Market Review | Louisville a model for ‘arts and business’ coming together

By Kathie Stamps

Located in Prospect, Norton Commons Amphitheater is a neighborhood concert and event venue in a mixed-use community.
Located in Prospect, Norton Commons Amphitheater is a neighborhood concert and event venue in a mixed-use community.

Fundraising is no easy feat in any industry, yet Louisville’s Fund for the Arts makes it look effortless. By the June 30, 2016, end of its most recent fiscal year, FFA had surpassed its $8.3 million fundraising campaign goal by $300,000. Christen Boone, president and CEO of Fund for the Arts, credits local residents’ and corporate citizens’ arts appreciation.

“Here in Louisville we have one of the national models for arts and business,” Boone said. The United Arts Campaign works with 400-plus companies and nearly 20,000 donors. The strong arts and cultural scene makes a good recruitment tool for corporations and helps companies engage employees in arts-related team building activities and volunteer opportunities.

Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit based in Washington and New York City, recognizes 10 U.S. companies each year for partnering with the arts as part of their business strategy. Known as the BCA 10, the Business Committee for the Arts awards will include two Louisville companies at its NYC gala in October.

MRGLSI2017-300This year the FFA took on coordination efforts for the 2017 Cultural Pass, a summer program that came out of Vision Louisville in 2014. The pass offers children free one-time admission at 38 participating arts venues.

“We have been expanding our Arts and Education program,” Boone said. “With Delta Dental, we reached out to Western Kentucky to support arts in education there; locally we launched Art Match, an opportunity to be able to provide matching dollars for innovative arts project in our community.”

The Fund for the Arts does not receive money from the National Endowment for the Arts, yet NEA dollars are critical for FFA’s cultural partners and other community organizations. “This is not a political issue,” Boone said. “People across the state, rural and urban, benefit from the National Endowment for the Arts. This is a smart investment in our country.”

Community members, 5,000 strong, contributed feedback and input for a year and a half for Imagine Greater Louisville 2020, an arts and cultural vision to transform the region. The steering committee identified five priorities for the plan unveiled in April 2017: offering greater access to the arts; cultivating Louisville as a magnet for artists and creatives, and growing the existing arts and culture 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.

“It was really important for the steering committee to make sure that it wasn’t just an arts and culture plan but that it was a community plan, and addressed community-wide goals and challenges,” Boone said, adding, “knowing that if the community is stronger it will mean more opportunities for all of us.”

Southern Indiana scene

Julie Schweitzer, executive director of Arts Council of Southern Indiana, has created opportunities for young people in New Albany, Ind., and Floyd County’s surrounding areas. Hired six years ago when the doors were about to close, she restructured the organization from one that re-grants monies into more of a presenting organization.

Located in a gothic revival house in New Albany, the Arts Council of Southern Indiana is independently funded by membership dues and programming grants. Representing 400 artists’ work on site, the council’s building houses galleries for visual and performance artists, artist-in-residence rooms, a classroom, gift shop, art storage and a book repository for the center’s “free library” project, which is upcycling old newspaper boxes that were taken off the streets. Using high school students’ creativity, some of the metal boxes were transformed into sculptural works of art and others into artistic little free libraries.

In the spring 2016, Schweitzer was just about to put out a call for artists for the newspaper box art project when a teenager from a youth philanthropy group asked if her school art club could participate.

“I realized this benefited 50 kids instead of one artist,” Schweitzer said. “They had to raise money to fund it, and corporations were involved, and I changed the program.”

Working exclusively with high school and college groups does take more time, but Schweitzer cites the impact on community involvement for present and future artists and residents.

Forecastle draws tens of thousands

Art and music fans of all ages are bound to be found at the annual three-day Forecastle Festival at Waterfront Park. Founded in 2002, the summer event has grown annually, with its dozens of acts now bringing in crowds of 60,000. An economic impact study released in 2014 showed the Forecastle Festival music, art and environmental activism festival contributed more than $14 million to the Louisville economy, with $7.9 million in direct expenditures. In 2010, a 501(c)(3) was formed as the environmental activism arm of the festival. The Forecastle Foundation nonprofit raised $99,000 last year for donations to conservation groups like Kentucky Natural Lands Trust and the Nature Conservancy.

Meanwhile, with a mission of “Art + Activism,” Kara Nichols founded the 1619 Flux art gallery in March 2016. The nonprofit has a gallery on West Main Street and is a founding partner in the Fran Heutig Public Art Project, along with Louisville Metro Public Art and the Fund for the Arts, to provide funding for artwork in public spaces in west Louisville neighborhoods.

“People need spaces that are not home, work or church to connect and reflect on life and community,” Nichols said. “1619 Flux provides this space to bring diverse audiences together through providing opportunities to creative people to exhibit, perform and converse, regardless of race, socioeconomic and demographic origins, and sexual orientations.” 

Marking the gallery’s one-year anniversary, the Neighborhood Revitalization & The Creative Flow Exhibition opened April 15 and was scheduled for display through July. 1619 Flux Artistic Director Jesse Levesque said the curated exhibit “is all about the importance of creative people and the arts in improving community space(s).”

Greater Louisville offers a wealth of arts and culture opportunities for virtually every single taste and style for young and old. Here is a sampling of some of those opportunities.

Actors Theatre of Louisville

actorstheatre.org

B. Deemer Gallery

bdeemer.com

Carnegie Center for Art & History

New Albany, Ind.

carnegiecenter.org

CenterStage at the Jewish Community Center

jccoflouisville.org/the-j/centerstage

Central Kentucky Community Theatre

Springfield

centralkytheatre.com

Clarksville Little Theatre

clarksvillelittletheatre.org

Commonwealth Theatre Center

(formerly Walden Theatre)

commonwealththeatre.org

Derby Dinner Playhouse

Clarksville

derbydinner.com

Filson Historical Society

filsonhistorical.org

Hidden Hill Nursery & Sculpture Garden

Utica, Ind.

hiddenhillnursery.com

Humana Festival of New American Plays

actorstheatre.org/humana-festival-
     of-new-american-plays

Iroquois Amphitheater

iroquoisamphitheater.com

Kentucky Center for African American Heritage

kcaah.org

Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts

kentuckycenter.org

Kentucky Opera

kyopera.org

Kentucky Shakespeare

kyshakespeare.com

KMAC Museum

kmacmuseum.org

Louisville Ballet

louisvilleballet.org

Louisville Chorus

louisvillechorus.org

Louisville Memorial Auditorium

louisvillememorialauditorium.com

Louisville Orchestra

louisvilleorchestra.org

Louisville Theatrical Association

louisville.broadway.com

Louisville Visual Art

louisvillevisualart.org

Louisville Youth Choir

louyouthchoir.org

Louisville Youth Orchestra

lyo.org

Mellwood Arts & Entertainment Center

mellwoodartcenter.com

Museum Row on Main

museumrowonmain.com

New Albany Riverfront Amphitheater

cityofnewalbany.com

Paul W. Ogle Cultural & Community Center

oglecenter.ius.edu

1619 Flux Art + Activism

1619flux.org

StageOne Family Theatre

stageone.org

Stephen Foster Story

Bardstown

stephenfoster.com

Speed Art Museum

speedmuseum.org

St. James Court Art Show

stjamescourtartshow.com

21c Museum

21cmuseum.org

UofL Theatre Arts Department

louisville.edu/theatrearts

West Louisville Performing Arts Academy

westlouisvilleperformingarts.org

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