Everywhere I travel, whether for work or pleasure, I look at a lot of art. This is just part of the deal when you’re married to a curator. Increasingly, the most interesting art I see is in medium-sized cities, where emerging artists can still afford to live. Louisville is a place where an artist can actually be an artist, with cheap studio space and ample opportunity to exhibit their work. We also have superb museums and other nonprofit spaces that are committed to keeping up with what’s happening globally.
Here’s where to go to see art that aspires to be more than decorative:
Speed Art Museum – This is Kentucky’s most prominent fine art museum, with a collection spanning several centuries. Located in Old Louisville, just a few furlongs from Churchill Downs, the museum recently opened a new $17 million building dedicated to contemporary art and special exhibitions, as well as a state-of-the-art cinema for true cinephiles. Among the exhibitions on view during the Breeders’ Cup will be a solo show of new work by Keltie Ferris, a Louisville native who now lives and works in New York, where she is represented by the prestigious Chelsea gallery Mitchell-Innes & Nash. There’s also a large show of 20th-centry masterworks by the likes of Picasso, Braque, Noguchi, Klee, Rivera, and Pollock, all on loan from Indiana University. More: http://www.speedmuseum.org
21c Museum Hotel – Don’t be skeptical because it’s a hotel. This place does serious shows with work by internationally known artists, as evidenced by Dress Up, Speak Up, which examines cultural identity and is on view through early 2019. Meanwhile, you should also check out the wild installation of assorted local ephemera as collected and displayed by Fallen Fruit of Los Angeles. More: https://www.21cmuseumhotels.com
Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft – This gem of an art space on Main Street in the heart of downtown operates under an expansive understanding of how “craft” should be defined. The current show is of video and digital-based collage by Jibade-Khalil Huffman, who was an artist-in-residence at The Studio Museum in Harlem in 2015-16 and was included in the 2014 Made in L.A. Biennial at the Hammer Museum. More: https://www.kmacmuseum.org
Quappi Projects – If you’re interested in buying art, Louisville has a few galleries that consistently show high-quality work. Even better, you can take a lot of it home for far less than you’d pay for comparable work in bigger cities. Quappi features artists “whose works are reflective of the zeitgeist.” The gallery is within a warehouse that includes the studios of several prominent Louisville artists, including the gallery founder, John Brooks. Hours aren’t necessarily consistent so be sure to contact John for an appointment. More: http://quappiprojects.com
Zephyr Gallery – Zephyr is an artist-run co-op focused primarily on Kentucky- and Southern Indiana-based artists. Most of the exhibitions are organized by guest curators from around the region. It’s located on Market Street near several trendy bars and restaurants so maybe pop in before lunch or dinner to learn more about the local scene. More: http://zephyrgallery.org
1619 Flux: Art + Activism – Located in the Portland neighborhood, 1619 Flux uses art to encourage collaboration and neighborhood revitalization. The current show, Provocative Perspectives, features work by Louisville artists that are reflective of topics explored by a series of public community conversations by the same name. More: https://www.1619flux.org
I’ll have many more recommendations between now and Breeders’ Cup week. If there’s a particular topic you want me to write about please e-mail me at YourFriendJimbo@gmail.com or connect with me on Twitter, @YourFriendJimbo
Louisville resident Jim Mulvihill is Sr. Director of Betting Information for Churchill Downs Inc. and a member of the Breeders’ Cup Festival’s publicity committee.