New Lakeland venue presents open opportunities for local artists

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By Peter Edgar

Over the past few months, Lakeland has blossomed in providing opportunities for community involvement, dining experiences and entertainment. With the recent opening of Lakeland Live, downtown, citizens and students have a venue to experience all of these!

Lakeland Live is a “full-service artistic venue” whose eclectic studio offers a range of possibilities. I sat down with its executive director, Shane Lawlor, to discuss them.

Lakeland Live shares space with Lakeland TV, a production site on the corner of Massachusetts and Cedar. Lawler said, “We’re more like neighbors: it’s really a mutually beneficial.”

The black room is versatile, able to be furnished with different lights, seating, and tables and attached to equipment rooms that are in turn connected to the offices and studios of Lakeland TV. Its purpose is, according to Lawlor, “to foster art and performance in the community” and “to be a catalyst” for talent and its development.

Lawlor was born in England and became a musician as a young man. His talent took him from small venues to touring with other bands; he then came to America and signed a record deal. He lived in several cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Austin, and Orlando; when he married and had a child, he moved to Lakeland.

He found the lack of artistic space in the town unfortunate: musicians had to go to Orlando or Tampa to perform. With two other men, Randy, who provided initial funding for Lakeland Live, and Chuck, who also works with Lakeland TV, he began buying the equipment necessary for a live studio: “It was a match made in heaven,” he said.

Lawlor plans to use his experience in the music industry to help other students and performers to get on their feet. He wants to provide mentorship opportunities in conjunction with other professionals: he’s already worked with students and teachers from Florida Southern College and Harrison School for the Arts. He also is looking forward to providing internship opportunities for people in music management, public relations and communications.

Starting a live studio venue came with its own share of problems.

“The responsibility of being executive director—I really want to do things right the first time. There are a lot of self-imposed goals… Lakeland Live really is sold through seeing what people are doing here,” Lawlor said.

He took time to note how great his small team is doing now and how well things are going so far in terms of the shows.

“We’re really hoping to help bridge the gap” between small artists playing for their friends and family and playing in front of crowds of thousands.

One of the first events Lakeland Live hosted was the “Clearly People” print exhibit, a series of photographs of the sculpture series decorating the downtown area. “Clearly People” is the brainchild of David Collins, and the more than 40 clear plastic figures can be spotted from all along Kentucky Avenue downtown.

Lakeland Live has numerous events on its docket for the upcoming months. While the venue is only two months old, Lawlor believes that while the learning curve will be high, he also said there was “no better time to start than now.” Coming up through July are a continuation of the “Bite-Size Symphony” series, which pair a culinary experience with live music; a live game show, “Hold On I Know This”; and celebrations of legendary artists Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles through reimaginings by local artists. Tickets are available for these events and more at lkldlive.com.

Ultimately, Lawlor wants the community to be involved with Lakeland Live. He said, “I don’t want the opportunity to fly by or for Lakeland Live to be confined to these four walls.” “Fortune favors the brave,” he said, and he’s looking for more performers as well as sponsors to continue to keep Lakeland Live, which is a nonprofit, fully functional for the community.

If you’re interested in supporting or getting involved with Lakeland Live, contact Mr. Lawlor at shane@lkldlive.com or info@lkldlive.com.

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