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Taking Stock of Election Collectibles

Now, that the elections are over, the remnants remain. Yard signs, button, posters and the like. Some of them may be worth thousands of dollars — someday. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

The phones at area bookstores have been ringing off the hook.

“We have Time and People right now and also Newsweek with him on the cover,” Cassie Bryant tells a caller.

Bryant is a Books A Million employee who has been telling dozens of callers since last week that the store does not have the newspapers they want. People have been calling looking for newspapers with the President-elect on the cover and often finding none.

The callers are hunting them down as mementoes from the historic presidential election of Barack Obama. And entrepreneurs are getting in on the frenzy. Last Wednesday’s New York Times is attracting bids of almost $100 on EBay. On Craigslist sellers of that day’s Washington Post are asking $50.

But serious collectors of campaign memorabilia say newspapers aren’t really worth that today and won’t even appreciate beyond their newsstand price over years or even decades.

Throughout the recent atypical election, serious collectors have been — well, collecting all sorts of things depicting the candidates, from the posters and pins to toys and — purses.

“Picked up a Barack Obama purse from someone out in Hawaii that was supposed to be a limited edition of about 50 purses; two little three dimensional toys, one of Obama and one of McCain. McCain says he’s ‘Armed to the Dentures with Experience,’ and ‘Vote for Me and Hope for the Best’ on the Obama one.”

Prospect resident Bob Westerman has these gems in a cabinet in his basement. All around are posters, pins and license plates from elections dating back more than 100 years. He’s been at it since 1980 and is a member of a group called the American Political Items Collectors. His most valuable piece is a pin from 1899 for William Jennings Bryan, who was a three-time Democratic Party presidential nominee around the turn of the 19th Century. The pin is worth about $5,000. Westerman says limited edition pieces with city and date references are worth more.

Westerman and other Louisville collectors also buy original handmade pieces and others created by artists in limited editions — like that purse with President-elect Obama.

One artist who’s been successful among collectors is Brian Campbell, who creates pins from his acrylic paintings. Westerman has a box packed with Campbell pins, one with Sen. John McCain in an uncomfortable embrace with President George Bush and another depicting “Arizona McCain” in a pose mimicking an “Indiana Jones” movie poster.

One recent purchase has a simple image: an arm held high with a fist tightly gripping — a plunger.

Brain Campbell says the pins aren’t promoting a candidate or really towing any party line.

“The pins themselves will kind of tell a story and you’ll see that pin 30 years from now and ‘What is this guy holding a plunger?'” Campbell says. “And somebody will tell the story of ‘Joe the Plumber’ that we heard more about then than maybe we wanted to.”

Buyers wanting that pin or others can get them through the network of dealers. Most of them are elected officials or political junkies like Westerman.

And Westerman has some advice for anyone collecting items from this year’s campaign. He says, where investing is concerned, look for rare pieces — those that have pics of the presidential candidates with their running mates and those made by artists and crafts people.

And what does Westernam think will be valuable?

“There’s some things, I’m sure, from this election haven’t even crossed my mind as what might be a collectible,” Westerman says. “But, you know, 30 to 40 years from now — you know, it’s ‘Golly, I didn’t even know those existed at that time.'”

Westerman says save what most collectors save: those pieces that you personally like and that have meaning to you.

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Arts and Humanities In-Depth News Local News

Art Projects at Local Jail Reach Beyond the Bars

Jails aren’t pretty, and their not supposed to be. But now jails have programs to help inmates turn their lives around, and in Louisville art is part of the mix. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

Jails across the country are overcrowded, and more than half of the 13 million people who are released from local jails each year return. Substance abuse often factors into their return. It costs communities millions of dollars and has corrections officials and policy researchers scrambling for new approaches.

Amy Solomon of the Urban Institute studies these issues.

“They’re thinking about treatment and programming and assessment and connections with families and things that will enhance the odds that people will succeed when they get out,” Solomon says.

“They,” in this case, means the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections. Since 2004, the department has developed programs that reduce recidivism. The department has drug and alcohol programs and teaches classes in job searching, financial management and strengthening family relationships.

Now, art is being woven into these efforts. It started two years ago when Linda Zundel, a social worker with the department, got a call from the Kentucky Foundation for Women. It had received a $50,000 donation. The anonymous donor had visited a loved one in the jail and found the experience traumatic for her and her child. She wanted art to make a difference.

“I mean I just remember getting the call and thinking, ‘Well, I wonder what this really means,'” Zundel says. “We really weren’t sure how art was going to come into corrections.”

Since then Zundel has worked with the foundation and local artists to put art in places for inmates and their families.

Sundays this month, artists like Terry Wunderlish are on hand at tables set up in the basement of the Hall of Justice. Here, the lighting is dark and the air smells faintly like the sewer. People wait to talk to inmates via video screens in an adjacent room.

Wunderlish and other volunteers unpack paper, pens and stickers. The kids line up to sit and draw. Wunderlish hands them each a sheet asking them to give hope a color.

“Pick a color you think means ‘hope,'” Wunderlish tells them. “And then you can, you know, pick the color of paper and put stickers on it and draw a picture if you want and then we can all hang it up and make a little, like a banner.”
“Really?” asks one child.
“That’s cool,” says another.

