Arts and Humanities Local News

Spalding University, Kentucky School of Art Partner to Offer BFA

Spalding University and the fledgling Kentucky School of Art have formed a partnership that will allow the art school to accept its first group of students this fall.

Since 2008, artist and teacher Churchill Davenport has been working to get the Kentucky School of Art off the ground by raising funds, holding classes and having notable artists come to town for lectures. Now, its agreement with Spalding University will allow it to accept students through an accredited school and provide needed administration services.

Davenport says many art schools work under this kind of arrangement.

“There’s a number of model schools. There’s a Boston Museum school in Tufts (University),” he says. “There’s Tyler (School of Art) in Temple (University). There’s a lot of terrific art schools, but they’re connected with another school and they stay connected because it’s helpful for both schools.”

The school will have three faculty members teaching about 10 students the first year, but Davenport says he believes it will have a few thousand students in five to ten years.

Davenport wants to grow a school akin to an academy of art with its own kind of curriculum.

“Even when you take an English class, it’s related to art,” he says. “It’s like the core in the middle is the art. And so you take poetry, even a math course can be connected to the art. So it’s the art at the core of the school.”

Davenport sees the school helping grow Louisville.

“People don’t leave the city, they come into the city,” he says. “And businesses are starting to recognize that these art students and this creative thinking is very helpful for business as well as for students going into painting or drawing.”

Spalding University eliminated its degree for a bachelor of fine arts nearly eight years ago when financial circumstances prompted it to restructure. University officials did not return calls for comment.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Hullaba LOU Music Festival Ticket Sales on Track

Churchill Downs Incorporated is placing its bets on bringing in more revenue with the three-day Hullaba LOU Music Festival that kicks off Friday, and it could be a hit if ticket sales meet expectations. So far, more then half of the 90,000 tickets it hopes to sell have been purchased online and organizers expect most of the rest to come in just before or over the weekend.

Churchill Downs announced the three-day festival last fall and now has lined up 65 bands to play five stages at the track starting Friday. Headliners include Bon Jovi, the Dave Matthews Band and Kenny Chesney.

Steve Sexton, president of Churchill Downs Entertainment, says ticket sales are close to meeting projections.

“Our advance sales actually have gone well,” Sexton says. “We said from the onset that if we could achieve 90,000 people over the three days we’d be very pleased. We’re on track to come close to that.”

Sexton says tickets have been sold to people in 47 states and that the festival is part of a wider business plan.

“Our plan is to create large-scale revenue generating events at our venues and around the country,” he says. “So, these will be events that may take place at our facilities but may take place at other venues and the first one we thought was best to launch at our flagship track.”

Sexton says the company has planned amenities to make it easier to navigate the festival.

“We’ve got taxis, shuttles, remote parking lots where people can park and just be shuttled in to make it easy,” he says. “And we’re hopeful fans will see it as the tremendous outdoor show that it can be.”

He says there will be more than music with places to cool off and other attractions including 22 food booths and a festival marketplace with work by juried craftspeople.

Other scheduled acts include the B-52s, Joan Osborne and Dwight Yoakam.

Arts and Humanities In-Depth News Local News

Smaller, Independent Theme Parks Thriving

In recent years, the economy has sent some theme park profits and attendance numbers rolling downhill. Profits flattened after a near decade of increasing revenues that topped out at more than $12 billion. Last year, the theme park chain Six Flags filed for bankruptcy after it carried heavy debt into the recession. But smaller parks have been able to ride out the recession due to some specific strategies.

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Between farms and cornfields dotting Indiana’s southwestern landscape sits Holiday World, a 64-year-old theme park where families line up to pay one admission price to access all rides. But Matt Eckert, its general manager, says these lines aren’t where he saw evidence of the recession nearly two years ago.

“We started seeing a lot of our picnic customers canceling,” Eckert says. “Obviously if a company’s having a down period one of the first things they’re going to cut is you know their employee parties.”

Although company picnic business fell off by about 30 percent, attendance numbers for the everyday customer — which accounts for 85 percent of the park’s business — actually increased. Eckert says this was in part due to admission being fairly inexpensive at about $42. That includes Holiday World’s newest ride — the Wildebeest, the world’s longest water coaster. It’s a series of yellow tubes where flowing water helps shoot riders on a raft through the very wet labyrinth.

Regularly adding new rides is one of the strategies parks like Holiday World use to get customers to return each year and attract new ones. Eckert sums it up this way: “We like those E-S-T words — the biggest, the tallest, the fastest, the best,” he says. “We always go for something that’s going to top something else in the industry if we can.”

