As one of its primary goals, Louisville Visual Art (LVA) strives for ways to support working artists in Louisville. For the past four years, one of their big initiatives to connect audiences with artists has been Open Studio Weekend, which starts tonight, Nov. 4.
The concept is simple and intimate: Artists all over Louisville invite the community into their studios to see the process and work spaces of our budding visual arts scene. The event includes tours Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 5-6, featuring more than 60 local artists, and an opening reception and exhibition kicks things off tonight at University of Louisville’s Cressman Center.
LVA’s hope is that by connecting people directly with artists, it will help grow the art audience in Louisville.
“When you see the artist, when you see the studio, you know a real person made this. A real person chose to paint it, or photograph it — it shows a human touch. It’s really amazing,” says Sarah Davis, LVA’s director of marketing and communications.
She believes this one-on-one connection is especially important in the digital age, when the whole world is available to an audience by the touch of a screen.
“Especially with Instagram and social media, we’re constantly hit with finished projects, art work, photographs,” she says.
LVA has teamed up with UofL and its Hite Art Institute on this project. Chris Reitz, gallery director at Hite and head of the critical and curatorial studies program, spoke with Insider about the partnership and some changes in this year’s Open Studio.
The biggest change is, in part, caused by LVA’s expansion. While the organization recently has announced exciting new plans for its Portland building, it doesn’t currently have a gallery to host the Open Studio exhibition, which has been a part of the event in past years.
Last year, both the Cressman and PUBLIC — LVA’s gallery at the time — were chock full of art, all submitted by participating artists.
“We had 108 objects — we couldn’t fit that all in the Cressman Center — so we said, ‘Why don’t we rethink this a little bit?’” says Reitz. “Obviously we have to pivot anyway. How do we pivot in a way that benefits the artist or brings something new to the table?”
That something new is a smaller, juried exhibition that will hang at the Cressman Center. But it’s not Reitz and other organizers who juried the show. Instead, they brought in three curators from around the region: Kate Bonansinga, director of the School of Art at University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning; Matt Distel, exhibition director at The Carnegie Gallery in northern Kentucky; and Max Weintraub, the new director of the Herron School of Art and Design at Indiana University.
“It’s also a good opportunity for our Louisville artists to get exposure to curators outside the city,” adds Reitz. Having a regional presence can be a big step up for a local artist.
While the juried show is exciting, Open Studio Weekend is still, in many ways, about seeing artists in their everyday environment.
Debbie Shannon, an artist who participated last year as well as this year, talks about why the event is great.
“It was such a great experience. We had such a wonderful combination of people sort of walking off the street because of the balloons and signs, to people who had signed up for the event, and then friends of ours,” she says.
Having people around is a change of pace for an artist. “We’re not a gallery, these are working studios,” she says, describing Frankfort Crossing, the building that houses her studio along with several others. “We’re never really open to the public, but obviously we clean up for company.”
Shannon talked a little bit about her art practice, sharing the methods with enthusiasm, teaching this writer a little more about the visual arts and perhaps giving a preview of the sorts of interactions Louisvillians can expect when they visit studios this weekend.
“I work in marbled paper, a very, very old art form,” she says. “It’s really quite magical, it’s painting on water. You put the paint on top of the water, and you manipulate it in different ways, you can almost draw in it, and then you get a single print off of what you put on the water.”
Shannon says she loves the mix of control and chance that comes from this medium. “There is certain amount of control, but there is a certain amount of letting the ‘water marbling gods’ do what they are going to do. There’s some days it’s magical, and some days it’s frustrating.”
She also is working on a new photograph-based practice, where she blows up tiny details from photographs and prints them on metal. “This is really my first time to share that with the community, including my friends. It’ll be fun,” she says.
Shannon is just one of more than 60 artists opening their studios this weekend who hopefully will all have just as much to share with visitors. For a full list of artists, venues and tour times, check out LVA’s website.
The opening night reception featuring the juried exhibition takes place from 6-8 p.m. at the Cressman Center. Tickets for the entire weekend are $20 and can be purchased online or at several local businesses.