Alexis is eight and Caitlin three. They’ve been here on several visits to see their father, who has been in and out of jail over the past two years. Their mother, Crystal, says it’s been hard on them.

“It’s upsetting because their father’s incarcerated,” Crystal says. “But while they’re waiting, they don’t have to be sad. They can keep themselves occupied and enjoy themselves by doing the art projects.”

Wunderlish and Zundel say programs for children with incarcerated parents help reduce stress during visitation and help children think in ways that will help them not follow in that parent’s footsteps.

One block away, families also visit the gray lobby at the jail where they can deposit money into an inmate’s account and meet a prisoner after release. This month the lobby will change when a ceramic mural goes up along one of the room’s long walls. Local sculptor Joyce Ogden is managing the project. It started with a survey.

“We were blown away by how people identified with art and that they could have a message,” Ogden says. “And ultimately that they wanted to convey a message of hope and change.”

In the art studio at Spalding University, where Ogden also teaches, she shows me a detailed drawing by one inmate of a car dashboard overlooking a horizon.

“These are the flat tiles that are getting the artwork,” Ogden says.
“What does that say?” I ask her about the words at the bottom of one tile.
“Somewhere else, 100 miles,” she answers.

Ogden says the mural was a community art project involving inmates, their family members and dozens of volunteers who made small pieces that are part of the landscape.

Social worker Linda Zundel says she sees all of these efforts working to improve the odds for inmates to succeed when they get out. But she’s still not sure how to keep this going — including the art activities for children — the foundation’s funding runs out.

“We’re looking at some other community-minded people volunteering their time to come in and either read stories to the kids or do more art activities like this because we don’t really have a long-term plan yet,” Zundel says. “We’re just trying to see if this is going to work and it’s worthwhile.”

Related Links

The Transition from Jail to Community Initiative, a joint effort of the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Institute of Corrections and the Urban Institute

A Report from the Urban Institute: Life After Lockup: Improving Reentry from Jail to the Community

A Report from the Urban Institute: Understanding the Needs and Experiences of Children of Incarcerated Parents

The Center for Children of Incarcerated Parents

American Correctional Association

American Jails Association

The Community Arts Network’s links for arts and corrections projects

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Mayor Abramson Announces Effort to Create Public Art Plan

Mayor Jerry Abramson announced today that the city has hired a consultant to develop a master plan for public art. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

Louisville has public art that ranges from men on horses to bike racks, but today Abramson announced that it is spending $50,000 to develop a master plan for public art in the city.

Abramson says that the plan should ensure that public art is not just downtown but throughout the community.

“Whether we see art in terms of the bridges that we develop along the 100-mile loop around the community, whether it’s in Valley Station or Fern Creek or Highview or Prospect, or whether we see it in suburban settings in suburban parks — all that’s in play,” Abramson says.

Meredith Johnson is a consultant hired by the city from a New York-based organization called Creative Time. She will lead the development of the plan including funding options.

“There are a number of funding sources that are possible for a program like this,” Johnson says. “And over the next year, part of our mission through the master-planning process is really to identify what key sources of funding are for the whole breadth of the program, both short-term and long-term.”

Creative Time has been involved in well-known temporary public art projects including the two vertical towers of light that now shine at the World Trade Center every September.

Besides developing funding strategies, the master plan also will involve an inventory of the public art that exists and conversations about public art with diverse groups throughout the community.

Abramson says that the public art program should spur economic development and convey Louisville’s identity. Today, there are more than 350 public art programs across the country at the city, state and national levels.

Johnson says the process to create the plan should take about a year with a series of pilot projects to follow.

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Arts and Humanities In-Depth News Local News

Louisville Invests $50,000 for Public Art Master Plan

Public Art is popping up around the country. There are more than 350 public art programs at the city, state and national levels. And today, Louisville announced it will establish a master plan of its own. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

Why is public art important?Artist Michael Burrell mounts a mural, which is part of Lexington\'s public art program.

“Art is about life. It’s about economic development. It’s about who we are and what we are as a city.”

That’s Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson announcing that the city is spending $50,000 to develop a master plan for public art over the next year.

While Louisville has had some public art projects, it’s a relative newcomer to forming a plan for public art. Philadelphia has the oldest program and Seattle has one of the nation’s most famous.

But what are the benefits? Proponents say helping a city distinguish itself and attracting people, including tourists and their dollars. That includes Barbara Goldstein. She edited “Public Art by the Book.”

“Public art reinforces urban design,” Goldstein says. “It can make a place extraordinary. It can help reinforce the public qualities of the space by stimulating people to be there, to stay there, to enjoy the space, to ask questions.”

Still, some controversies have shaken people’s faith in public art. In the 1980s, “Tilted Arc,” an imposing sculpture on a New York City plaza, generated a public hearing ushering its removal. In 2005, Louisville removed and severely damaged a large sculpture sitting outside the Jefferson County Courthouse. Then in 2006, Louisville sanctioned a graffiti wall for artists on East Market Street. Soon after obscenities were scrawled there, the city halted the project.

