims to “highlight diverse art and artists with the long-term goal of enhancing the socioeconomic well-being of the region and providing opportunities for artists of all disciplines and backgrounds,” according to the festival’s website.
KJHK is here to highlight some of the events we are looking forward to this week.
Monday kicks off the festival with a day full of ideas. It is also the start of one of the main exhibitions. This exhibition is titled CLOUD and features an interactive sculpture of a cloud made of light bulbs. This exhibit will open with an Art Talk with the artists behind the installation, Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett, and will continue to be open throughout the festival.
For the second day of the festival, check out the feature-length documentary about Gordon Parks Elementary. This film focuses on the challenges of funding and the state declared closure of the public charter school in Kansas City, MO that was established to provide urban-core children with individualized education and that serves their specific needs. Gordon Parks Elementary is directed by Kevin Willmott, KU professor and native Kansan.
On Wednesday, the number of events increase and decisions get harder. At 4:30 p.m. at the Five Bar & Tables, you can attend one of the many Art of Conversations talks. Social Justice in Art is one of the major themes of this festival and the Art of Conversation explores a different topic every day. Wednesday’s topic is “Music and Social Justice” and will explore questions surrounding current events and contemporary political music.
After the Art of Conversation talk at Five Bar, head over to the Lawrence Arts Center Black Box where there will a staged reading of Skull for a Skull, “a theatrical exploration or racial double standards, the moral and practical consequences of violent protest, and the story of one hell of a road trip,” according to the Free State Festival website. This reading is presented by Haskell Thunderbird Theatre and is free to the public.
If you’re interested in seeing live music this week, there will be a free performance by Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton at St. Luke AME. This young blues musician is known for being a talented multi-instrumentalist and singer who sounds like he’s from the 1920s. He recently performed at Folk Alliance in Kansas City last Feb. where he amazed everyone in the crowd.
At the same time as Blind Boy Paxton’s performance, there will be a reading and Q & A by Patricia Lockwood, a poet based in Lawrence. This talented poet will be giving her town the first preview of her new work at the Raven Bookstore where copies of her book are available for purchase.
Friday is another full day for Free State Fest with several opportunities to experience live music, art exhibits, award winning films and so much more. One event to highlight on this packed day is Final Friday at the Watkins Museum of history graphic artist Emi Gennies and her students will present their work that centers around Annie Diggs, a woman involved in the Populist party of Kansas. This exhibition is part of The Kansas People’s History Project, which explores forgotten or overlooked events and people in Kansas History.
Saturday will be another busy day with an event at every hour. At noon, check out the family fun fest in front of the Lawrence Arts Center. There will be food trucks, family activities, and performances by the Topeka Drum Line.
After spending time with the community outside, cool off inside at Liberty Hall with Radiolab co-host, Jad Abumrad and his new multimedia presentation, Gut Churn. Abumrad is known for combining journalism, sound editing and music composition in the broadcast journalism medium. His talk and presentation will be a visible rendition of his work and will explore topics of anxiety and creativity. There will be a Q & A afterward.
At the same time as Jad and continuing after, there will be a free outdoor show with Public Enemy with local support from EBONY TUSKS. Public Enemy is legendary for their political message and revolutionary hip hop. This highly anticipated show is open to the public with gates opening at 6:30 p.m.