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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.

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Arts and Humanities In-Depth News Local News

Looking at Possibilities for a Louisville Public Art Plan

This is a story from WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer.

Last month, Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson released a plan for public art [pdf] in the city. It came after nearly 17 months of preparation and $50,000 spent for a consultant who worked with the community to develop it. The plan now goes before the Metro Council for approval, so the community is now looking at how it will work and its prospects.

Here, on Bashford Manor Lane in front of sprawling Wal-Mart parking lot, is some existing public art. Among four benches is a relief sculpture by artist Bob Lockhart. It shows three Kentucky Derby winners from the Bashford Manor Farms, which were torn down in the early 1970s. Some people living nearby say they’ve never seen anyone sit there. One is Anthony Johnson.

“I don’t know why these are out here,” Johnson tells me. “I guess if somebody’s walking or whatever they need to stop or something.”

Under the city’s land code, commercial developers with a project exceeding 100,000 square feet must set aside a percentage of their construction budget for public amenities — like benches and sculptures or even fountains and more. This spot is a result of that requirement.

But a new idea concerning that code came up during meetings between city officials, a public art consultant and developers. And the developers are happy with this idea: to have the option to use the money they are required to spend for such amenities and, instead, contribute it to a public art fund.

That agreement signified a potential benefit for developers and became a linchpin in Louisville’s efforts to formulate a public art plan with funding to preserve the city’s existing public art and help create and care for new art.

But the mayor’s office didn’t want to just satisfy developers. Officials also consulted with many other groups. Mary Lou Northern, the mayor’s senior advisor for cultural affairs, oversaw that process.

“There was an educators group. There was a group of historians. There was a group of artists,” she says.

So far, the result is a 70-page plan [pdf], with three pages dedicated to funding. The rest proposes the public and non-profit bodies that would underpin new public art. Metro Government would hire a public art administrator to work with a new commission. And that group would set up an independent non-profit organization to raise funds, commission art, and consider proposals from other -profits, like arts and neighborhood groups.

The proposed policies have elated local artists including Chris Radtke, who is co-chair of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Public Art and worked on the plan. She says it would give artists a new avenue for their creative ideas — and pay them.

“The artists will come up with things you haven’t even thought of in terms of sites,” Radtke says. “And they’ll come up with projects not even on your radar. And so this allows that to happen. Artists from anywhere can look at Louisville, see a site and think of a project that is really out of their own mind, out of their own creative mind.”

And what would be the use of this public art? Reasons include civic pride, tourism and more. Joyce Ogden is an art professor at Spalding University. She’s worked on public art projects at city parks and the county jail.

“I think it helps us look at our history specifically in Louisville and the various communities and neighborhoods that we have here,” Ogden says.

But what about controversy, which sometimes accompanies public art? Barbara Goldstein has worked as the public art director in Seattle and San José and edited Public Art by the Book.

“If the plan reflects Louisville and it’s something that is reflective of the city’s goals, how the city sees itself and how the community sees itself, and if it’s administered by a group of people responsive to what they plan articulates, then there shouldn’t be a whole heck of a lot of controversy,” Goldstein says.

Still, disagreements about public art are inevitable. Even the histories of the Washington Monument and the Vietnam Memorial include controversy. But Ogden sees that as an advantage.

“It really gives us an opportunity to use art to create dialogue and conversation and address issues,” she says.

And by next year, the city’s plans to start conversations on public art with a series of events where artists present their ideas about public art on the Louisville landscape.

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Forecastle Fest Announces Artists to Create New Works

The ninth Forecastle Festival, which is still more than four months away, has lined up artists to create works that reflect the event’s theme of music, art and activism. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

The annual event has included a host of exhibiting artists in past years. But this July, the Louisville festival is commissioning three artists to create pieces specific to the event and its theme. Artist Mike Ratterman, who has organized the artists’ participation in the festival since its inception, says he wanted to do something new.

“I think the art was at a point where it really needed to have outside influences and professional curators involved in the process to help that portion of the festival develop as much as the music has,” Ratterman says.

The artists include Joyce Ogden, whose work often includes references to nature using materials such as sand and water, and Leticia Bajuyo, who often uses recycled materials in her pieces. Also creating a piece for the festival is Todd Smith, who uses multimedia resources to document his tree-climbing experiences.

Bajuyo says she creates by using recycled materials and community involvement.

“I have two pieces in mind,” she says,  “whether it was collecting trash during the entire event, so then I would need help by every participant at the entire Forecastle weekend. And then the other one would be a collection that would happen for the two months before the event and would be a piece that would be built and experienced during Forecastle.”

Smith, with his penchant for climbing trees, says he already has some ideas about what he might do for the festival. (To see Smith at work, click on the video link below and watch him climbing up one tree and down another one nearby.)

“I’ve had an idea for a very long time of collecting audio stories of people’s tree-climbing childhood memories,” she says. “So, I kind of wanted to see what I come up with and integrate it into some sort of sound-light installation piece.”

Nederlander Entertainment, a festival partner, contributed $12,000 for the commissions and the creation of the pieces.

The team of curators includes Ratterman; Bruce Linn, a painter and assistant director of galleries at the University of Louisville’s  Hite Art Institute; Joey Yates, an independent curator and musician; and sculptor Matt Weir.

This year’s festival runs July 9th through 12th.

Photos: Sculpture by Joyce Ogden (top); Leticia Bajuyo at work on a sculpture made from used CDs (middle); and image created by Todd Smith based on his tree-climbing experience (bottom).

Video Link: Smith at work in the trees.