Phoenix Hill’s Public Art

by dgilliam on October 7, 2010

Louisville’s Phoenix Hill neighborhood stretches east to west, from Baxter Avenue to Preston Street, and north to south from Main Street to Broadway. Like the mythological bird rising from the ashes, the neighborhood has undergone a series of transformations dating back to the 1970s and 80s, and Phoenix Hill is now the first Louisville neighborhood to incorporate a public art project. (Left: Beacon by Brooke White)

Creativity Rising is comprised of twelve unique works of art, scattered through out Phoenix Hill. The style and medium range from the abstract to the humorous, which curator Aron Conaway says was one consideration in picking the artists, “I tried to get some artists that show on Market Street. I tried to get some artists from right around the neighborhood. Sean is from Butchertown, so he’s right around the corner. I thought he would have a nice light-hearted approach to the project, where as some of the other artists may be a little bit more conceptual and heady. So it was a nice dynamic between the 12 artists.”

Conaway is referring to Sean Garrison, the former front-man for Louisville punk band Kinghorse. Garrison will tell you he was an unlikely candidate for a public art project. “It’s just kind of mind-blowing that I am capabale of creating something that can be put up in public,” says Garrison, “I didn’t know that was in me.”

Like many of the other artists, Garrison looked for a historic aspect of Phoenix Hill as the basis for his work. He found something that might be considered an extreme sport for the 19th century: The Six-Day Bike Races. These bike races were one aspect of a neighborhood that once boasted a 111-foot bar, bowling alleys and skating rinks. It was the entertainment district of Louisville, and the original East End. (Right: 6 Day Bike Races at Phoenix Brewery by Sean Garrison)

Doug Magee is the president of the Phoenix Hill Neighborhood Association, and says that the art seems to be having a positive effect on the neighborhood that endures its share of vandalism. But more than giving tag artists second-thought before spray painting the side of a building, Magee says the art has created dialogue between residents, businesses and artists.

And this all seems to be achieving what public art should do, according to Chris Radke, who has been co-chair of the Mayor’s Committee for Public Art, for the past year, “It’s really important for people to have a sense of place. And we all have to recognize how important one’s own environment is. It’s a quality of life, a sense of place…a sense of identity. And when you have public art that is really working, it causes dialogue.”

You can view more photos of the artwork at The Edit.

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