Arts and Culture

The University of Louisville’s Hite Art Institute has opened the doors to its newest building — a fully renovated 19th-century warehouse located in the Portland neighborhood.

The new building also happens to be U of L’s first located west of Ninth Street.

During a ribbon-cutting event Tuesday, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said he’s glad institutions like U of L are moving into west Louisville.

“It’s about time that we’re bringing investment back to west Louisville.” Fischer said.

The building is partly owned by Gill Holland, a candidate for lieutenant governor and a board member of Louisville Public Media, which is the parent organization of WFPL News. Holland is on leave from the board for the entirety of the campaign, per LPM policy.

MFA students, as well as the university’s anthropology department, will lease space in the 27,000-square-foot building.

This project is one that has been in the works for years, one that was initially going to be completed by the fall of 2017.

But despite some delays, university faculty have had a consistent vision for the space: that it would aid in the institution’s mission of “providing engaged service and outreach that improve the quality of life for local and global communities.”

In a 2018 interview, Kimberly Kempf-Leonard, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at U of L, touted the city’s arts and culture as an economic driver.

“I think it has the potential to be a better city if we use arts as a way to address some of the economic disparity,” she said.

The Hite Art Institute’s MFA program joins several other arts organizations that have moved to Portland, including Louisville Visual Art, Squallis Puppeteers and the Fall’s Art Foundry.

During Tuesday night’s event, U of L President Neeli Bendapudi said she anticipates that the university’s presence in the neighborhood will have a great impact.

“We are all about being a great place to learn, to do that by being a great place to work, and we will be a great place to invest,” Bendapudi said. “Part of the way we do that is by demonstrating that the University of Louisville will have ripple-effects from Louisville to the commonwealth to the world.”

MFA students have already started moving into studios in the building; it will be used full-time for the upcoming semester.

Ashlie Stevens is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.