Artistic Endeavors

2020 Speed Ball Committee:
Top Row (L-R): Ozair Shariff, Brian Lavin, Thomas Barnes, Bill Mudd, John Crockett, Stephen Reily.
Front Row (L-R): Charles Walker, Grant Roberts, Michelle Mudd, Elaine Crockett, Henry Crockett, Jim Allen.
Photo by Kathryn Harrington.

The Speed Art Museum furthers its reach


By Mariah Kline

In 2020, the Speed Art Museum is celebrating its 93rd year. The institution is furthering its educational programming and its scope – offering free admission to Title I schools across the state and bringing the Art Detectives program into more classrooms throughout Kentucky. In April, they will make room for “Andy Warhol: Revelation,” an exhibit featuring more than 100 items from The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

On March 7, the museum will host its largest annual fundraiser, the Speed Art Museum Ball. This year, the team set a goal to raise $500,000 in corporate sponsorships and have already surpassed that, making it the largest amount raised in the ball’s history.

Simply put, 2020 should be a great year at the Speed.

The ball is one of the most legendary events in Louisville society. Guests are served dinner prepared by Wiltshire at the Speed in the galleries, and then an outrageous dance party ensues. Entertaining this year is the high-energy band Java from Charlotte, North Carolina. Those who want to skip dinner can opt for Late Night tickets and have access to desserts and drinks in addition to dancing.

Photo by Kathryn Harrington.

New to planning the ball this year is Abby Shue, who joined the Speed as chief advancement and programming officer in April 2019. Shue has spent the last 10 years working in Louisville’s art scene – first with the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts and then with Fund for the Arts – so she was thrilled to have the opportunity to join the Speed.

“We have so many families, individuals, companies and foundations that have supported us for generations,” Shue says. “It’s a fun night to come together and celebrate with all of them… While it’s been a tradition for generations, we’re also continuing to bring new people into the mix and new companies are showing their support.”

This year’s planning committee is made up of individuals ranging in age – from retirees to those who are just a few years out of college. By having the support and enthusiasm from younger people, the Speed is able to ensure that the tradition of the ball will remain for years to come.

“When you have great chairs like this and you’ve got younger generations who are part of the committee, they get to see those leadership skills and can eventually become leaders in the museum and in the community,” says Corporate Relations Manager Matthew Schumann.

The younger planners have a great deal to live up to since the Speed Ball has such an illustrious reputation. But beyond the glamour and the tradition, there is an intense desire to serve the region through art.

“I always look forward to the energy in the community,” Schumann adds. “We get people from all over the city and all over the state who just love being under the roof of the Speed. It’s an elegant night to celebrate the museum, but also by being there, they make so many services and initiatives possible.”

A Family Affair

Chairing this year’s Speed Ball are married couples Michelle Mudd, community philanthropist, and Bill Mudd of Churchill Downs and Elaine Crockett, designer with Bittners, and John Crockett of LG&E and KU. As longtime supporters of the museum, all four have embraced the opportunity to raise funds and be a part of the planning committee. We spoke with the two couples to find out what they enjoy most about the museum and what it is like to work on an event alongside your spouse.

Photo by Andrea Hutchinson.

Bill & Michelle Mudd

How long have you been involved with the Speed?

Bill: We’ve been involved with the Speed since we returned to Louisville in 2008. We’ve been more so involved in the last couple of years as Churchill Downs has become a bigger sponsor. It’s been a wonderful experience.

What has it been like working on this event as a couple?

Bill: It’s been fun because I love working with my wife, but it’s also because the museum has such a professional staff. It’s born out of passion and excitement, and I think they put their hearts and a lot of work into it to make it such a success.

What about the ball are you most looking forward to?

Michelle: We have friends who are coming who have never been before. To see people experience it for the first time is awesome. The food is always fabulous and the dancing is fun, but to me what stands out is having art as the backdrop. You just don’t get that in any other venue.

What is your favorite piece or collection in the museum?

Michelle: The European-American art collection is my favorite. I like the history that’s intertwined with the art.

Bill: Right now, my favorite thing is “Tales From the Turf” because there are so many different mediums they use – from photography to statues to manuscripts. It really shows how much heritage there is in the Kentucky horse and what it means to this state.

Why do you believe the museum is such an important asset to our community and the art world?

Michelle: I think even if you’re not an art connoisseur, you can still enjoy the Speed. You can see the beauty of the art and take advantage of the many events and programs they have to offer.

Bill: The great thing about the Speed is that it reaches across all parts of society. The ball raises money to pay for free admission for Title I schools and families who are on any form of government assistance. It’s something the whole community gets to enjoy, and it brings people from all different backgrounds together.

Photo by Andrea Hutchinson.

John & Elaine Crockett

How long have you been involved with the Speed?

John: I’m a Louisville native, so I’ve been coming to the Speed since I was a child. Elaine and I were in law school together at the University of Kentucky and we returned to Louisville 30 years ago, so we’ve been coming to the ball every year with very few exceptions.

Elaine: I served on the Speed Ball committee for several years and loved it. Soon after our children were born, Art Sparks opened and we became regulars. That was a big part of our weekly life with three young children.

What has it been like working on this event as a couple?

Elaine: It’s been the first time we’ve done anything like this together, and it’s been great fun. We’ve had different endeavors we’ve done independently, and it’s really nice to do this as a couple.

Our two oldest sons who live and work in Louisville are also on the committee this year. They’ve heard us talk a lot about the ball and when we asked them if they’d like to get involved, they recruited a couple of friends to join in. They’ve gotten a couple of sponsors and their businesses have gotten involved. It’s been really fun to have that family involvement.

What about the ball are you most looking forward to?

Elaine: I look forward to the special enhancements that only happen on the night of the ball – the beautiful floral arrangements, the fabulous band and the lovely dinner. It’s always a celebratory atmosphere.

John: It’s the most elegant event in the city during the course of the year.

What is your favorite piece or collection in the museum?

John: Elaine’s father, Lon Roberts from Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, was an antique collector. He gave me a real appreciation for 19th century Kentucky antique furniture, so I love those pieces.

Why do you believe the museum is such an important asset to our community and the art world?

John: A couple of years ago I heard Stephen Reily say that he believed the Speed should be known as Kentucky’s museum as opposed to just Louisville’s museum, and that really resonated with me. I think it’s a treasure for the entire Commonwealth, and there’s nothing like it anywhere else.

Elaine: I’m also proud of the outreach programs. For example, the free admission Sundays. It makes it accessible to everyone, and it shows how effective it is with the amount of people who are in and out of here. V

Purchase tickets to Late Night at the Speed Ball at or contact Ashley Giron at 502.634.2704 or The Voice of Louisville is proud to be the exclusive media sponsor of the Speed Art Museum Ball.