Letter from Louisville

June 21st, 2013  |  Published in June 2013

Letter from Louisville

By Daniel Pfalzgraf

Today, conversations about art in Louisville, Kentucky, often center on the East Market Street district, affectionately dubbed NuLu (short for “New Louisville”).  NuLu’s rise as an arts district began with visionary investors like Barbara Smith in the late 1980s, buying up buildings the gritty, run down section of downtown.  In 1990s, she sought out galleries and artists for a dozen buildings she owned, bringing artists like Billy Hertz (who opened Gallerie Hertz), Chris Radtke (who housed artist studios and helped bring the artist run co-op Zephyr Gallery to the neighborhood), and Chuck Swanson (who opened what is now Swanson Contemporary) to East Market Street.  The new artists and galleries created an epicenter for visual arts in the city as restaurants began to move in the area, followed by more galleries and studios.   In the early to mid 2000s, NuLu’s reputation as an arts destination blew up as neighborhood leaders worked with city officials to begin the First Friday Trolley Hops on Market and Main Streets, which continues to draw hundreds to thousands to the area each month. NuLu’s renaissance continues with innovative projects like The Green Building at 732 East Market, a LEED platinum-certified sustainable building developed by Gill and Augusta Brown Holland.

The most recent addition to the area is Local Speed, a satellite space for the Speed Art Museum opened to allow the Museum to continue having a physical presence in the art scene while their main building is closed for a major three year renovation and addition project.  Local Speed gives NuLu a high profile non-profit space, something that it has been missing since the beloved New Center for Contemporary Art closed its doors in 2008.

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