It is exactly these kinds of situations that have led many cities to carefully create plans for public art.

Goldstein says good plans should seek input from citizens, help delineate the rights of artists and property owners, and identify funding sources.

“If you look at something more as a plan and a system of events and decision points, then you’re more likely to have something that endures and can respond to change,” Goldstein says.

Other Kentucky cities have launched large-scale public art programs. Since 2002, the Owensboro Public Art Commission has put up six outdoor sculptures with money from private donors. In 2000, Lexington held an exhibition of horse sculptures called HorseMania and auctioned them to raise more than $750,000. The money helped establish a public art program now run by LexArts, which is now beginning to surface on city streets.

The whirling of drill a is the sound of LexArts’ Mural Project. On the outside wall of a bar in Lexington’s North Limestone neighborhood, an artist is putting up painted panels for one mural. He worked with the neighborhood association to create it, with its image of a beloved music teacher.

LexArts president Jim Clark who also worked with the New York Public Art Fund says a solid plan often involves anticipating potential conflicts and input from community groups.

“Unless you have an organization that is structured to accommodate public art and keep it going, you will be destined to do these episodic events,” Clark says.

In Louisville, Clark’s ideas and those of Barbara Goldstein are definitely in play, says Meredith Johnson. She is a curator with an organization in New York called Creative Time and the consultant who will lead the development of Louisville’s master plan.

“We really want to make a plan that’s unique and dynamic and internationally renowned that is Louisville specific,” Johnson says.

Among her many tasks, Johnson will hold focus groups with a range of people, including art historians and business owners, and identify funding sources.

And most experts agree that the management of these tasks and communicating with the public will determine if Louisville’s $50,000 is an investment well spent.

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Sixth Forecastle Festival this Weekend

This weekend marks the sixth year for the Forecastle Festival with its emphasis on music, art and activism. Festival founder JK McKnight has featured regional music and community and environmental activists at the annual event. This year, he added music industry discussions to help regional musicians and tapped Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as its keynote speaker to appeal to a wide range of people.

“This year, I really kind of wanted to have someone very recognizable in the environmental community and also someone to kind of bridge the generational divide,” McKnight says. “You know, I think a lot of people have looked at Forecastle as something that centers around youth and young people.”

Last year, the festival drew nearly 4,000 people .

McKnight, who founded the festival in 2002, says the Forecastle Festival has paralleled the rise of others like Bonnaroo, but features more regional talent to draw visitors from communities throughout the Midwest and Upper South.

“We have 10 cities that are participating this year in the festival in six states and we’re about representing the communities of this region,” he says. “Just from a music, art and activism standpoint, anyone that comes from one of these cities will see their city represented.”

Participating cities include Cincinnati, St. Louis, Nashville and Indianapolis.

The festival is today through Sunday on the Riverfront Belvedere.

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The 48 Hour Film Project Debuts 48 New Films

Tonight and tomorrow, The Louisville 48 Hour Film Project shows the on the big screen.

Last weekend, 48 teams scrambled to produce a film in 48 hours. Each team had to choose a genre and include a specific character, prop and line, as the festival’s producer, Sheila Berman, explains.

“This year the character was a runner. Some people have a jogging runner. Someone else has someone who’s a runner in a kitchen. The prop is a wrench. And the line of dialogue is ‘What about global warming?’ So every team has to have those three elements in their film,” she says.

This is the third year the project has unleashed teams on the city. The first such project took place in Washington, D.C. in 2001.

Berman, a local attorney, launched the festival as a way for local filmmakers to meet each other and see each other’s work. Berman says it’s helped build relationships that have extended beyond the festival.

“There definitely have been people who have met up in the audience at the film project who have gone on to work on various project together, which is great because the more you can get people collaborating, I think the better it is for the Louisville film community,” she says.

Berman says some teams consist of experienced filmmakers, while others are novices. The goal is to promote local filmmaking through a competition and festival. She says this baptism-by-fire approach to filmmaking also helps those interested in making films get started. The films will premier at Village 8 Theatres.

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Landmark Feminist Art on Exhibit at Spalding University

An artwork created by local artists with renowned feminist artist Judy Chicago has an opening reception Thursday at Spalding University’s Huff Gallery.

The idea for the Hot Flash Fan came about in 1984, when Geraldine Ferraro was a candidate for Vice President and women’s health issues, especially menopause, were seldom discussed.

Ann Stewart Anderson worked with Judy Chicago and more than 50 other women to create this large textile piece with panels representing myths and realities about menopause.

Anderson remembers the first showing in 1985.

“There was not one sound and some people were in tears. They were just so moved by it, that this had finally happened,” Anderson says. “People started talking about menopause at cocktail parties. It was out there all of a sudden.”

Anderson remembers working with Chicago, who had overseen the creation of “The Dinner Party,” a famous installation with work by other women artists, in the 1970s. (It is on permanent display at the Brooklyn Museum.)

“She was tough to work with but also extremely inspired and inspiring because she just believed that you could do anything,” Anderson says. “I learned a lot from her, as a matter of fact.”

The Kentucky Foundation for Women says it’s showing this piece 23 years after its creation, to elevate the discussion of women’s issues especially health.