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Arts and Humanities Local News

Project Launches Day of the Dead Exhibits

3 tiers of DOTD shrineThis week the University of Louisville is celebrating the Day of the Dead, the Hispanic holiday that combines indigenous and Catholic traditions. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

The university has partnered with cultural groups throughout the metropolitan area to create altars, as many Hispanics do on Nov. 1 to remember deceased loved ones.

The altars range from one for Bob Marley at St. Francis High School to one at Indiana University Southeast for U.S. victims of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

U of L assistant professor of fine art Mary Carothers honor those who have died coming to this country for refuge on an outside wall of the 21C Museum Hotel. Carothers says it was inspired by The Devil’s Highway, a book assigned to U of L many classes this year about 26 men who tried to cross the Mexican and U.S. border in 2001. The 14 who survived are known as the Yuma 14.

“Those are marigolds and the hands are cast from immigrants now living in the United States who have moved here,” she says, “and many of them have some really interesting stories.”

These elements are among thousands of small monarch butterflies made of paper and which the class designed. The butterflies, which are affixed to the wall, have many different designs. The hands on the wall were made with the participation of 14 immigrants living in Louisville and from countries as varied as Germany, Cuba and Afghanistan.

Carothers says, like traditional altars, they arranged elements of the piece on three levels to represent the earth, the sky and the air in between.

“We have the marigolds on the ground level,” she says. “The hands that are in between and the monarch butterflies symbolizing a metamorphosis to heaven.”

The university has partnered with nine cultural groups throughout the area on this project, including the Archdiocese of Louisville, the Frazier International History Museum, the Louisville Science Center, the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft and the Muhammad Ali Center.

To listen to Elizabeth Kramer’s interview with Mary Carothers, visit The Edit.

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Arts and Humanities In-Depth News Local News

An Inventory of Louisville's Art and the Care It Needs

Serious art collectors keep careful lists of their treasures and tend to them using meticulous instructions. In recent decades, cities are starting to do the same through public art plans. Now, Louisville is cataloguing its public art and trying to figure out how to maintain its collection. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

On a triangle of land, where Third Street becomes Southern Parkway, sits a curved limestone bench with a curious history — as Karen Porter discovered earlier this year.

“I did a little research, and this bench is donated to A.D. Ruff — they called him ‘Pap,” says Porter. “And he was a great cycle enthusiast. And when he passed away, he bequeathed some money.”ruff-memorial-fountain-wheelmans-bench3

“They” were the Kentucky Wheelman’s club, and in 1896 they used that money to commission artist Enid Yandell to build a bench and fountain to memorialize “Pap.” Both went up the next year. But over decades, the pieces were neglected and the fountain removed.

Porter says the loss was significant because Yandell was a prominent artist. She studied with Auguste Rodin and created the towering sculpture of Daniel Boone at Cherokee Park.

public-art-inventory-010This story is a lesson in what can happen without a plan for maintaining public art, says Mary Lou Northern, Mayor Jerry Abramson’s special assistant for cultural assets.

Northern is overseeing Metro Government’s efforts to create a public art plan. It will include an inventory of Louisville’s art. So far, Porter has put together a list of about 150 pieces. The city recognized the need for a plan after some art went missing in recent years. Northern says the city found it lacked some basic information about the city’s art.

“We didn’t have the history. We didn’t always know if a piece was on loan. There was no central depository for records,” Northern says. “We didn’t really have any instructions on how to care for pieces, so some pieces just weren’t cared for; some the wrong materials were used to clean them.”

Now, the city is spending $50,000 to create the public art plan it will release this fall. Northern says it will detail the care of the city’s pieces, identify funding prospects for existing and future public art and eventually display the pieces on a Web site.

Glen Wharton is a conservator at the Museum of Modern Art and a researcher at New York University. He says Louisville’s experience sounds familiar.

“Surprisingly,” Wharton says, “a lot of cities and municipalities, even state governments don’t know what they have.”

Wharton’s worked with city and state governments on public art projects, which are often seen as channels for tourism dollars. He says getting funding for art conservation is often more difficult than getting money to pay for new art, which has more appeal to donors who want recognition.

Because of this, he says cities need to make some special efforts.

“I really believe in engaging the public,” he says, “because if you don’t have public support, it’s not going to happen.

That advice resonates with Adam Burckle. He owns the Adams Matthews Cheesecake Company and the Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen stores.

louisville-clock1Since 2004, he and other volunteers have worked on one of the city’s art pieces — the Louisville Clock.

It was made by artist Barney Bright and set up downtown in 1976. Then sculpted characters raced around a track at noon everyday. But it was plagued by mechanical problems, leading the city to dismantle it in the 1980s.

Given how the city handled the clock, Burckle’s not convinced it knows how to care for art.

“When they owned it they treated it like a piece of trash,” Burckle says. “Now that I’ve got it and it’s under my control, I’ve treated it with the respect that it so deserves.”

The work, which is almost complete, has cost more than $200,000 raised through donations. Now, Burckle is working with city to decide where the clock’s downtown home will be this fall. As for the public art plan, he has his own reservations.

“I hope that people get involved more than the government does,” he says, “because if the people get involved I know it’s going to stick and take hold because they’ll have ownership in it. If it’s just another government thing, people are going to sit back and say, ‘Oh, that’s the government’s job. Let them do that.”

The city’s Mary Lou Northern says she and a consultant are working with some people in the community to create a plan that will be able to incorporate public involvement.

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Public Art Gains Support for Revitalized Park Hill

The city’s long-term effort to revitalize West Louisville’s Park Hill corridor may include art. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

For years, abandoned industrial sites and vacant properties have featured prominently in the Park Hill neighborhood. It prompted the city to begin devising a masterplan last year to attract businesses.

Initial discussions about the area’s many abandoned industrial sites began more than three years ago led by U of L’s Center for Environmental Policy and Management. Then last year, the city began work on a masterplan for the area’s transportation corridor.

Green technology has factored into almost all of those discussions. And this week, the center led a meeting focused on public art. Lauren Heberle is the center’s associate director.

“Those two pieces bring attention to the corridor, bring interest to the corridor, make more investment come to the corridor, make people want to be in the corridor,” she says. “So, they really felt like those were the low-hanging fruit.”

Heberle says the residents and business owners talk often about the importance of these elements in creating a vibrant neighborhood.

“We have these brainstorming sessions. We’ll pick a topic that we want to talk about and no matter what topic we chose, they always came back to greening and public art,” she says.

A study commissioned by the city found the corridor could generate nearly 3,000 new jobs and more than $300 million in annual spending.

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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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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.