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By Adelle Brodbeck

The Smoketown neighborhood has been Louisville’s oldest historically black neighborhood since it formed in the mid-1800s. In recent years, Smoketown has been a point for progress with steps toward revitalization — in 2011, the neighborhood received $22 million from the HOPE VI award dedicated to replacing a decaying Sheppard Square with new mixed-income housing.

To celebrate Smoketown’s 150 years of rich culture and history, IDEAS and YouthBuild Louisville are teaming up with a multitude of institutions across the city, including the Louisville Metro Housing Authority, Asia Institute-Crane House, the Louisville Ballet, and Bridge Kids International, among others. Together the groups will initiate the first Smoketown Arts Festival on Saturday, July 11, from 4-10 p.m. at the corner of Preston and Lampton streets.

"More Than Bricks and Mortar" will be screened at the Smoketown Arts Fest on July 11.
“More Than Bricks and Mortar” will be screened at the Smoketown Arts Fest on July 11.

The free festival will feature a wide range of arts and culture performances. The River City Drum Corps and the Fierce Dancing Tigerettes will kick off the day; community arts activities will be directed by The Steam Exchange; a special presentation from Louisville’s West End theatre project Roots & Wings will honor Smoketown local and musical icon Zephra May Miller; and Lavel White’s documentary “More than Bricks and Mortar: Smoketown A New Beginning” will premiere later in the evening as well.

Josh Miller, co-founder of IDEAS and media correspondent for the festival, said in a press release that the event will be held in The People’s Park across from the YouthBuild learning campus. “(The park) was created last fall during the GE Smoketown Streetscape,” Miller said. “It’s the perfect location for bringing the community together for a day celebrating arts and culture.”

In addition to the many art-centric happenings, the festival also will host free health screenings and community health information workshops. From the opening of the event until around 7 p.m., local artists and health and wellness services will present Learning Lab Booths — Jewish Family and Career Services, St. Peter Claver Community Garden, and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth are among the participants.

Also in the release, Tim Barry, executive director for the Louisville Metro Housing Authority, described his enthusiasm for contributing to the festival.

“The momentum underway to revitalize the Smoketown neighborhood is a testament to the passion and creativity of its many residents and stakeholders,” Barry said.

For a full schedule of the day’s events, visit the Smoketown Arts Festival Facebook page.

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