1619 FLUX is re-opening for our One-Year Anniversary on April 15th, 2017 with a new Exhibition about Revitalization in West Louisville, and other surrounding neighborhoods.
“1619 Flux is NOT an art gallery.” — Kara Nichols
Kara Nichols and Jessie Levesque did not want to open an art gallery on West Main Street. Not that there’s anything wrong with that notion, it’s just that the pair had something else in mind. The full name they gave their venture, 1619 Flux Art + Activism is actually fairly direct in announcing the mission, but once you put art on the walls with a price tag, “gallery” is the easy assumption. People get it – they know what that is and they can feel good about it. But the real mission – the second part of that name – is an idea that still struggles to gain currency in the mainstream. What exactly does it mean to use art to effect social change?
Part of the problem is that it can mean so many things. “We want to engage artists who are solving problems creatively,” explains Levesque, “and, of course, part of that engagement will include exhibiting art, but there’s more to it.”
Nichols, who holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Louisville, never saw herself in the role of “curator”, but she and Levesque are inventing a new role for themselves, step-by-step. The first step was to make a home. The building is a humble, low-slung bungalow-like edifice that sits back off of Main Street between 16th and 17th Streets. It seems utilitarian on the outside, and the interior is open and efficient; a good space for a reception. When 1619 opened its doors one year ago, there was a party attended by a host of Louisville VIP’s: Mayor Greg Fisher, Ghislain D’ Humeires, Teddy Abrams, and many others. The high profile event drew a large crowd and the owners engaged a valet parking company to handle the traffic. That doesn’t seem unreasonable for such a glittering night, but later they heard negative comments from the neighbors. “They said to us, ‘seeing valet parking told us we weren’t welcome,’” says Nichols. “Which is exactly the opposite of what we intended.”
Which just underscores the challenge of trying to focus creative social activism through a physical location designed to pull people across the mythical 9th Street divide.
Hoping to clarify their intentions, Nichols and Levesque invited artist and West End resident Gwendolyn Kelly to co-curate a new exhibit that opens April 15, Neighborhood Revitalization & The Creative Flow. Although it does feature artists: Adam Horton, Randall Webber, Anne Huntington, Gwendolyn Kelly, Bryan K. Holden, Scott Vinson, D.R. Stewart, REMI, Kacy Jackson, Dwayne Whidby, Josh Ison, Shaun Sargent, Andrew Cozzens, and Erik Nohalty will all have work in the show, it will also highlight people and businesses that are making a creative difference in neighborhoods in transition: Algonquin, Butchertown, California, Chickasaw, Germantown, NuLu, Parkland, Park DuValle, Park Hill, Phoenix Hill, Portland, Russell, Shawnee, Smoketown, and SoBro/SoFo, among others.
One of the ways they accomplish this is by devising categories for people who affect change through creative action. In the statement for the exhibit, the curators state: “Creative people help to revitalize neighborhoods as architects, artists, connectors, employers, muralists, navigators, and witnesses. Art and activism emerges when creative people invest their time, money, and energy in neighborhoods in flux.”
Nichols, Levesque and Kelly came up with a series of identities:
They see these terms as establishing entry points for individual to become a part of the discussion. “There is so much going on,” says Kelly, “but if people can identify with one of these roles, then they are involved.” The roles encompass people, businesses, social agencies, and art non-profits. “Connectors are churches, school, organizations like Louisville Visual Art,” explains Levesque, “Employers are obvious, but some of the other categories are more subtle in their definition, and, of course, we are all witnesses.”
It may seem surprising that Nichols and Levesque opened their space while still trying to figure things out, but their lack of arrogance and willingness to learn and grow provides an important example for people of means who want to make a difference in the community. It’s too easy to talk yourself out of taking such a risk, and nobody wants to look foolish, but perhaps in the territory where angels fear to tread is exactly where we might find the greatest opportunity for change.
Grand Re-Opening and One-Year Anniversary!
1619 FLUX: Art + Activism’s
Neighborhood Revitalization & The Creative Flow Exhibition
Saturday, April 15th, 2017
5:00pm - 10:00pm
Meat from Superior Meats, BBQ by Boss Hog, wine & beer, sides and desserts from The Table, Farm To Fork, and Sweet Peaches
Live music with WoWuWoo & Krew from 8:00pm to 10:00pm
Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2017 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.