Arts and Culture

The closing on the sale of a downtown facility known as ArtSpace has been delayed several months. 

Janie Martin, Fund for the Arts’ chief financial officer and chief operations officer, confirmed that the unnamed buyer requested to push the closing date from Dec. 31 to April 1. 

The new buyer intends to convert the office space into multi-family residential units, and the planning for that conversion was taking longer than anticipated, Martin said. But she’s confident the deal will still go through.

“It’s just part of the process,” Martin said. “It’s all very amicable… we have no reason to believe that we won’t just move into the spring and the closing will happen.”

Philanthropic nonprofit Fund for the Arts has owned and operated ArtSpace since late 2006, renting out many of the units to local arts and culture groups at heavily subsidized rates. Currently, ArtSpace is home to a handful of Louisville arts and culture organizations, such as Kentucky Opera, CirqueLouis, and Creatives of Color Collective, or C3. The sale means that those groups will have to find new homes.

The extended timeline does give those cultural tenants more time to relocate. 

“It’s a little holiday gift. It’s the gift of time, which is always good,” Martin said.

Martin said each tenant has a contractual agreement, another 60 to 90 days, depending on the terms in their lease, after April 1 to move out. 

Kentucky Shakespeare producing artistic director Matt Wallace is thankful for “this additional time to plan, fundraise and strategize” the organization’s relocation from the place its called home for 10 years.

“We want our new location to be our home for a long time, so we’re exploring options that could bring us closer to Central Park and have everything we need,” he said in an email, noting that Central Park is where the company performs its summer season in non-COVID times. 

More time was welcome news for Remy Sisk as well. Sisk is executive director of Acting Against Cancer, which has been at ArtSpace since 2017.  

“We’ve been looking for a new space for a while,” he said. “And we’ve sort of gotten to a point of, not panic, but just a little bit of unease because we haven’t really found somewhere that seems to be the perfect fit… So the new closing date, definitely for us, was a little bit of a nice grace period extension that we got.”

They still don’t have any “definitive prospects,” Sisk said, at least not anything that’s a “let’s take this to the next level” type of situation. And part of what’s made it so difficult to find that “perfect fit” in terms of a new home is that they built out a small performance venue in their ArtSpace facility, and will need to do the same wherever they end up.

“And what we’ve looked at so far, it’s either way too small, it could never have like a grid [for mounting theater equipment]… or we’ve looked at places that are way too big, and we just don’t have the capital or outside donors to be able to really transform it into a theater,” Sisk said.

Kentucky Opera general director and CEO Barbara Lynne Jamison said they’ve found “some spaces that seem like they could work out for us, nothing has been decided for sure yet.”

She said they hope to find a new home where they’ll be able to have a large rehearsal space that can support their growing youth and community programs as well as production needs. 

“We just want to be able to have dialogue around the artwork and to highlight the artwork in different ways,” Jamison said. “Operas are big and expensive to produce. But there’s so much more that we could be doing to engage our community through story and song. So that multi-disciplinary room will be really helpful for us if we can find just the right space.”

West Louisville Performing Arts Academy founder and director McDaniel Bluitt said he’s also still on the hunt for a new landing spot. The group has looked at some “nice places,” like at Actors Theatre of Louisville’s facility or a building off Main and 7th streets, which also houses other cultural organizations like the Louisville Orchestra. But those locations are “much more than we can afford.”

Bluitt said it’s nice to have the extra time, but April 1 still feels like it’s coming up fast.

“You accumulate a lot of stuff,” he said, explaining that his school has been at ArtSpace for about a decade.

The group is “waving our flags,” he said, in the hopes of getting a sponsor or someone coming forward with information on an affordable space.

The Fund put ArtSpace, the first eight floors of the 10-story building according to its Kentucky Commercial Properties Search listing, on the market in February 2018. The goal is to free up the money invested into maintaining the property for the Fund’s other programs, CEO and president Christen Boone told WFPL in November.

This story has been updated.

Stephanie Wolf is WFPL's Arts Reporter.