Today, Mayor Greg Fischer announced steps to explore Louisville’s “history and values through public art and monuments.”
In a release, Fischer said: “Art plays an important role in not only telling the stories of our past but vividly highlighting who we are and who we want to be. 2017 has highlighted the immense amount of work left to do to create a country where liberty and justice are enjoyed by all citizens, regardless of race or creed.”
The move comes as Louisville’s Commission on Public Art (COPA) is in the midst of a review of the city’s public art, prompted by a national conversation on Confederate monuments. A Louisville monument to Confederate dead on the University of Louisville’s campus was removed in 2016; a statue of Confederate General John Breckinridge Castleman near Cherokee Park remains for the time being.
The purpose of the COPA review is to survey public art around the city and determine whether any could be interpreted as “honoring bigotry, racism and/or slavery.” Fischer’s plan announced Monday helps create some guidelines for the examination.
The first element includes establishing a mayoral advisory committee who will recommend principles for Louisville’s public art and monuments. The committee will begin work in January 2018; members will be appointed by the mayor and include representation from COPA.
Though much of the discussion at a forum about Louisville’s public art review centered around the Castleman Statue, there are nearly 400 pieces of art in the city up for examination. For this reason, COPA member Chris Reitz recommended establishing criteria for assessing the city’s public art; that will be one of the main jobs of the new mayoral advisory committee, a process that the mayor’s office anticipates taking about six months.
All of the advisory committee’s meetings will be open to the public.
COPA and Louisville Metro Government are also establishing a grant funding opportunity for local artists to create new monumental artwork that focuses on untold stories. Individual artists and nonprofit organizations will be invited to submit proposals.
Additionally, Louisville Metro Government and Louisville Visual Art are collaborating on a 2018 Metro Hall Rotunda exhibition called “HEROES,” which, according to the release, will include will “include artwork that responds to historical and present injustice and our community’s future, with visual representations of everyday heroes by Louisville-based artists.”
A public event will be held to introduce the artists and encourage discussion of their works.