Arts and Culture

It’s been a bright year for the Louisville arts scene, with lots of growth, innovation and invention. We asked some of Louisville arts leaders to share some of their highlights for the year, but with a twist.

We wanted to hear about the best, the coolest, the most interesting arts experience that they had a in 2015 — that they had nothing to do with producing.

What did they love, purely as an audience member? Here are their answers.

Gil Reyes

Co-artistic director of Theatre 502

The first thing that came to mind was “Glory of the World” [at Actors Theatre of Louisville]. And I think that’s largely because I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it. I find that usually a biographical piece is pretty dry, and this one — I didn’t know what to expect going into it. The sort of big spectacle that you walk into, this huge set, all these props, all these pieces, a lot of times I feel like plays are big for the sake of being big. But this didn’t feel like that to me, it felt like everything came together in a really fun and neat way to examine a person without telling their story bit by bit.

Matt Wallace

Artistic director at Kentucky Shakespeare

You know, thinking back on 2015 I have to think all the way back to the beginning of the year and “The Brothers Size” at Actors Theatre of Louisville. It was such a powerful production, particularly with the work I’ve done with Shakespeare Behind Bars, it was particularly resonant. It was just an incredible production.

Jennifer Bielstein

Managing director at Actors Theatre of Louisville

The Mayor’s Music and Arts Series [at Metro Hall]. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy performed there. I thought that was just so wonderful, to have a noontime treat like that, that’s free to the public. Also, “Celebrating the Legacy of Black Louisville” at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, that’s a great event of both music and visual art and sculpture.

Doug Schutte

Owner of the Bard’s Town and executive artistic director of the Bard’s Town Theatre

The thing that was most rewarding this summer was seeing the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival. The energy that’s now around that organization and that summer festival, and seeing so many of local talent, on the stage, earning good wages, doing what they do year-round — a lot of them in town. And the quality of the work. I really enjoyed all of the plays this year.

Chuck Schmidt

Director of production at Kentucky Opera

“Macbeth” at Kentucky Shakespeare this summer at Central Park. The use of the entire park as the performance space. The show started with the combatants actually coming up here through the woods way behind the stage and coming up and really creating a whole environment and it was a really exciting production. People from everywhere enjoying the show, which was nice. Sometimes in the arts you have your opera audience, your ballet audience, your orchestra audience, but that was everybody there.

Lance Newman

Founder of Spread Love Louisville

 “Lipstick Wars,” an all-female poetry slam held at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. The lead organizer was Rheonna Thornton. A whole bunch of local women reciting their poetry, it was just amazing.

Kathi Ellis

Co-artistic director of Looking for Lilith Theatre Company

I think one of the things that stands out for me here locally is one of the choreographers showcase pieces that I saw at the Louisville Ballet. It was a piece that was choreographed by an Australian choreographer. To see these dancers do things that we don’t usually see them do, and to embrace it so fully, was one of the most heart-stopping experiences that I had sitting in the audience this year. (Note: Ellis is also the dance critic for WFPL News)

Theo Edmonds

Co-founder of Ideas X-Lab

The Studio series at the Louisville Ballet, I thought was really amazing. I think the work that (artistic director) Robert (Curran) is doing with producing more accessible works, I find that really thrilling. And then the second thing that I thought was just wonderful is upstairs at Butchertown Grocery, I recently went to a holiday event that was a benefit for Strive 502. Lots of people were up there singing and it just was such a great intimate experience, with amazing music. Both those things are what knocked my socks off.

Teddy Abrams

Artistic director of the Louisville Orchestra

My first-ever Forecastle Festival. Seeing the festival in action because I’d heard so much about it, but actually getting to experience it was really, really wonderful because it was not just a kind of crazy music festival — it had this really wonderful Louisville flavor to it that you could only get here. I’ll never forget when [My Morning] Jacket played four songs without talking, and then Jim just raised his arms out over the tens of thousands of people that were watching. And all he said was “Louisville!” And the response that was returned from the crowd was pretty unforgettable.

Alison Huff

Managing director of Walden Theatre/Blue Apple Players

 You know, I saw a lot of great performing art in Louisville in 2015, but one of my favorite annual experiences is Louisville Visual Art’s Open Studio Weekend. It’s such a cool thing to be able to see the artist’s spaces and to hear them talk about their work and what it means to them and just what their process is.    

(Featured image: “The Brothers Size”)

Tara Anderson is a contributing editor for WFPL News, and the host and producer of Five Things, a podcast about the physical objects that tell our stories.