Arts and Humanities
7:00 am
Mon May 26, 2014

Inside Tim Faulkner's New Portland Arts Complex

Many of Louisville's art galleries are intimate spaces. They're re-purposed storefronts, hosting carefully curated solo or invitational small group shows that boom on opening nights and quietly go about their business with collectors and aficionados the rest of the month. But Tim Faulkner and his gallery director Margaret Archambault have always had a more raucous vibe going, first on East Market and then in Butchertown, where their bursting-at-the-seams Tim Faulkner Gallery moved in 2012.

Part art gallery, part rock-infused scene, Faulkner and Archambault have built a cultural community around the art that includes music, books, and performance that can't be contained by First Fridays alone. 

That scene proved a bit much for their Franklin Street neighbors, who might have expected another quiet gallery and got midnight punk shows instead. So when Faulkner and Archambault packed up their artists and moved west to the Portland neighborhood's warehouse district, they gained more than 15,000 additional square footage in exhibition and performance space. They gained a measure of freedom - the new neighbors at the new Louisville Film Society headquarters, for example, aren't likely to call the cops about loud music after dark. And they've established themselves on the vanguard of Portland's impending arts renaissance

"We wanted to be one of the first, to be honest with you," says Faulkner. "Something here is going to happen, not just in the warehouse district but in the neighborhood itself. A lot of things are changing here. We're really happy to being on the ground floor of that."

But being among the first on the block can also be daunting. Faulkner needed multiple permits from the city to accomplish all of their plans, which fall under many different zoning regulations - light industry for artists' studios, residential for the planned lofts Faulkner and Archambault will eventually build for their own living spaces, retail for the gallery, nightclub for the 1,500-person capacity event space. Faulkner has nothing but praise for how smoothly the city permitting process went, despite the challenges their mixed-use building presented. 

"How do you put all of that under one roof?" says Faulkner. "Our architects submitted the blueprints and we got our permits in eight days." 

"We went through all kinds of trouble in Butchertown, and we've learned what we can do and what we can't do. And I think the city has learned, how do we deal with these people who are trying to create these spaces? They're trying to make it more accessible so more people can do mixed uses with big warehouse spaces," adds Archambault.

Tim Faulkner Gallery's grand opening for the event space is Saturday, where they'll unveil a finished performance hall that was in the final stages of renovation last week. The show ($10) starts at 8 p.m. and features Louisville's The Dirty Grindstones and Chicago-based gritty Americana group Mutts. It's an all-ages show, and Rye will run the bar. Joshua Jenkins' solo show, "Slave to Impulse," is on display through June 5.

Faulkner and Archambault bring a vibrant blend of renegade spirit and unfailing professionalism to their enterprises. They think expansively beyond visual art - the complex will host bands and theatrical productions, as well McQuixote Books, a secondhand bookstore and coffee shop that will open in early June - but they maintain a deep bench of artists (eight of whom currently keep studios in the new complex) whose work manages to be both provocative and beautiful.

The performance hall, complete with 700-square-foot stage, will be finished in time for Saturday's grand opening, and will host Acting Against Cancer's production of "Rent" opening on June 5. That room will open out to a spacious deck area, surrounded by a graffiti wall. In the meantime, the gallery has been finished for months, and art has proven to be the steady draw. Archambault says the three solo shows that have gone up since the gallery opened in February have drawn significant crowds. 

"We've had more art patrons, both new and our established clients, here in this space than we had in Butchertown or Market Street combined," she says. "Collectors and people who are prone to be interested in art, they want a space like this." 

A space like this - urban, large, open, exciting, non-institutional, like you'll find in established warehouse art districts in other cities. The main gallery is spacious and inviting at 5,000 square feet, and boasts impeccable exposed brick walls and dark open beams along with clusters of funky chairs for intimate conversation. It's a perfect backdrop for Jenkins' bold, large-scale paintings currently on exhibit. It's Jenkins' first solo gallery show (Faulkner and Archambault are as proud of their emerging stars as they are of the veterans in their roster) and this space is a fitting environment for his paintings - a rough spirit and a refined technique.

"He has a really unabashed style of application of paint, he's got a good sense of color and composition, and he's still trying to tell a story with the images," says Archambault.

And it's that dedication to the art - not the rock shows, not the parties - that keeps Tim Faulkner Gallery a destination, no matter where they move. 

"All the people who thought we were kind of crazy for coming out here, over the last three months they've come, and they've thoroughly enjoyed it, and they've realized there's no need to be afraid of going west of Ninth Street," says Faulkner.