The Lawrence Arts Center’s Free State Festival is a week-long celebration of film, music, art, and ideas in the heart of Lawrence’s Cultural District. Started as a small independent film festival in 2011 by the Lawrence Arts Center’s Director of Film and New Media, Marlo Angell, the Free State Festival has become an interdisciplinary festival featuring an international slate of more than 10 feature films, 40 short films, outdoor concerts, stage performances, digital media installations, and provocative panel discussions. Last year’s festival attracted approximately 12,000 audience members, and featured sold-out film screenings, lively discussions, and packed outdoor performances.  Funded in part by a National Endowment for the Arts creative placemaking grant, the Free State Festival highlights diverse art and artists with the long-term goal of enhancing the socioeconomic wellbeing of the region and providing opportunities for artists of all disciplines and backgrounds.

The Free State Festival headquarters are located at the Lawrence Arts Center.  The Free State Festival is an integral part of the Lawrence Arts Center’s mission to enrich and invigorate the community by offering the best in contemporary exhibitions, performance, and visual and performing arts education.  The Lawrence Arts Center hosts many of the festival’s film screenings, discussions, installations, receptions, and performances in its beautiful 300 seat theatre, unique gallery spaces, intimate black box theater, and outdoor environs.  Partnering organizations in Lawrence’s .78 square-mile Cultural Arts District infuse the Festival with vibrancy, community spirit, and local color, and provide venue space for networking happy hours, outdoor projections, family activities, and supplementary music and film events.

Staff Contacts:

Sarah Bishop

Free State Festival Director and Ideas Programming Coordinator


Marlo Angell

Free State Festival Artistic Director of Film and Performance


Ben Ahlvers

Free State Festival Artistic Director of Art and Music


Amy Albright

Free State Festival Graphic Designer and Web Manager


Heather Hoy

Free State Festival Development Director and Logistics Coordinator

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