Home » Market Review: Louisville arts community finds ways to make art accessible during pandemic

Market Review: Louisville arts community finds ways to make art accessible during pandemic

The 68-year-old Louisville Ballet has been a professional company and school since 1975 and has more than 60 world premieres to its credit and a repertoire of 150 pieces.

“Life is short, the art long,” Hippocrates is credited as saying over 24 centuries ago. The arts encompass painting, sculpture, fine arts, performance arts, visual arts, music, dance, literature and all other forms of creative expression. Regardless of age or aptitude, art can be appreciated and created by businessowners, community leaders, family members and fans.

market review coverPatrons of the arts have always been part of the culture and landscape of the River City, as individuals and through organizations like Louisville Visual Art, formed in 1909; the Fund for the Arts, or FFTA, one of the oldest and strongest united arts funds in the country, established in 1949; and the Arts & Culture Alliance, a membership network 85 entities strong acting together as an advocacy group for local arts, culture, heritage, history and science organizations.

The nonprofit arts and culture industry generates an annual economic impact of $462.5 million in Jefferson County, according to the Fund for the Arts. Last year, area arts organizations provided more than 9,000 events, performances, field trips and workshops.

“This community takes great pride in the world-class caliber of its arts and culture sector,” said Christen Boone, FFTA president and CEO.

Thanks to nearly 15,000 donors, Fund for the Arts raised more than $8.4 million in 2019. The “Cultural Pass,” an annual summer program providing free arts access to youth in Greater Louisville, has been so popular that Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Fund for the Arts announced last September the program’s expansion to year-round availability.

Five years ago, 5,000 community members were asked for their input on arts and culture in the region for a plan called “Imagine Greater Louisville 2020.” A year and a half later, in April 2017, a steering committee co-chaired by Penelope Peavler, president and CEO of Frazier History Museum, and Roger Cude, senior vice president of Humana, announced the plan’s five priorities: offering greater access to the arts; cultivating Louisville as a magnet for artists and creatives, and growing the existing tremendous arts and cultural scene; providing schoolchildren with the opportunity to experience and participate in the arts in their schools; fostering equity, diversity and inclusivity; and promoting Louisville’s arts and cultural assets.

Fund for the Arts is the principle steward of Imagine Greater Louisville 2020. In the fall of 2019, the inaugural Imagine Mural Festival took place on a dozen building facades across Louisville’s Smoketown neighborhood, an undertaking spearheaded by FFTA, Louisville Visual Art and Metro Government, led by Portia White.

Louisville organizations truly excel at collaboration. In April 2020, the Fund for the Arts (FFTA) teamed up with the Arts & Culture Alliance to create the Cultural Lou Recovery Campaign, as closures necessitated by the pandemic caused daily losses of $1.25 million within the arts community. Co-chaired by David Wombwell, market president of US Bank, and Campbell Brown, president of Old Forester, the $10 million campaign was designed to provide financial help for arts and culture organizations, as well as individual artists and culinary artists. Branded online as #ArtsAndCultureINKY, the campaign funded emergency support grants in the spring, with recovery grants so organizations can rebuild to be awarded in the fall.

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LG&E and KU Foundation and GE Appliances, a Haier company, stepped forward to support dollar-for-dollar matching funds using previously restricted donations. These organizations agreed to lift restrictions on those particular grants so they can be used by FFTA to support the Cultural Lou Recovery Campaign and its objectives.

With technology available from platforms such as Zoom and Facebook Live, artists streamed live performances during the pandemic, providing artistic respite for quarantined fans. Speed Art Museum and Frazier History Museum offered virtual art experiences on their websites, maintaining an active online presence.

Celebrating its 60th season in 2020, Kentucky Shakespeare presented virtual encore performances during the spring on Facebook Live for audiences to enjoy at home, including previous years’ performances of “As You Like It,” “Othello,” “Much Ado About Nothing” and “King Lear,” among other Shakespearean works. Partnering with the Louisville Food Truck Association every summer, Kentucky Shakespeare urged supporters to order takeout from the association’s brick-and-mortar local restaurants: All Thai’d Up, Four Pegs, Ramiro’s Cantina and Six Forks in Louisville, and Get It on a Bun at Booty’s in New Albany, Ind.

The Louisville Orchestra was established in 1937. The business community is intertwined with this and other arts organizations, in part by sitting on boards of directors. Seven new board members were appointed to serve Louisville Orchestra beginning June 1, 2020, with Lee Kirkwood, founder and CEO of United Mail, as chair.

Kristian Anderson is the new executive director of Louisville Visual Art as of July 1, replacing Lindy Casebier, who left the organization in January to join Gov. Andy Beshear’s cabinet. Anderson joins LVA from Salt Lake City, Utah, where he was senior policy advisor for arts and culture to the mayor.

The Fund for the Arts launched an online portal for virtual arts and culture experiences, allowing arts organizations and artists to deliver on the collective mission of providing access to engaging arts experiences. Because of increased interaction and audience engagement, it’s likely this type of online portal will continue.

“In our most trying times and in our best times, art is what keeps us centered, connected, inspired, and hopeful,” said Eric King, FFTA’s director of communications and engagement. “The music you may be listening to for relaxation was created by an artist. The video games your children may be enjoying were designed by artists. The books you’re reading and the television shows you’re watching or streaming were all created by artists.”

Boone applauded the innovation and grit shown by creatives who continue to make art and make it accessible. “2020 is nothing like any of us imagined,” she said. “Right now, our artists and venues need our collective help ensure their stability and longevity. I urge you to make a gift today. Together, let’s reaffirm, art is the soul of our city.”

Arts Organizations and Venues

1619 Flux Art + Activism


21c Museum


Actors Theatre of Louisville


B. Deemer Gallery


Carnegie Center for Art & History

New Albany, Ind.


CenterStage at the Jewish Community Center


Clarksville Little Theatre

Clarksville, Ind.


Commonwealth Theatre Center


Derby Dinner Playhouse

Clarksville, Ind.


Filson Historical Society


Hidden Hill Nursery & Sculpture Garden

Utica, Ind.


Iroquois Amphitheater


Kentucky Center for African American Heritage


Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts


Kentucky Opera


Kentucky Shakespeare


KMAC Museum


Louisville Ballet


Louisville Chorus


Louisville Memorial Auditorium


Louisville Orchestra


Louisville Palace


Louisville Theatrical Association


Louisville Visual Art


Louisville Youth Choir


Louisville Youth Orchestra


Mellwood Arts & Entertainment Center


New Albany Riverfront Amphitheater

New Albany, Ind.


Paul W. Ogle Cultural & Community Center

New Albany, Ind.


Pyro Gallery


StageOne Family Theatre


Stephen Foster Story

Bardstown, Ky.


Speed Art Museum


St. James Court Art Show


TheatreWorks of Southern Indiana


UofL Theatre Arts Department


West Louisville Performing Arts Academy