When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many iconic locations in Lawrence had to shut their doors to the public. That included historic spaces like museums and art galleries. With these iconic buildings now sitting empty, I Heart Local Music decided to team up with local musicians to highlight the beauty and caliber of these spaces.

This summer, musicians performed under the grandiose architecture within those walls as they utilized them for personal stages. We initially broadcast the performance live on our Facebook page, and have since uploaded it to YouTube for regular viewing (embedded below).

This performance brings you the inside of Watkins Museum of History, Robert J Dole Institute of Politics, Lawrence Arts Center, and the Carnegie Building. CS Luxem, Alex Kimball Williams (of Bad Alaskan), Ryan Manuel, and Elexa Dawson are all featured in the video. Recording them playing in an empty building from a safe distance, then broadcasting it on the internet seemed like one of the safest ways to bring live music to the community at this time.

It’s also important to highlight the importance of these buildings. For example, the Watkins Museum of History (where CS Luxem performs) has long been an advocate of displaying the history of Lawrence’s Civil Rights movement. They’re an incredible resource to this community, gathering and documenting these priceless moments in our town’s history. Last year, 23,000 people came through the Watkins’ doors. But they’ve spent much of this year sitting empty.

The Carnegie Building, where we see Elexa Dawson, is a building that’s more than 100 years-old, and offers itself for public use. Ryan Manuel performs inside the Dole Institute of Politics, a stunning structure hosting bipartisan discussions in politics. The Lawrence Arts Center, where we’re treated to an Alex Williams performance, sees 275,000 people and 7,000 students every year. More importantly, they work diligently to secure $150,000 in financial aid so they can receive students from all backgrounds. They also employ close to 200 artists.

We’re definitely heartbroken over venues sitting empty, but buildings like the ones featured in the video are vital to the community as well. There are ways you can help. To support the Arts Center, please visit this link. You can support also support the Watkins by becoming a member. We’d also recommend taking advantage of after-hours tours (when those start up again) to fully understand the scope of what the Watkins has provided for the Lawrence community over the last Century.

Please enjoy the video below, and assist in preserving these spaces when you can. Fun fact: our audio engineer Ben Knight (you may have seen him at various soundboards at shows around Lawrence) didn’t just record the musicians, he also recorded the room so viewers could get a better feel for music inside the space. This is especially apparent during the credits when CS Luxem is performing inside a stairwell at the Watkins museum.