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Background Image Detail from Woodstock by Baron Wolman

Three Days of Peace and Music

In August of 1969, Lawrence, Kansas, was reeling from a spring and summer of antiwar protests, including the May 9 disruption of the University of Kansas Chancellor’s review of ROTC cadets by student protestors. Tensions were on the verge of a boiling point in the northeast Kansas college town. 

1,200 miles away near Bethel, New York, a crowd of 400,000 swayed to the beat of music projected by oversized speakers attached to scaffolding over two stories high. In the mud-soaked field of Max Yasgur’s dairy farm, the audience watched rock bands take the stage, including the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, and Carlos Santana.

The event, of course, was Woodstock: Three Days of Peace and Music which happened fifty years ago this month. HK recently awarded the Lawrence Arts Center a Humanities for All grant for “Back to the Garden:  Photographs of the 1969 Woodstock Festival.” 

"I thought, ‘There will be more music. But there will never be anything like this again.'"

The exhibition places the landmark 20th century event within the context of the rise of radicalism and unrest of the late 1960s in Lawrence and communities across the country. “The project brings together images and photographers from Woodstock and asks us to consider the legacy of this festival that came to symbolize the tumultuous 1960s,” said Julie Mulvihill, executive director of Humanities Kansas. 

 “Back to the Garden” features Henry Diltz, Kansas City, Missouri native and official photographer of Woodstock. Diltz accepted the assignment when an acquaintance of his, Chip Monck who was the Woodstock emcee, called and said, “Henry, we’re gonna have a huge concert here in a couple of weeks, you ought to be here for it.” 

The next thing Diltz knew, festival organizer Michael Lang sent him a plane ticket and $500. Diltz flew out to New York and spent the next two weeks documenting the set up and execution of the festival. 

“Woodstock was an amazing event,” Diltz recalled. “I saw it from onstage and backstage, so I could see the flurry and the hurry of it all.” Diltz’s camera captured now-legendary performers such as Janis Joplin and Grace Slick.

“Back to the Garden” also features the photos of Baron Wolman, photographer for Rolling Stone magazine from its inception in 1967 through 1970. Wolman sought to capture the spirit of the festival. “I knew at the time this was going to be a significant moment in the story of music on this planet,” he told a reporter for the Guardian in a 2014 interview for the 45th anniversary of the festival.

Both photographers were awed by the size of the crowd. “It was the first gathering of that many people for a concert,” said Wolman in the 2014 interview. “I thought, ‘There will be more music. But there will never be anything like this again.’”

The exhibit will be on display from August 9 to September 14 at the Lawrence Arts Center. Diltz and Wolman will give an INSIGHT Art Talk on August 22 at 7 pm.

The historical significance of Woodstock and the photo exhibit will be put into context with a presentation by David Farber, Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Kansas. Farber presents “Woodstock and the 1960s” at 7 pm August 26. 

Lawrence Arts Center will also host a talk connecting Woodstock to present-day music festivals titled “From Woodstock to Frye Festival” on September 11 at 7 pm. 

Join the Movement of Ideas

ATTEND the INSIGHT Art Talk with Henry Diltz and Baron Wolman to hear firsthand accounts about photographing Woodstock August 22 at 7 pm or “Woodstock and the 1960s” by David Farber August 26 at 7 pm. Both events take place at the Lawrence Arts Center 940 New Hampshire, Lawrence. 

WATCH the movie Woodstock: Three Days that Defined a Generation, August 6 at 7 pm at the Lawrence Arts Center.

READ about how Kansans connections to Woodstock, including the story of how Lawrence Arts Center CEO attended Woodstock – as a three month-old – in the Lawrence Journal World.

LEARN more about unrest on the University of Kansas campus in the 1960s and 1970s on the KU History Timeline

BRING Audrey Coleman to your community to learn more about the era with her Speakers Bureau presentation, “Out of the Darkness: Records of the Vietnam War.” 


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