“The smallest amount of empathy will change your whole perspective and allow you to live stress free in this world.”
– Lance G. Newman II
By Elizabeth Scinta
Photos byAndrea Hutchinson
Love: a four-letter word with an immense amount of meaning. But without us giving that four-letter word meaning and power, it’s simply another sound that rolls off our tongues, convoluted by circumstances. Lance G. Newman II (also known as Mr. Spreadlove), a Louisville artist, philanthropist and professional, took that four-letter word and gave it the power to inspire. “We placate and dilute love and dress it up as this romantic endeavor when I truly believe it’s the core element of humanity and every religion that has ever existed,” explained Newman. “It can be cheesy, or you can dress it up as a Rastafarian one love thing, but I truly believe in love. I know that love exists in each one of us even though sometimes we can’t see it.”
Newman is a man of many talents ranging from spoken word and written poetry to acting and producing, playwriting and comedy and teaching and visual arts. His journey began at 12 years old with poetry when he wrote and performed a diss poem about his bullies. The bullies stopped in their tracks after hearing that one. That performance opened Newman’s eyes to the power behind a word and the ability to use his talent for good. For the past 20 years, Newman has been creating and performing poetry and leading open mics and poetry slams all over Louisville. “I have hosted open mics and slams in abandoned buildings. I’ve been on a corner with a microphone and a speaker. I don’t necessarily believe the art needs to live in a gallery or an institution,” explained Newman.
He co-led a monthly poetry slam at Sweet Peaches and was invited to co-host the events at the KMAC Museum around seven years ago. “We were rocking 70 to 80 attendees each time and the most diverse crowd you’ve ever seen. So, during the pandemic, I put on my production and video editing hat, and I created a series on YouTube called the ‘KMAC Poetry Series’ where I highlight and feature various poets from the city,” explained Newman. “Now that things are open again, we are back in person, and the slam season starts back on the last Saturday in September.”
Although poetry is his favorite medium to work with because of the instant gratification from the audience, he began dabbling in the visual arts realm in 2017. In 2018, Newman was chosen to be a part of the first cohort of the Hadley Creative Initiative. The initiative sent Newman through a six-month professional development program focused on visual arts; during this stint, he decided to pursue his visual artworks aspirations. Using Black & Mild Cigars, he creates thought-provoking visual arts that tell a story about himself and his community. “I smoke these cigars, but even before I started doing visual art, I would collect them because I was tired of littering. So I would find them in my backyard, and I’d go to clean, and I’d have trash bags full; that’s where you get the Hadley Creative piece,” explained Newman.
His evolution and use of the Black & Mild cigars are astounding, especially to the infrequent art consumer. “When you ask how my art evolved, you can see (in the newer pieces) there’s body contour, shading and a whole new use of the materials,” explained Newman. “If we’re talking about from the beginning, poems and plays can’t live with you in your home. They can’t sit on your walls, and they can’t inspire you in the morning when you’re brushing your teeth, but visual art can encapsulate those feelings. That’s why I moved to the visual. I love theater, and I’m still doing theater, but at the same time, I think the visual is a way to leave a legacy.”
Newman’s legacy extends beyond his artwork to the love he exudes for his community, and receiving the 2022 Bill Fischer Award for the Visual Arts proved to him he’s making a difference. To him, receiving this award has not only opened a world of possibilities but has reaffirmed that he’s on the right track. “The Fischer award provided some recognition I had not received in the past 20 years. It was confirmation that I was on the right path and that I am correct in my assumptions of how to express myself. It’s validation from a wider audience. We know Louisville is heavily segregated, and the crossing over is what Bill Fischer signifies in my mind. That crossover is from being the West End local to something a little more. It’s all about where you are in your career. Now that I have the award, I’m about to produce so much more.” Follow @mr.spreadlove on Instagram to stay up to date on all of his future projects.