Louisville Arts Could Do More to Engage At-Risk Teens, Says Fund for the Arts CEO

Louisville continues to seek answers to a recent spurt of teen violence downtown. Some say tighter security is the answer. Others want to see more teenagers engaged in positive pursuits. Fund for the Arts President and CEO Barbara Sexton Smith says the arts are an under-used crime prevention tool for youth. 

“We obviously are not doing anywhere near enough. We are going to have to go out and meet these students and these kids where they are, meet them on their terms, meet them on their turf,” says Sexton Smith. 

WFPL’s Erin Keane sat down with Sexton Smith to talk about how and why arts programming should be extended throughout the community. 

On how arts groups and leaders can help:

“What I want to see is our Kentucky Shakespeare folks going out to the neighborhoods – through Victory Park, Chickasaw Park,  Shawnee Park – go to the street corners where the kids are and talk to them.” 

“If we had hundreds of cameras, put them in the hands of these teenagers, let them go take photos as they see their world, and come back together with an artist, heck, we could take those and use wheat paste and put them up on the flood wall.”

“How about (orchestra) ensembles on twenty different street corners, all throughout the city – yes, I’m talking about Friday night or Saturday night or Sunday morning – and have a car full of instruments next to you. Let kids come up and if they want to learn how to play, by golly, put an instrument in their hands.” 

On what city government can contribute: 

“I don’t think it’s about fundraising, because there is plenty of money to put toward projects and programming when people decide to do that. This is about people willing to raise their hands, stand up, and take responsibility.”

“I need everybody on the mayor’s team to embrace the arts and see the arts as not a one- or two-time thing you do on Spring Break,  or provide a little funding during summer break. We need to have programs every single day available after school where the kids are.”

Comments