Arts and Culture

An MSD pumping station serves as an unlikely canvas for new public artwork featuring Abraham Lincoln, along with a jockey-and-horse racing across the track at Churchill Downs.

The works, created by Lonnie Walker and Andy Perez respectively, are part of the Louisville Downtown Partnership’s relaunched Alley Gallery program.

The program, which began in 2017, aims to transform things like utility doors into pieces of art for the public to enjoy.

“It helps beautify an otherwise forgotten or neglected spot, it gives passersby a beautiful and very whimsical, fun surprise and shows that there’s care and attention being given to a site,” said Rebecca Fleischaker, executive director of Louisville Downtown Partnership.

Additionally, the program is expanding to place art on electrical signal boxes, with a program called Street Gallery. The new program will be similar to the existing Alley Gallery, just using the boxes in lieu of alley walls and doors. 

“They are blank boxes, they’re blank slates perfect for graffiti and stickers,” Fleischaker said. “We’re excited that Street Gallery also will be a unique streetscape experience like Alley Gallery, but also will help abate graffiti and stickers.”

For the most recent unveiling, the Louisville Downtown Partnership worked alongside MSD to transform the pumping station.

“We have so many assets, not only just in the downtown area but across our service area, and we believe that we can partner with local artists to make sure that they have an opportunity to showcase their skills,” said MSD executive director Tony Parrott.

Participating in the project allows MSD assets to continue functioning for city water and wastewater management systems, while also acting as a place of visual interest for both locals and tourists. 

For artists behind the works, it provides an opportunity for them to expand the size and scope of their art.

“This is our profession, but it’s still very exciting to see anything that large on anything besides the printed page,” Walker said. “To see our artwork on different items throughout the city means a lot and I think takes art to another level where it’s not just something on a wall or in a magazine.”

Walker produced several pieces for the original Alley Gallery in 2017 but said this piece depicting Abraham Lincoln is one of his largest.

With the program relaunching, even more local artists will have the opportunity to display their art downtown in a large format. 

Fleischaker of the Louisville Downtown Partnership said the number of new pieces added to galleries will depend on sponsorship and artist interest. The project relies on donations and businesses to sponsor artwork, so artists can be paid for their work.

She hopes relaunching and expanding the program with the unveiling of two new pieces will increase interest in the project.

“It affects a visitor’s user experience, it shows attention and care in a place that invites people and invites activity and improves our perception of safety, and all those are intertwined,” Fleischaker said.

Interested artists can visit the Alley Gallery website to apply.

Breya Jones is the Breaking News Reporter for WFPL.