The Highlander: Selling the Art Scene

Written by Tim Faulkner - Margaret Archambault Spivey

Defining the term “art scene” can be difficult. Certainly, art should be elevated to specific levels so that its importance and value are clearly visible; yet at the same time, to weigh it down with intellectual “isms” is a sure way to alienate a massive portion of your audience. Art does exist independently, and it is our opinion that when art opens a door, everyone is invited to cross that threshold. Awareness, understanding and a level of comfort are the keys to nurturing a healthy relationship between those who create, promote and support art and those who have yet to discover all the possibilities that a vibrant art scene brings to the community. Louisville is as unique and diverse in its arts community as any regional counterpart, and is poised and ready to become one of the premier art scenes in the country. While some may find this a lofty aspiration, evidence of such is everywhere.

Galleries in Louisville have become plentiful, and many of the larger spaces are becoming highly sought-after venues for artists around the country. One need only look at the rosters of artists currently showing in the Louisville area to find major names from New York, California, the Gulf Coast and beyond. These artists contact gallery owners in Louisville because they see that our area is on the precipice of something very special. Rather than promote their work in Indianapolis, Cincinnati or Nashville, artists have chosen galleries in Louisville to be their regional stepping stone.

Gary Chapman, two-time recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts award, currently shows work in Louisville. Based on an introduction he was given by Barry Motes, head of the Jefferson Community College art department, Chapman’s experience in our city prompted his interest in maintaining work here. Other notables – such as Marco Logsdon, Boris Zakic, Don Luper and Mark Selter – show work here on a regular basis. Not only does this bode well for our city as an artistic destination, but it also serves as a huge catalyst and point of inspiration for many of Louisville’s emerging and established talents. The idea of being able to share gallery space with such accomplished company is perhaps one of the greatest motivators of all.

Another factor stimulating the current movement is Louisville’s inherent ability to attract members of the “creative class” and to provide opportunities for young professionals by offering features such as architecture, the low cost of living and regional access. After completing their secondary education, graduates are finding more reasons to stay. Able to support themselves with a “day job,” artists have the required resources to continue to work on their primary passions. Without this combination, artists in other locations find it difficult, if not impossible, to concentrate on art. This is a huge benefit for anyone who calls Louisville home. Regardless of individual preferences, our art scene offers something to please every palette. While Chicago might be a fun weekend destination, it certainly doesn’t have to be the region’s cultural Mecca. The talent pool in Louisville is very deep, and during today’s difficult economic climate, Louisville remains a buyers’ market.

Finding a place to enjoy and display art exhibitions has become much less difficult for both the artists and those who enjoy their work. The recent rise in art festivals, gallery openings and large group shows attests to the interest of the community and the desire of the artists to continue creating here in Louisville. By and large, these events are free to the public and offer everyone the opportunity to spend an evening or afternoon enjoying the work of many creative and dedicated individuals.

Finding art in Louisville is a simple task. The Highlands, for example, long considered somewhat of a bohemian quarter, has no shortage of viewable local art. Over the last several years, businesses such as restaurants and hair salons have decided to fill their walls with original artwork rather than nondescript prints available from suburban shopping malls. These locations regularly rotate work so that customers are continuously immersed in art. Other neighborhoods have followed suit, because they, too, realize what art can bring to their space and to their patrons, a fact that the Downtown area and Frankfort Avenue corridor promote with monthly trolley hops.

From the west side to the east side, and from the Ohio River to the south side, art is thriving. Because of the foresight of local business owners and the willingness of local talent to keep their work here in Louisville, our art scene is widespread and alive.

As working artists and gallery professionals, we clearly see the inner workings of art in Louisville. We also have the advantage of interacting with individuals who often have never set foot in a gallery. This allows us to share our knowledge, which more often than not results in those new faces becoming regular supporters of the arts. While that in itself makes our endeavors worthwhile, it is a task that can only remain successful with the involvement of a broad section of our community.

No one really wants to live in a society devoid of imagination and individuality, and that is what art protects us from. The bumper sticker that reminds us all to “keep Louisville weird” and “buy local” becomes a mere marketing placebo if we do nothing more than stick one on our car. It is up to the entire city, not just those making art, to keep Louisville on its current path of national recognition.

The next time you pass a gallery with an “open” sign, or see an art festival or show, pull over and take some time to enjoy our city’s art scene.

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Photo caption: The Louisville art scene is explored in our feature article by Tim Faulkner and Margaret Archambault Spivey. Here, early diners at Wiltshire on Market are seated under the Marco Logsdon work “Untitled 1007,” composed of oil, tar and beeswax on panel. The diners are, from left, Carol Case with her sister Bonnie Williamson, and Susan Schroeder with Brandon Gilbert. (Photo: brianbohannon.com)

Tim Faulkner owns, operates and curates Tim Faulkner Gallery, now located at 632 E. Market after having moved from the 800 block. Gallery director Margaret Archambault Spivey has been with Tim Faulkner Gallery since September 2009 after graduating from Spalding University. Both are working artists and curators of more than 12,000 square feet of space throughout the Louisville area. For more information, visit www.timfaulknergallery.com, emailtimfaulknergallery@gmail.com or margaretspivey@gmail.com, or call (502) 381-1314.

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