For the first time, on September 17, donors, supporters and friends of the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H., will gather for a fundraiser at a country estate 15 minutes east of Lawrence. The benefit will feature a meal donated and prepared by Robert and Molly Krause, owners of Esquina, The Burger Stand and Krause Dining. All proceeds from the event go to replenish the scholarship fund at the Arts Center.
According to Susan Tate, executive director, the event, Dinner Under the Stars, will help raise money for scholarships that go to students attending classes at the Arts Center. These students vary in age from preschool to high school.
Last year, according to Dan Schriner, who serves on the Arts Center’s executive committee, the fund succeeded in giving approximately $90,000 in financial assistance to more than 500 families. Money from the fund allows students to take classes in various subjects, including dance, drama and visual arts.
“It’s very important to have this kind of support,” Schriner says. “I don’t think the Arts Center itself could have even been built without the support of the community.”
The benefit is especially important now, adds Schriner, because the center has lost public funding for supporting the arts. “We’ve lost state funding this year,” he says, “but the arts in general have always been underfunded.”
Still, Schriner says to his knowledge no one was turned away last year when they applied for a scholarship — an achievement made possible in part by private contributions.
For his role, Chef Robert Krause says that donating his time and effort to the Arts Center seemed natural. His daughters attended daycare at the center, and he and his wife wanted to give something back. Because funding for the arts was being cut in Kansas, they decided to help organize the benefit dinner.
“My friend has a beautiful home,” Krause says, speaking of the 15-acre estate that sits among ponds and wooded hills at Himmel’s Rand Farm. “He volunteered to let us use that space if we wanted to do something for the betterment of the community. So we’re going to do a long table on the dam, and we’re going to serve a four-course dinner.”
Although everyone attending will pay $250 to dine at that table, Krause points out that all the money will go to a good cause. He adds that now, with a more flexible schedule, he almost always prefers to cook for charity, something he’s always wanted to do, but rarely had the time for until recently.
“I’ve been in the kitchen for 30 years,” Krause says, “but the only thing I really cook for anymore is trying to raise money for different organizations I believe in.”
As for what’s on the menu, Krause will be serving dishes with local ingredients, but he didn’t mention any specific recipes. He downplays his role as chef, too, insisting that the focus should be on the Arts Center. He laughs, saying, “I’d like to be out of the spotlight, personally.”
“They need money,” Krause says. “If I can help them — I’d like to have the focus be on them, not me. If my cooking skills can be of value to them in raising money for furthering their programs, I’ll do what I can to help these organizations and the community in general.”
Susan Tate says that the Arts Center is excited about this first-ever Dinner Under the Stars. She also says that the event would not be possible without the work of volunteers who believe in the arts community in Lawrence, and who are dedicated to supporting the mission of the Arts Center. “And of course we’re honored that Robert will be preparing this meal for us,” she adds.
Dan Schriner says that invitations for the fundraiser first went out to the Imagination Society, a group of philanthropists who donate $1,000 a year or more to the Arts Center, but that the dinner is open to the general public, and that anyone who wants to support the cause of the scholarship fund is invited and encouraged to attend.
“We’ve got maybe 45 or 50 places left,” he says. “That’s out of 180 or so spots.”