Arts and Culture

Members of Louisville’s arts community unveiled a new cultural plan Friday to guide the vision of the local arts and culture sector.

A 15-person volunteer committee of local arts professionals from across the Metro developed “Imagine Greater Louisville 2025” over the course of six months, according to a news release from Fund for the Arts. 

They conducted interviews and surveys to map out strategies and suggested actions that fall under five categories: including improved access to the arts; expanding arts education; cultivating local talent; raising the national and international profile of Louisville’s arts and culture scene; and prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusivity. 

Fund for the Arts president and CEO Christen Boone said that Louisville will “need our arts and culture strong” in order for the city to “recover and rebuild from this past year.” And this was some of the framework shaping this new plan versus the cultural plan released four years ago.  

“But we’re going to need alignment, we’re going to need all of us on the shared path,” she continued during a virtual event launching Imagine Greater Louisville 2025. “This plan provides the blueprint for that, provides the opportunity for us to continue to partner with our county governments, our state governments, our cross sector partners to be the kind of community that bounces back and bounces back stronger than ever.” 

Michael Kaiser, who has helped turn around massive financial challenges at some of the biggest arts organizations in the world, has been consulting with about two dozen Louisville arts groups the past few years. 

Boone credited Kaiser with leading “us through the work of this cultural plan.”

Kaiser said he studied the “the arts ecology of Louisville,” and through that work, he’s taken note of “the remarkable quality of the art,” but also found areas “that required attention.”

“We noticed the need for arts organizations in Louisville to really spend more time and hopefully money over time on marketing, particularly what we call institutional marketing, which is the marketing we do to get people in the community to say, this organization is so special, it’s so inspiring, it contributes so much to our community life that I want to participate,” he said. 

His research also showed an “over reliance in Louisville on a few major donors.”

“What we see missing is that cadre of mid-sized individual donors, the individuals who might give $500, or $1,000, or $2,000, to an arts organization because they’re engaged by the work,” Kaiser continued. 

The biggest shortcoming his research revealed, Kaiser said, was inequities when it comes to the city’s diverse artistic population.

“The remarkable quality of our Black artists in Louisville is not matched by the amount of investment we’ve made in these artists, that we’ve made in the great organizations they founded,” he said. “We need to provide more funding and more access.”

Boone told WFPL this new plan builds on the Imagine 2020 plan released in 2017. 

“A lot of the goals were meant to be aspirational and evergreen… to set the direction,” she said of the previous iteration.

She believes they did fulfill some of the strategies laid out in that last plan, including broadening funding opportunities. Though, there is something notable that the two plans share: the five priority areas. Boone said the committee felt those were still the critical issues to focus on.

Here’s more on each of the five priorities in the new plan:

‘Access’

“Your ZIP code should not matter as relates to access to arts,” Dave Christopher, executive director of AMPED Louisville, said during the launch event. 

Strategies under this area include improving access to information about arts events as well as the event themselves.

‘Cultivation’

In terms of fostering and supporting Louisville artists, key strategies under the plan include tackling the dearth of affordable and accessible rehearsal, performance, office and studio space, as well as increasing advocacy for public funding for the arts and public policy that uplifts the arts. 

The Fund’s Christen Boone encouraged those on the Zoom call to join advocacy work already underway, rallying local and state officials to set aside a portion of the latest COVID-19 federal relief aid, known as the American Rescue Plan Act, to support the recovery of the arts and culture community, which has experienced massive layoffs and revenue losses. 

Boone told WFPL that the Fund “has led a needs assessment” to develop an online directory that will share information about currently available spaces and resources for artists to access. 

James Lindsey, a musician, visual artist and Elevator Artist Resource board member, said, in supporting local artists, it’s also critical to think about their needs outside of the art studio as well. 

“There are definitely a lot of artists who feel that they’re having to choose between being able to create their art and being able to survive and live,” Lindsey said. 

‘Education’

Following the Imagine 2020 cultural plan, Boone said Jefferson County Public Schools announced that the district would increase the number of arts and humanities educators in JCPS schools. 

In the new plan, a core education strategy is expanding out-of-school arts programming. 

“There’s so much that happens when you bring art into a child’s life or young person’s life that expands way beyond the art itself,” Dave Christopher of AMPED said.

‘Equity, Diversity & Inclusion’

One goal is to support and strengthen Black art organizations in the city. 

“There are amazing [Black] artists and there are amazing organizations that already exist,” Alonzo Ramont, CEO of Redline Performing Arts and Creatives of Color Collective, said during Friday’s event. 

Another key strategy is developing an artist incubator for “emerging artists of color.”

“I think it’s important though, that we remember that this plan is not the work, that the work starts now,” Ramont, who is also on this steering committee, said. “It doesn’t do any good to sit on a PowerPoint. But we have to invest, and we have to be intentional.” 

Boone anticipates an announcement soon on the artist incubator program. 

Additionally, members of the committee and Michael Kaiser floated the idea of a large biannual festival in Louisville to celebrate Black artists. 

‘Promotion’

The main idea behind this priority is for Louisville to become a city that is nationally and internationally recognized for its arts.

“Those New York Times stories don’t happen by accident,” Kim Baker, president and CEO of Kentucky Performing Arts, said. “And we really need to find ways to be proactive and collaborate to get messages out.”

Baker added that they’ve also included the goal to create a fund to financially support the “big ideas.” 

You can read the full plan here.

Stephanie Wolf is WFPL's Arts Reporter.