The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Dec17Filed under: Arts administration, ballet, Classical Music, dance, Louisville, Music, The Humana Festival of New American Plays, Theater, Visual arts; Tagged as: Actors Theatre of Louisville, Allan Cowen, ArtsReach and Community Arts Education, Building Arts Communities, Charles Farnsley, Fund for The Arts, Gerry Woods, Greater Tuna, Harvey Belcher, Julia Youngblood, Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, Louisville, Louisville Central Community Center, River City Drum Corps, Ron Smith, Speed Museum, Todd Lowe
The fourth and final part of “Building Arts Communities,” the series the Herald-Leader has partnered with WEKU-FM 88.9 to present, aired this morning with WEKU’s Ron Smith looking at Louisville as an arts success story. A very community-based report, Smith starts by visiting with a man who moved to the River City for its architecture and ends at a community center where kids from a troubled neighborhood get to engage with the arts.
Click here for Ron’s report. A transcript of the radio-version of the story is below.
San Diego resident Harvey Belcher was attracted to Louisville by its architecture:
“We came here to see the buildings, because it’s a very old town, very old.”
Sitting on a bench on Louisville’s Main Street, the retired electrician concentrated on a city map and looked up to see architecture … and art …
“If you look at the uh … probably about 100 feet from me right now you’ll see a building, and about halfway up the face of the building you’ll see a gargoyle on the side of the building … I’m kind of interested in that kind of art.”
Belcher was surprised to learn Louisville has a widespread reputation for the value it places on the arts. The groundwork was laid in 1818, when the city created its first symphony orchestra. These days Louisville can boast of a diverse arts presence, anchored by a professional orchestra, opera and ballet companies, and the venerable Speed Museum. And there’s the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, now in its 46th season.
“Good morning Tuna! This is Thurston Wheelans, and this is Arlis Scroovy and this is the Whelans-Scroovy Report and here we go with the news…
An Actor’s Theater rehearsal for the zany satire “Greater Tuna.”
So how does a city make a name for itself in the arts? Practice, practice, practice is the old joke. But in Louisville’s case, success can be traced to vision and leadership. The sparkle of what could be was in the eye of Mayor Charles Farnsley in 1937 when he helped create the modern Louisville Orchestra. Twelve years later, Farnsley founded the Fund for The Arts, making Louisville the first community in the nation to gather arts groups together for an annual fund drive. These days the organization is headed by Allan Cowen. For 33 years he’s built on the foundation laid by Mayor Farnsley and a string of strong civic leaders:
Dec16Filed under: Arts administration, Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, dance, Downtown Arts Center, Eastern Kentucky University, LexArts, Lexington Children's Theatre, Lexington Opera House, Music, Norton Center for the Arts, radio, Rupp Arena, Singletary Center for the Arts, Studio Players, Theater, UK, Woodford County Theatre; Tagged as: Ave Lawyer, Bill Owen, Bluegrass Theater Company, Building Arts Communities, Carriage House Theatre, Centre College, Charleston, Doug Whitlock, Downtown Arts Center, Eastern Kentucky University, George Foreman, Jim Clark, Jim Newberry, LexArts, Lexington Center, Lexington Opera House, Michael Grice, Newlin Hall, Norton Center for the Arts, Rupp Arena, Singletary Center for the Arts, Smoke on the Mountain, Spoleto Festival, Studio Players, The Woodford Theatre, WEKU
The third part of “Building Arts Communities,” the series the Herald-Leader has partnered with WEKU-FM 88.9 to present, aired this morning with me looking at Lexington and Central Kentucky’s arts venues. I visited Danville, Richmond and talked to several officials and artists in Lexington to see what we have and what we need.
Click here to hear my report. A transcript of the radio-version of the story is below.
The print version of this story turned out quite different. Click here to read it.
By Rich Copley | Lexington Herald-Leader/WEKU News
Over 26 years, George Foreman has built Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts into an unlikely arts destination. Acts that have appeared in 1,450-seat Newlin Hall are a who’s who of classical music, including Yo-Yo Ma and Kathleen Battle. And there have been pop stars like Willie Nelson and Broadway productions such as Rent.
“We’ve worked very hard to brand this place as, No. 1, being a place of exceptional quality in terms of the artists that we bring in and, secondly, the patron services are really quite nice.”
One reason Foreman could do this is he had a theatre with enough space and flexibility. It can accommodate a wide variety of shows and the large audiences who want to see them. While the Norton Center has built a loyal audience in Danville, Foreman says more than half of its audience comes from outside Boyle County. In addition to having a big, flexible theater, the Norton Center had another advantage….
“One reason the Norton Center has been as successful as it has been is there really is not a serious level of competition in Lexington . . . If there was someone in Lexington with a proper large theater doing the same kinds of things we’ve done here, at the same level of quality, with the same patron amenities and so forth, do you think people would drive here instead of staying in Lexington?”
At this point, some people may ask, “What about Lexington’s Singletary Center for the Arts?” or “What about the Lexington Opera House?”
Lexington is a city with an interesting mix of venues. Observers say they suit some purposes very well and fall far short in others.