The Wildebeest cost more than $5 million — no chump change during a recession. But Eckert says that ride is a factor in business being up this year over last. And he says the company picnic crowd is starting to return. Holiday World has done drawn crowds by making investments over several decades. One of the biggest was adding its Splashin’ Safari water park 1993.

“The water park was huge,” says Pat Koch, the matriarch of the family that started the park. “The water park really helped to increase attendance when it was a very hot, humid day.”

And it has helped business this summer, with its record high temperatures, says Koch, who is also the mother of Will Koch. He oversaw the park’s rapid growth and died last month in an accidental drowning. She says the family is dedicated to continuing the family business and growing it, just as Will Koch would have wanted.

And other independently owned parks in the region are growing — including Bowling Green’s Beech Bend, with its adjoining auto race tracks. It spent $5 million to add a water park with a wave pool and other water rides, which it recently opened after a massive clean up following the April floods. Now, park-owner Dallas Jones says attendance is up.

“I’m going to say we’re in the 7 or 8 percent bracket, if I had to guess,” Jones says. “It may be even a little higher than that. The sad part of it is we’re about six weeks behind.”

These smaller parks, which appeal to people vacationing near home during this recession, are a bit of an anomaly in a sea of larger theme park companies that have seen revenues drop. They’ve had had to cut expenses and slash ticket prices to bring customers through the gates. With that backdrop, industry eyes were keenly focused on last months opening of Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando, says Dennis Speigel who consults theme parks nationwide. He says in these times, large bureaucratic companies often have limited access to credit and are unable to commit to new attractions.

“When you’re an independent operator, and assuming you have the capital, you can make these decisions rather quickly and implement them rapidly,” Speigel says.

Louisville businessman Ed Hart says he understands the strengths of these smaller parks. He once operated Kentucky Kingdom before selling it to Six Flags. He built up that park with big rides and one of the industry’s first water parks accessible with a general park entrance fee. While Six Flags closed that park earlier this year, Hart is now in negotiations to reopen Kentucky Kingdom next summer. He says he sees the smaller parks leading the way in the industry.

“Park owners are starting to realize that the future is more in creating family entertainment as opposed to just trying to appeal to teenagers with these high-thrill rides,” he says.

And industry observers say that kind of thinking could be to the ticket to a rebound for the industry.

Arts and Humanities Local News

My Morning Jacket Announces It Will Play with Louisville Youth Orchestra

The Louisville-based band My Morning Jacket announced today it will perform at the new KFC Yum! Center this fall. My Morning Jacket will perform at the new arena Oct. 29 with the Louisville Youth Orchestra, with some of the proceeds going to the organization.

The band made the announcement at ear X-tacy along with leaders from the youth orchestra.

Lead singer Jim James says that the band is dedicated to spotlighting local businesses and the arts.

“We want to remind everybody in Louisville that there are great outlets for youth to discover music and discover art,” James says. “Unfortunately, in our society, the arts have continually been cut back and shortchanged, so we want to let everybody know that there are great programs out here for kids to get involved in music and art.”

Leaders from the Louisville Youth Orchestra say that the group will get one dollar from every ticket purchased , which could double funding for its scholarship program.

Melody Welsh-Buchholz is the Louisville Youth Orchestra’s executive director.

“This will allow up to 50 new members who otherwise would not be able to participate with us because of economic circumstances to be a part of this organization,” she says. “And that is a really, really big deal for us.”

The usual annual budget for the scholarship fund is $15,000.

In 2008, My Morning Jacket held a concert at Waterfront Park with the Louisville Leopard Percussionists in a performance that benefited the Center for Women and Families.

The concert is being presented by WFPL’s sister station, WFPK.

Wax Fang will open for My Morning Jacket. Tickets go on sale Saturday, August 14.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Forecastle Festival at Waterfront Park Set to Be Largest; Features Site-Specific Art

Today kicks off the ninth annual Forecastle Festival — and it’s growing. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

Organizers of this year’s three-day festival say they expect 30,000 attendees in addition to about 1200 musicians, artists, environmentalists and sponsors. This makes it the largest so far. Headliners include Devo, The Flaming Lips, Widespread Panic and Spoon.

The festival focuses on music, art and activism. And this year the event is also debuting at at a new site — 75 acres of Waterfront Park.

Getting it here was a big goal for founder JK McKnight.

“Waterfront Park’s just an amazing, beautiful piece of real estate down here,” McKnight says. “And it’s really a privilege that we have that here in Louisville. To me it’s the perfect place to set roots finally and grow this thing in the next couple years.”

Another festival milestone is the large-scale, site-specific art it’s featuring, says Mike Ratterman, who has organized artists’ participation in the festival since its inception.

“As the crowd grew, the art really had to grow as well in the nature that the work presents to people — as far what people expect to see at a  festival of this nature and how they interact with the work,” Ratterman says, “so to move to larger installation pieces that have a more environmental theme just seemed a whole lot more appropriate. ”

Three regional artists have created site-specific work that is scattered throughout the 75-acres that make up the festival grounds. One is sculptor Joyce Ogden, whose multiple towers reference rainfall in Kentucky.

Ogden says she loves the idea of incorporating large-scale art into the festival.

“I like the idea of art being integrated into our culture and what we do,” she says, “and I think it’s an interesting kind of union.”

Artists Leticia Bajuyo and Todd Smith also have created work for this year’s festival. (To read more about the artists showing work in the festival click here.) Festival partner Nederlander Entertainment contributed $12,000 for the art projects. The festival also has an audio tour of the artwork (1-888-244-4186).

Last year, Outside Magazine selected it one of its “Top 15 Outdoor Summer Festivals.”

PHOTOS: Work by Leticia Bajuyo (top); work by Joyce Ogden (middle); Joyce Ogden setting up her site-specific work.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Indiana Arts Groups Face Difficulties Fundraising

Elizabeth Kramer

Some Indiana institutions have issued a report about the condition of the state’s arts organizations. The Indiana Arts Commission enlisted Indiana University’s School of Public And Environmental Affairs to conduct a survey of more than 1,500 organizations.

Kirsten Grønbjerg is an Indiana University professor and chair of the school’s Center on Philanthropy. She says the data shows Indiana’s arts groups have some priority concerns — particularly— “More funding — that clearly what the organizations themselves say what is what is needed,” she says, “but also technical assistance, workshops and opportunities for learning from other organizations providing similar kinds of services.”

Laura Frank is with the Indiana Arts Commission. She says the commission has already begun acting on some of the report’s findings.

“We found funding assistance is needed and so we had a seminar on fundraising and constituent building in the current economy,” Frank says. “And we also found peer learning and collaborative activities are important so we had a seminar last week called Leading at the Speed of Change.”

(The Arts Commission, which is a department of state government, worked with the Indiana Coalition for the Arts, an advocacy organization that also helps artists and arts groups.)

Grønbjerg says the report shows that arts groups are having a much harder time obtaining funding than other kinds of non-profit groups. She says they deserve help to continue the role they play in communities.

“These organizations are looking to community leaders and funders, policy makers to provide support for these organizations,” Grønbjerg says. “They are an important part of the quality of life in local communities.”

Grønbjerg and Frank say the report will be useful to organizations that fund arts groups and to government officials.

Arts and Humanities Local News

U of L Hosts American Literature Scholars from Overseas

Elizabeth Kramer

Scholars from 18 countries — including Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Zambia — are now studying American literature through a University of Louisville program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. This is the ninth year the university is hosting this Institute on Contemporary American Literature. Over six weeks, participants who teach the subject in their home countries are reading and discussing a range of works including those by Adrienne Rich, Don DeLillo and August Wilson.

U of L professor Tom Byers coordinates the institute. He says through literature the program helps university instructors from other countries better understand this country.

“This helps us break down stereotypes about the U.S. among foreign educators who are going to have an influence probably over thousands of young people who are getting an education about the U.S. in their own country,” he says.

The program includes readings from an array of well-known and emerging writers, Byers says.

“We study work by Alan Ginsburg and Toni Morrison,” he says, “but also work by younger writers Junot Diaz, who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and then African-American dramatists Suzan-Lori Parks and Lynn Nottage.”

Participants also get to meet writers from Kentucky and others throughout the country through trips to Santa Fe, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Byers says this opportunity is something so rare for many of them who work with very few resources.

“An awful lot of people around the world are teaching American literature from Xeroxed copies,” he says. “In some cases they’re lecturing about writers that their students don’t have an opportunity to read.”

In the era of globalization, many foreign policy watchers have been calling for more cultural exchanges between the United States and other countries.

