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Lilly Endowment grants Arts for Lawrence and City $5.8 million for Cultural Campus at Fort Harrison

Lilly Endowment grants Arts for Lawrence and City $5.8 million for Cultural Campus at Fort Harrison

Strengthening Indianapolis Through Arts and Cultural Innovation at the Cultural Campus at Fort Harrison

The City of Lawrence received a $5,851,969 grant as part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Strengthening Indianapolis Through Arts and Cultural Innovation initiative. The City of Lawrence is one of 18 organizations to receive grants through this competitive initiative.

With the opportunity of the Strengthening Indianapolis through Arts and Cultural Innovation initiative, Arts for Lawrence bolstered its partnership with The City of Lawrence to realize its vision and proposed the Fort Harrison Cultural Campus concept. The Cultural Campus is the arts and cultural piece of a redeveloped Fort Harrison, the new, unique and vibrant downtown for the City of Lawrence. 

The geographic area of the Cultural Campus is already home to an array of arts programming by Arts for Lawrence at the historic Theater at the Fort and includes the Sterrett Community Center, operated by the Lawrence Parks Department. Additions to the city-owned property will include moving the historic Fort Harrison Communications building to the campus to be repurposed for visual arts programming and gallery space.  A new plaza that includes an amphitheater, green space with functional artwork as benches, bicycle racks and signage will celebrate the history of Fort Benjamin Harrison. Innovative artwork that includes an interactive playground space for all ages, and a virtual reality tour of historic Fort Harrison (think Pokemon Go) among other art-centered projects will ensure arts and culture become a larger part of the experience to residents and visitors alike.

“The vision of an arts destination has been at the forefront of Arts for Lawrence’s mission for almost 10 years.”  said Judy Byron, Executive Director for Arts for Lawrence.  “That vision hasn’t always looked the same, but we are thrilled with its evolution and the opportunity to leap forward.” 

Lilly Endowment launched the initiative in January 2018, inviting Indiana-based charitable organizations to propose ideas that would use the arts to foster community building in Indianapolis. The initiative encouraged organizations to collaborate across diverse sectors, but at least one partnering organization needed to promote arts and culture as its primary mission. At least one partnering organization needed to be based in Marion County. Lilly Endowment stipulated that most of a proposed project’s activities would need to take place in Marion County.

When the initiative opened, Lilly Endowment planned to make grants totaling $25 million. In total, 26 creative ideas were submitted. Lilly Endowment was so pleased with the quality of proposals that it nearly doubled the monies dedicated to the grants. It announced $48.9 million in grants December 5. 

“We were impressed not just by the number of proposals we received but also by the applicants’ collaborative spirit, imagination and energetic desire to make Indianapolis a more vibrant and engaging community,” said Rob Smith, the Endowment’s vice president for community development. “We believe that the projects, including the Cultural Campus at Fort Benjamin Harrison, will significantly enhance the quality of life for residents and create compelling new experiences for visitors.”

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family; J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons, J.K. Jr. and Eli, through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. The Endowment exists to support causes of community development, education and religion.  Lilly Endowment’s community development grantmaking is designed to support efforts that enhance the quality of life in Indianapolis and Indiana. Visit

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