At nearly 15-hundred seats, the Singletary Center has a seating capacity equal to the Norton Center. But it is built as a concert hall. There is little backstage space to accommodate dance or theatrical productions. The Lexington Opera House is the primary venue for those disciplines. But built in the late 19th Century, its backstage space falls far short of 21st Century industry standards. And at just under 900 seats, it is one of the smallest venues in the country to present touring Broadway productions. One thing Lexington’s missing is a theater that can seat 25-hundred people.
Dec15Filed under: Arts administration, Central Kentucky Arts News, LexArts, Visual arts; Tagged as: Allison Kaiser, Berea, Berea College, Building Arts Communities, Christ Church Cathedral, Distillery District, Gallery Hop, Jess Marr, Jim Clark, Jim Newberry, Ken Gastineau, Kentucky Artisan Center, Lyric Theater, Manchester Street, Old Towne, Pat Gerhard, Rupp Arena, Stu Johnson, Third Street Stuff, WEKU
The second part of “Building Arts Communities,” the series the Herald-Leader has partnered with WEKU-FM 88.9 to present, aired this morning with WEKU’s Stu Johnson looking at developing arts districts. Stu visited the Limestone Street area of Lexington as well as Berea’s trio of distinctive arts districts.
Click here to hear Stu’s report. A transcript of his story is below.
By Stu Johnson | WEKU News
Third Street Stuff at the corner of Third and North Limestone in Lexington is home to a great deal of art.
“I do all the cans and all the furniture … whenever you get the feeling?… oh, I always have the feeling, (laugh) yeah, I always want to paint.”
Third Street Stuff owner Pat Gerhard has been in the arts business for more than two decades.. She says times are good…
“I’ve been watching Lexington and the arts scene for 35 years and I think it’s it feels really good right now there are a lot of artists doing a lot of work.”
For a long time, Gerhard says there’s been interest among many Lexington’s artists in creating a formal arts district…but there could also be a downside…
“It might be a little disadvantageous to people if they find themselves outside the art district that would be a little too bad, but I mean that happens.”
One organization just outside the central business district is the Lexington Art League. Executive Director Allison Kaiser admits the eventual location of an arts district is a very big question. There’s no question, she says, it can make quite an economic impact on its neighborhood. The League has been around for 53 years. Kaiser says several community leaders have suggested the League should move it’s headquarters downtown, and help establish an arts district.
Dec14Filed under: Balagula Theatre, Central Kentucky Arts News, Lexington Philharmonic, Music, Theater; Tagged as: American Quilters Society, Balagula Theatre, Bryer Patch Studio, Building Arts Communities, Carol Bryer-Fallert, Charles Compton, Chris Rose, Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, Lowertown, Missy Johnston, Monica Bielak, Natasha Williams, National Quilt Museum, Paducah, Robbie Morgan, Samuel Beckett, Scott Terrell
The first part of “Building Arts Communities,” the series the Herald-Leader has partnered with WEKU-FM 88.9 to present, aired this morning with WEKU’s Charles Compton looking at recruiting and retaining talent. Charles visited Balagula Theatre, the Lexington Philharmonic’s new maestro Scott Terrell and Paducah’s nationally-revered arts community.
Click here to hear Charles’ report. A transcript of his story is below.
By Charles Compton | WEKU News
During a French-language class at the Sayre School, performers from Balagula Theater chat with teenagers. The private school and the theater sit just a few blocks apart in downtown Lexington. Some day, Balagula owner Natasha Williams hopes these teenagers will nurture live, local, innovative theater.
“We have very little in town that really focuses on retaining and growing and supporting local performing talent because most of the actors are pushed out to pursue careers somewhere else. What if you don’t want to go somewhere else? What’s wrong with having arts in Kentucky? What’s wrong with staying here?”
Balagula Theater is small…what’s described as intimate. It’s attached to a restaurant and boutique, also owned by Williams. Balagula’s productions are more experimental — edgier. This season, the theater has already presented two absurdist-tales, “B is for Beckett” and “The Bald Soprano.”
Such plays allow actors to exercise their dramatic chops. The theater also offers actor-training workshops. But, Williams asserts Balagula’s performers are true professionals. Mainly, she wants to give them a stage near home where they can practice their trade…
“As an artist, you are quite selfish, in a sense that you do want to act, work. It’s not about ego. It’s not about being famous. It’s about being able to work and really work.”
In “The Bald Soprano,” Robbie Morgan played the part of a British maid. In her big scene, Morgan slapped a leather couch with a riding crop. In another play, she was in a large urn and the audience only saw her head.
Morgan grew up near Lawrenceburg, Ky., and then pursued an acting career in Chicago. She landed some good parts, but, a few months ago, she shifted her life to Lexington. The deciding factor, Morgan says, was finding a theater like the Balagula. The compensation is minimal, but, it gives actors what they crave…
“It’s a requirement for me. I can’t live in a place where I don’t have opportunity to be an artist. And, it might mean that I work a day job that I might be passionate about or not be passionate about, but, I still have to be able to leave everyday and no that I can go someplace and disappear into my artistic life.”
Another artist who moved to Lexington in pursuit of opportunity was Scott Terrell, the new music director at the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra. It was Lexington’s reputation, and its potential, that made Terrell’s move easy…
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich