Louisville arts group Redline Performing Arts will have a new home soon.
Artistic director and CEO Alonzo Ramont said they signed a lease this week on new space in west Louisville’s Portland neighborhood.
A “sort of old basement” unit in the historic Dolfinger Building at 2500 Montgomery St. — formerly the Montgomery Street School — will house the arts education-focused organization.
Ramont felt the space, with a raised stage-like area, “was a good size for what we needed to do dance classes and acting, rehearsals and those kinds of things.”
The organization also will occupy nearby units at Portland Avenue and 25th Street, in a building that was formerly home to Portland Christian School.
Ramont is also CEO of Creatives of Color Collective, or C3, an artistic incubator established last year to help Black artists and artists of color develop artistic and business skills. He said the two organizations will co-exist in the Portland facilities.
Redline and C3 have been tenants of the downtown ArtSpace building on West Broadway, operating out of a shared space there since September.
The philanthropic nonprofit Fund for the Arts currently owns ArtSpace, renting out a number of the units, at subsidized rates, to local arts and culture organizations.
The Fund put the building on the market several years ago to get out of the real estate business and reinvest that money into programs, Fund for the Arts leadership told WFPL in November when news of a pending sale broke. The Fund has been confident this deal will go through, even as the closing date got pushed to April 1, and the sale of the building means the handful of arts groups renting space, including Redline and C3, had to find new homes.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be long term,” Ramont said of their time in ArtSpace. “It was a little shorter than we thought it would be.”
Louisville film producer Gill Holland has been revitalizing both the Dolfinger and old Portland Christian School buildings. He will rent the spaces to Redline and C3 at a rate “that was very affordable for us,” Ramont said.
The Dolfinger basement facility “needs a lot of love,” Ramont added, and Holland has offered to take on the $20,000 worth of needed renovation work.
“We’re very grateful for that,” he said. “It’s gonna still need some attention and some paint and [dance] flooring laid down, that kind of thing, but it’s definitely a start.”
As for the low rent, Holland said he owns the building himself, “so I can kind of do whatever I want.”
“I don’t have investors to be beholden to,” Holland said. “So if I want to give somebody almost free rent, I can do that.”
Redline Performing Arts vice president Carmen Gardner, who lives in Portland, is excited about the organization moving into the area.
“The Portland neighborhood itself is really a vibrant community, just full of family and full of talent that’s really untapped,” she said.
Holland has faced community backlash for some of his development projects, including in Portland and NuLu.
Demonstrators protested in NuLu over the summer, saying gentrification has displaced residents and been particularly harmful to Black people. They demanded NuLu businesses have better Black representation on their payrolls and in the products they sell.
Holland said he’s reached out to “all kinds of groups” to rent the spaces he’s renovated in Portland. The Dolfinger Building in particular, he said, is occupied primarily by artists and nonprofits, such as Community Connections Group, World Affairs Council of Kentucky & Southern Indiana, and Interfaith Paths To Peace.
Both Gardner and Ramont have considered the criticism.
“I think we have to give people grace… I’ve had nothing but great experiences with Gill so far,” Ramont said. “And we’re going to give him a chance until he gives us a reason not to.”
Gardner agreed and said it’s important to “give people room to grow.”
They said they have already done a fair amount of community work in the area and, by moving Redline and C3 there, they intend to be good neighbors.
“We’re not just there to take up space, but we’re there to add,” Ramont said. “It’s not about our organization as much as it is the people that we’re going to affect. We’ve done the work for a long time, but we haven’t always had support. Receiving that support is validating.”
Other ArtSpace tenants, such as Acting Against Cancer, continue the hunt for new homes. Executive director Remy Sisk confirmed they still don’t have anything nailed down.
Last month, West Louisville Performing Arts Academy, which has operated out of ArtSpace for about a decade, launched the WLPAA Founders Fund to raise $500,000 “to create an endowment for its future,” according to a Jan. 15 press release.
Other ArtSpace resident organizations include Kentucky Shakespeare and Kentucky Opera.