Louisville Visual Art (LVA): Spreading the Message that Art Can Do Wonders for a Community

It began in 1909, with art classes offered for young people in 1929. Today, this organization (now known as Louisville Visual Art) has landed in Portland. Here, its mission of art education, artist support and community outreach is being re-energized.

In 2016, Louisville Visual Art (LVA) moved to Portland from smaller space downtown. Before that, it spent three decades at the Louisville Water Tower. In its new space, a 33,000 square foot former warehouse on Lyttle Street, there’s space for artist studios, art classes, offices, and exhibitions. The performing troupe Cirque Louis calls the LVA space home.

“We have multi-generational and ongoing impact,” said Grant Johnson, LVA’s Communications and Marketing Director. “The move to Portland includes a concerted effort to make sure we have initiatives to increase our involvement west of 9th Street. We have a number of grants and projects that are specifically located in and oriented to the needs of west Louisville neighborhoods, like Portland, Russell, Shawnee and California.”

Johnson said LVA promotes art through education, artist support and community outreach. While some classes are held at the Portland headquarters, most take place in schools and community centers convenient to the students, from 2nd graders through high school.

LVA Executive Director Lindy Casebier, in a 2017 Courier-Journal editorial, wrote that the LVA’s classes were “teaching creativity and fostering the next generation of doers and problem-solvers in our community.” He pointed to a number of successful alumni, including renowned sculptor Ed Hamilton, who attended LVA’s CFAC (Children’s Fine Art Classes) classes as a child.

The artist support and community engagement missions are best exemplified by a partnership with New Directions Housing Corp., which provides affordable housing in West Louisville. Through a grant from Imagine Greater Louisville, four local artists were commissioned to create murals on New Directions properties.
“People who live there are proud of the work. Their space has been enhanced, their neighborhood has been enhanced,” Johnson said, adding that additional projects are being planned.

The local artists, and their mural locations, are Patrick Sheehan (17th Street and Rowan), Victor Sweatt (at 16th and Muhammad Ali), Danny Seim (Roosevelt School on 17th Street in Portland) and Casey McKinney (1500 Muhammad Ali).

Today LVA has embarked on a mission to raise $4 million, which would allow it to enhance its facility and put up an impressive entrance. This would make a stunning visual statement in its surroundings of industrial warehouses.

The building, at 1538 Lyttle Street, would have expanded gallery space, numerous artist studios, and allow for expanded programming and even hosting with a large lecture hall.

Johnson is one of seven LVA staff members spreading the message that art can do wonders for a community. He shared the story of a student who attends CFAC classes from a homeless shelter.

“He recognizes the value of art,” said Johnson, who holds a masters degree in art and has taught college-level classes. “Art can transform lives for the better in really profound ways. Here’s a student who’s just getting something from an art class he’s not getting elsewhere, while dealing with challenges and hardship to get there. He sees a path forward that wouldn’t be there without art.”

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