“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word 'love' here not merely in the personal sense, but as a state of being, or a state of grace … the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.”

– James Baldwin, “The Fire Next Time”

Inspired by the quote from James Baldwin's book, “The Fire Next Time,” the Tough & Universal project was a collaboration of Louisville Visual Art, IDEAS 40203, Kentucky Museum of Art & Craft and YouthBuild Louisville.

Torn between reality and hope, Baldwin’s book pleads for Americans to reject the delusion of the value placed on the color of skin. He admits what “I am asking is impossible,” but adds that “human history … testifies to the perpetual achievement of the impossible.”

During Kentuckians for the Commonwealth’s recent Smoketown GetDown for Democracy event, artists Carrie Burr and Joen Pallesen made photographic portraits of Smoketown residents who wanted to participate in the collaborative project. The photos are being made into giant wheat paste posters and affixed to the side of YouthBuild Louisville’s workforce development center on Preston Street at Lampton.

On October 2, this large, temporary collage served as the entrance to the Smoketown Poetry Opera – a performance event telling the story of the Sheppard Square housing development. Tough & Universal was supported by funds from IDEAS 40203 / YouthBuild Louisville’s ArtPlace America grant to foster a “Creative Innovation Zone” in Smoketown.  The Creative Innovation Zone utilizes art and artists to support workforce development, job skills training and green space development in and around Sheppard Square.