By Remy Sisk
It was an event hotly anticipated throughout the community in spring 2016. The inaugural Awards in the Arts, a collaborative event between the Jennifer Lawrence Foundation, Fund for the Arts and Churchill Downs, was held on April 30, 2016. The night honored some of the city’s top arts leaders and organizations, and saw over $200,000 raised and subsequently awarded through grants to the arts community.
Now, the team is gearing up for the second Awards in the Arts, which will be April 29 at Churchill Downs in conjunction with the track’s opening night. All agree that they are set to raise even more this year, further enriching Louisville’s magnificent arts landscape and solidifying this city as an unparalleled hub of arts activity, engagement and collaboration.
Key players in the realization of Awards in the Arts are Meredith Lawrence, executive director of the Jennifer Lawrence Foundation; Karen Lawrence, mother of Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence; JP Davis, senior vice president of Fund for the Arts; and Lauren DePaso, director of community relations for Churchill Downs Incorporated. With the diverse and expansive skill sets and assets all bring to the table, as well as the authentic motivation and dedication each has for the event and its impact, there is no question Louisville’s arts community will see rejuvenated success and growth following this year’s Awards in the Arts.
Organizations receiving grants focused on excellence and innovation, access and education and youth arts training following awards in the arts 2016
$25,000 grant to Actors Theatre of Louisville
to support capital improvements at the world-renowned theater
$20,000 grant to Commonwealth Theatre Center (formerly Walden Theatre/Blue Apple Players) to increase capacity of education and outreach programs
$25,000 grant to Kentucky Shakespeare
to support the January 2017 production of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” at The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts
$55,000 grant to the Louisville Orchestra
to provide live music for identified Louisville Ballet and Kentucky Opera productions in the 2016-2017 season
$13,000 grant to the Louisville Youth Orchestra
to expand the organization’s training and alumni programs
$50,000 grant to support ArtsMatch for Access,
a pilot program to increase access to the arts across Greater Louisville
“We are always looking for creative ways to give back
to the community – that is very important to Jennifer and the foundation. The inaugural Awards in the Arts last year was a huge success in that not only was it a fun night and unlike anything Louisville’s seen before, but the event also raised a lot of money. The impactful grants made by the Jennifer Lawrence Arts Fund in its first year motivated us to say, ‘OK, last year was great, now how are we going to make this event bigger and better to raise even more money this year?’”
— Meredith Lawrence, executive director of the
Jennifer Lawrence Foundation
“There’s no reason we shouldn’t have the best right here in Louisville. I want to make sure that we are providing the next generation with what I found was lacking for my daughter’s generation. And maybe they aren’t going to be professionals – maybe that’s not how they’re going to make their living – but there needs to be an outlet for artistic children to cultivate and grow as artists in a place where they feel understood and accepted as unique individuals. Our goal is to do the best that we can to make sure that those children’s needs are met.”
— Karen Lawrence, mother of Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence
“For decades, arts have been such an important part of Louisville’s fabric, and I think it’s critical that we engage a new generation that not only understands our proud past but also understands what it takes to sustain that for years to come. And it’s not just about giving away money; it’s truly about being engaged and understanding that you really do play a part in the arts. The arts aren’t just for these people or those people – the arts are for everybody. Louisville’s a special place, and it’s our job to make sure we sustain that. We are so grateful for the leadership of the Lawrence family and Churchill Downs for helping us make this night possible. It’s a unique collaboration that has worked very well.”
— JP Davis, senior vice president of Fund for the Arts
“It was all about engaging the city of Louisville, bringing people to the track for a fun night, raising awareness for a good cause and making people feel like what they’re doing and the money they’re giving is actually having impact. And all of the money raised from last year directly went back into the community through grants, and it’s just been amazing.”
