All artists begin with a blank space - a page, a canvas, a block of stone. A wall is, in theory, no different: an open invitation to fill a space with creative design and expression. Yet perhaps it takes a little more vision to imagine filling the side of a building with something that is not a billboard. Instead of presenting the public with a commercial advertisement, why not something that captures the flavor of the neighborhood and inspires community engagement?
Murals exist around Louisville; created by individual artists and often sponsored by community organizations and neighborhood groups, but these efforts, however laudable, are, by and large, disparate projects occurring without synchronicity. They are positive in their impact and done with the best of intentions, but what if these earnest initiatives could be expanded, and given infrastructure to support the desire?
In answer to those questions, Louisville Visual Art (LVA), in partnership with the Center for Neighborhoods, has launched MAP (Mural Art Program) a long-term, sustainable public art program that engages local businesses, professional artists, Louisville Metro, and the greater Louisville community in the creation of large-scale murals to celebrate our city's unique identity and enhance civic pride.
The collaboration was functionally born out of a mural project in Hikes Point in which CFN had engaged with artist Liz Richter to plan and execute a design on a lengthy expanse of wall on the Big Lots building at 3938 Taylorsville Road. In developing her proposal, Richter reached out to LVA’s Director of Education and Outreach, Jackie Pallesen. “That was in late Fall 2015,” remembers Pallesen. “Liz knew community outreach would be important. And she knew we had a lot of experience with that.”
That element of Richter’s proposal resonated strongly with CFN Director Tom Stephens, and after she was selected, the communication continued with LVA after both organizations found themselves crossing paths on the hunt for funding. Although CFN had an initiative for public art, P.A.I.N.T. (Producing Art In Neighborhoods Together), it still saw the use and value of collaborating with LVA. “We could have perhaps figured out the answers to some of he questions ourselves, but why not go to the experts instead?” explains Stephens.
Such a comment points to the shared elements of each organization’s mission, the need to empower diverse community voices while enhancing Louisville's public spaces through the visual arts, and how natural it is to pool resources to better accomplish that goal. Partnerships such as this are essential and becoming more and more common because they make sense.
The Hikes Point project came about not long after the LVA education team’s research and development for MAP, which had included visiting neighboring cities and meeting with their counterparts in other organizations such as LexArts in Lexington and ArtsWave in Cincinnati.
Synchronicity was also a factor in providing a first, official salvo in launching MAP, when Ashley Trommler of strADegy Advertising approached LVA with an original design for a mural, called “Flourish.” Trommler had been touring the city looking for just the right location for her inspirational message when she spied a large wall on LVA’s Portland location that felt perfect.
The newly installed "Flourish" mural was painted by Louisville artists Ashley Brossart and Alyx McClain, and unveiled on July 28. "Flourish embodies the spirit of collaboration between LVA, Center for Neighborhoods and Louisville Metro. Having this mural on our building signifies our commitment to making Portland a creative hub for our city. MAP will create opportunities for local artists and business owners to enhance community engagement and development," said LVA Executive Director Lindy Casebier.
Mo McKnight Howe, owner of Revelry Boutique Gallery and Board Member for LVA and the Fund for the Arts, worked with LVA’s education team on developing MAP, and organized a kick-off fundraiser at the Garage Bar on August 19 that featured live painting by artists, Karl Otto, Pat Stephenson, Alyx McClain, Ashley Brossart, Braylyn Resko Stewart, Vinnie Kochert, and Liz Richter, with the 8’ x 8’ panels being auctioned on-line during the event. Says How, “Art has a great affect in transitioning neighborhoods. Louisville needs more murals and MAP is the answer to this need.”
This Feature article was written by Keith Waits.
In addition to his work at the LVA, Keith is also the Managing Editor of a website, www.Arts-Louisville.com, which covers local visual arts, theatre, and music in Louisville.
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Photos by Sarah Katherine Davis. Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2016 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.