PHOTO: Participants of the 2009 Institute

Arts and Humanities Local News

New Albany Plans to Apply For Cultural District Designation of It's Downtown

Elizabeth Kramer

New Albany has been featuring more arts and culture in its downtown in recent years, and now it’s looking to have that area become a state-designated cultural district. The city officially indicated this week that it will apply next month to the Indiana Arts Commission to receive the designation.

City plan commission assistant director Scott Wood says the downtown already has many features and events that can help it in its application.

“New Albany’s bicentennial is in 2013 and we’ve already begun incorporating public art as part of the celebration of our bicentennial,” he says. “Downtown is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places; there’s some great architecture.”

The idea of state-designated cultural districts has been gaining ground since Maryland was the first state to start such a program in 2001. Kentucky is working on a pilot program and Indiana launched its program last year. Their features vary. Some programs provide tax incentives to businesses and nonprofits within districts. Others, like Indiana’s, provide tourism marketing support.

Wood says he thinks New Albany could use that kind of support.

“New Albany has an impressive mass of cultural facilities in its historic downtown that we thought really deserved to be considered for statewide cultural district certification,” he says. “That certification would be yet another tool in our toolbox that would help tourism downtown, the Carnegie Center for Art and History and many of the other facilities we have downtown as well as our private businesses.”

Cities with areas accepted into Indiana’s Cultural District Program do not receive funding at this time, but some policy makers think that could change if the economy improves.

New Albany is the only southern Indiana city this year to officially indicate its interest in being part of the state’s Cultural Districts Program. Earlier this year, the districts in Bloomington, Carmel and Lafayette received official state recognition.

PHOTOS: The New Albany Riverfront Amphitheater (top); Flood, a large-scale video projection onto the YMCA building of the Ohio River water by Valerie Sullivan Fuchs and part of the The New Albany Bicentennial Public Art Project (bottom).

Arts and Humanities Local News

New Theater and Restaurant Set to Open in Louisville

By Elizabeth Kramer

A new theater space with a restaurant will open next month in Louisville. The Bard’s Town will be at Bardstown Road and Speed Avenue. The name is a reference to William Shakespeare.

Doug Schutte is one of three partners in the venture.

“Our theater space will have a resident company,” he says, “but that’s only going to run about seven productions each year. So, we have some local groups that we’ve already been in contact with — from theater to poetry to music— and we want to open the doors and be a sort of community center as well.”

Schutte says he and his partners designed the space with contemporary theater in mind.

“Most of the new work of today is really challenging and puts everything out there in front of the audience and with the audience and so our space is really conducive to that,” he says. ‘It’ll be tables and chairs for 75 to 80 people, so you’ll be able to eat and drink. But it will really be a community feel.”

Schutte says he and his partners have already begun working to develop the season for the resident company.

“Our first season is going to be devoted to all new work by Kentucky playwrights and then, of course, by opening our doors to some of the community folks. And so I think we’ll fit in as sort of a hub as well as a springboard for new voices.”

Although the restaurant opens in July, theater groups aren’t scheduled to perform there until September.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Governor's Arts School Students Study with Second City

Elizabeth Kramer

Drama students in this year’s Kentucky’s Governor’s School for the Arts are getting some training from the famed comedy theater — Second City. It’s touring company was already on the summer schedule at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts when staff working with the Governor’s School got the idea to have members work with its drama students. So, on Saturday, the 29 drama students will study improvisational acting from actors associated with an institution that nurtured the careers of prominent artists including Alan Arkin, Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Bill Murray, and Amy Sedaris.

Leah Raidt is working with the drama students and says that improv is an important skill.

“Mainly because it keeps them on their toes,” she says. “It keeps them listening to their partners. And it’s about learning the give and take that it takes for actors on stage. And also it helps with the audience exchange: holding for laughter; knowing what the audience wants.”

Heather Weston Bell is executive director of the Governor’s School says she’s excited for the students.

“For them to have that opportunity to work with artists operating at that level is absolutely huge,” she says, “to have the opportunity to talk with them; hear about their experience; hear how they got where they are in their career; but also the opportunity to have class with them.”

Raidt and Bell say a well-rounded education in acting includes learning improvisational theater. And Raidt says the improv techniques they’ll learn could be valuable in building their careers.

“They’re going to see artists who collaborate, and that’s one of the things that Second City is built on,” Raidt says. “They have this whole community of the artists that used to be there that are now famous, that are working there now, they have a school within Second City. And they’ll get to see improve is actually its own industry.”

Second City performs at the Kentucky Center Saturday night. This year’s Governor’s School has 225 students participating in nine different art forms.