— Lauren DePaso, director of community relations for
Churchill Downs Incorporated
The Bobby Petrino Family
Foundation Arts Impact Award
This award honors an organization that has demonstrated and leveraged a significant impact in the Louisville community through the arts – Kentucky Shakespeare. Founded in 1949, Kentucky Shakespeare is a nonprofit, charitable organization and professional theatre. It is the oldest free Shakespeare festival in the United States. Grounded in the works of Shakespeare, this organization enriches Kentucky by presenting accessible, professional theatre experiences that educate, inspire and entertain people of all ages in schools, parks, libraries and more. In its most recent 56th season, the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival in Central Park served more than 25,000 audience members in only 11 weeks, with attendees of all ages, genders, races and backgrounds.
Louisville Story Program
The David Fenley, Founder of UpStartU, Arts Innovation Award
This award is presented to an organization that is fueling innovative work in the arts – the Louisville Story Program. The Louisville Story Program strengthens the community by amplifying unheard voices and untold stories. The organization partners closely with overlooked Louisville residents by providing extensive writing and oral history workshops and editorial support, culminating in professionally-designed documentary books, exhibits and radio programs, in which the authors tell the stories of their lives and communities in their own words. This organization helps to make Louisville a more inclusive city, in which every community member is heard and where stories are lived together.
La’Nita Rocknettes School of Dance
The Yum! Brands Arts Education Award
This award recognizes an organization that has been helping to educate and inspire Louisville’s children for nearly six decades through the arts – the La’Nita Rocknettes School of Dance. Led by Owen Neil, son of founder Anita Lucille Neil, the La’Nita Rocknettes School of Dance provides the opportunity to learn ballet, pointe, tap, jazz and modern dance to any young student, free of charge and regardless of age, color, size, skill level or body type. The mission of La’Nita Rocknettes School of Dance is to help students with their self-esteem and confidence through arts education and on-stage performances.
The Ronda Gordon Foundation Lifetime Achievement
in the Arts Award
This award honors an individual who has demonstrated lifetime achievement in the arts in Greater Louisville – Paul Owen. Owen was the resident designer at Actors Theatre of Louisville from 1971 to 2009, designing approximately 1,500 productions during his 38 seasons. Owen’s work was never defined by a specific style, rather Greater Louisville audiences marveled at the variety of his designs. While now in semi-retirement, his passion for the arts has not waned as he frequently designs for Kentucky Shakespeare.
The Lift A Life Foundation Emerging
Leader in the Arts Award
This award celebrates an artist who has excelled in her discipline early in her career – Rachel Mauser. Mauser is celebrated for her work in bookbinding, letterpress printing, printmaking and painting. Along with her outstanding commitment to her own practice, she also uses her art as a tool to help young people close education gaps, develop identity and self-worth and become leaders in their communities. She is the co-founder and co-director of the STEAM Exchange, a community arts center in Louisville’s Smoketown neighborhood, where she helps to create passion-driven learning experiences for underserved communities, free of charge.
The Delta Dental of Kentucky
National Award in the Arts
American screenwriter and director Stephen Gaghan was born and raised in Louisville, where he attended Kentucky Country Day School. He went on to study at the University of Kentucky and Boston College. He is best known for writing the screenplay for Steven Soderbergh’s film “Traffic,” for which he won a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2000 at the age of 34. Since then, Gaghan has earned 12 award wins and 17 nominations for his work in film and television, including the Emmy and Oscar. Most recently, Gaghan directed the 2016 American crime adventure film “Gold,” featuring stars Matthew McConaughey, Édgar Ramírez, Bryce Dallas Howard, Corey Stoll, Toby Kebbell, Craig T. Nelson, Stacy Keach and Bruce Greenwood.
The Unbridled Charitable Foundation Inc. National Arts Advocate Award
Tim Daly is an American actor and producer from New York City. He is a national advocate for the arts and serves as president of The Creative Coalition – a nonprofit arts advocacy group formed by members of the American entertainment industry – and he continually advocates for the arts through the Coalition and its Right to Bear Arts campaign. Daly is perhaps best known for his role as Joe Hackett on the TV series “Wings,” and as the voice of Clark Kent in the animated film “Superman.” Daly now stars in the popular TV series “Madam Secretary” and has recently appeared in the TV shows “Hot in Cleveland” and “The Mindy Project.” He graduated from Bennington College, where he studied theatre.