A new performance and art space could open in southeast Louisville as soon as the winter holiday season.
The newly named Highview Arts Center — at 7406 Fegenbush Lane — will be a “community center that’s arts-focused,” Jeanne-Marie Rogers said.
Rogers is the forthcoming facility’s secretary of the board of directors — they’re waiting for final confirmation of their nonprofit status.
The goal for the new center is for it to be “a place where you can stop by and there’s always something going on.”
“So that once we are really up and running… that we’ve got local artwork on our walls, as well as local talent,” Rogers said. “And not just the performing talent, but to develop playwriting and other creative activities, so that everybody in that community feels like they are not just consumers of the arts, but they are artists themselves.”
She said they signed a two-year lease on the space recently.
“It was pretty exciting and also a little nerve-wracking,” she said, in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also because it’s been a bit of a roller coaster getting to this point.
Organizers had initially tapped a former video store in the Outer Loop Plaza shopping center as the location.
But, upon further inspection, Rogers said it became clear that locale was not a viable option for a theater: including issues with the ceiling and converting the space to meet their needs, as well as concerns over the HVAC system and challenges with a new leasing company.
“We would have learned that quicker, but once COVID hit, we weren’t interested in getting a bunch of people in there to look around so that just the whole thing just got put on hold,” Rogers said.
The new location most recently housed a daycare center.
Rogers said they’re still determining the extent of work that will be necessary to transform the property, but their wish list for the venue includes a lobby, office space, classrooms, a black-box style theater, and spots for dressing rooms and storage in the back. They’ll also have an outdoor space, and Rogers said they’ve made arrangements to have access to extra parking should it be necessary for future shows.
Also of note, the new theater is adjacent to Highview Hardware, a likely handy neighbor for a burgeoning theater venue.
Earlier this month, organizers took their first step in properly introducing the new arts center to the local community through a series of interactive storytelling events for children during the Outer Loop Fall Festival. Rogers said they plan to next reach out to nearby organizations, such as schools, houses of worship and businesses.
Rogers credited Metro Council Member James Peden, who represents District 23 which includes Highview, Okolona, Fern Creek and several nearby suburbs, with having the original vision for this project. She said he continues to be an advocate and important resource, including helping them find the former daycare spot.
Peden told WFPL in May 2020 that arts and culture offerings are “generally lacking in the suburbs,” and, to him, it made sense to establish something such as an arts center in his community.
“Are more people asking for this than, say, asking for sidewalks? Probably not,” Peden said then. “My government philosophy is to provide what the people either won’t or can’t economically provide for themselves. This fits that category, just like a sidewalk.”
Organizers believe this will also be a win for Louisville’s theater community by providing an affordable venue for arts groups to rehearse and stage their work.
“I feel confident that we’ll be able to offer a reasonable cost,” Rogers said.
An “aspirational goal” is to have programming up in time for the winter holidays. Even if a fully-staged production isn’t in the cards by then, Rogers is optimistic that they can host some form of holiday entertainment for the community.