The Progression Of Art And Beauty In Louisville’s Public Spaces

Your Voice Contributor

The Louisville Metro Commission on Public Art (COPA) finished its 2012 three-part Artist Event Series with a free educational event that attracted talent from across the country to discuss the city’s growing public art collection. The Power of Public Space symposium, held September 14 through 15, was co-sponsored by The Speed Art Museum and the International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art – North America (INCCA-NA).

Mayor Greg Fischer launched the educational series on March 21, 2012 with an ideas competition, “On The Floor: Cultural Producers Compete for Space.” During this event, teams presented proposals for new art installations along the Louisville Loop at Manslick Road and the Caperton Swamp Park on River Road. The five teams  represented local cultural producers, including The Paper, De Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop, Frederick Chaffin and visual artists Tiffany Carbonneau and Todd Smith. The concepts were completely original and a catalyst for creative and thoughtful discussions.

Mayor Greg Fischer addressed the crowd.

Mayor Greg Fischer addressed the crowd.

In June, Mayor Fischer hosted the second event for Metro staff, members of COPA and leaders from the real estate development community to discuss the Louisville Public Space Art Fund and opportunities for developers – who are integral to how this city evolves and prospers – to participate in the development process and ensure that public art plays a significant role in the planning and design of the built environment.

The third event, “The Power of Public Space,” was a two-day, national symposium, in which the Speed Art Museum, COPA and INCCA-NA partnered with panel experts from the University of Louisville, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

For two days, stakeholders and professionals dedicated to the profusion of art in public spaces shared intelligence, experiences and dreams for our city. A wide range of issues was addressed – from preservation and historical reference to civic engagement and economic development, to site guidelines, funding and the probability of temporary public artworks.

Panelists at a COPA symposium discussed Louisville’s growing public art collection.

Panelists at a COPA symposium discussed Louisville’s growing public art collection.

INCCA-NA Executive Director, Lauren Shadford commented that “Louisville’s vision about the importance of public works of art, seen through COPA’s current work and the Speed Art Museum’s expansion plans, signaled to us at INCCA-NA that this community was poised to have the often challenging conversation about the long term conservation planning that accompanies a commitment to public works of art. Over the course of the program, it was rewarding to be part of such an open dialogue about these conservation issues and how to plan for the future care of public works of art in a realistic and responsible manner.”

Local participants included Brooke Brown Barzun; 21c Museum Hotel founders Laure Lee Brown and Steve Wilson; Alice Gay Stites, Chief Curator, 21c Museum; art collector and philanthropist Al Shands; Nana Lampton; Waterfront Park’s Marlene Grissom; and Stephen Klein from the Kentucky Center. Among the attendees were Augusta and Gill Holland; KMAC Executive Director, Aldy Milliken; Edie Bingham; Jim Clark, CEO, LexArts; and James Crumb from the Cincinnati Art Museum, as well as local artists, real estate developers, gallery and small business owners, students, representatives from arts and cultural organizations and commercial enterprises, and citizens from neighborhoods throughout Louisville Metro.

Collaborations and partnerships are at the heart of COPA’s Artist Event Series, as well as its efforts to maintain, conserve and create public art throughout our community. We look forward to engaging the public in the future, and working with the city to enhance the recently announced Vision Louisville, an initiative to create a 25-year vision for the city. Public Art will be an integral piece to the visioning process and as curator Alice Gray Stites noted in her presentation, “Collaborating with other innovative cultural and civic institutions is paramount for achieving meaningful community engagement in Louisville.”

The 2012 Artist Event Series was a public service of the Commission on Public Art (COPA), and was made possible by the generosity of Brooke Brown Barzun, Marlene Grissom and Mary Moss Greenebaum.

Chris Radtke is a Louisville artist with a long studio practice based on East Market Street.  Her recent work includes sculptural installation projects that interact with both the viewer and environment and explore ideas about human scale and memory.  Her work is in the collections of the Speed Art Museum and 21c Museum and has been exhibited at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art, Cincinnati Museum of Art, Land of Tomorrow in Louisville, Country Club Projects in Cincinnati, Mainz, Germany, and Washington D.C.  

Radtke grew up in Michigan and taught art in both the East Detroit and Dearborn public school systems.  After moving to Louisville with her husband and two children in 1980, she became a founding member of Zephyr Gallery, an artist-owned collective exhibiting regional work, which is soon to mark its 25th anniversary.  She is a former member of the Board of Governors of the Speed Art Museum and served as co-chair during the writing of Louisville’s first master plan for public art which was approved by Metro Council in November of 2010.  Currently Radtke serves as chairperson of the newly formed Commission on Public Art for the City of Louisville.  To learn more visit

Photos by Kenneth Hayden Photography and Fine Art