Speed Art Museum CEO Ghislain d'Humieres tells visitors about the impact of a $1 million gift from Brown-Forman. | Photo by Boris Ladwig.
Speed Art Museum CEO Ghislain d’Humieres tells visitors about the impact of a $1 million gift from Brown-Forman. | Photo by Boris Ladwig.

Visitors will gain free admission to the Speed Art Museum on Sundays for the next five years thanks to a $1 million gift from Louisville distiller Brown-Forman.

The museum’s CEO said the gift will turn Louisville into even more of a hub of creativity, while a company leader said the investment will help the distiller continue to retain and attract the best employees.

Kentucky’s oldest and largest art museum, at 2035 S. Third St., will reopen March 12 after having been closed three years for a $60 million renovation and expansion that will double the facility’s square footage and nearly triple the gallery space.

The free Sunday admissions will be called “Owsley Sundays” to honor the late Owsley Brown II, a former Brown-Forman CEO.

Brown-Forman Vice Chairman James S. Welch Jr. told IL today that the gift reflects the company’s long-standing support of the arts to help improve the company and the community.

A vibrant arts scene plays a critical role in attracting and retaining the best employees, Welch said. And Brown-Forman needs creative and innovative employees to drive the company’s success.

Owsley Brown encouraged employees to open their eyes and seek inspiration from their surroundings to become better employees, and this gift to the museum is a good way to memorialize that sentiment, Welch said.

“We see it as a gift to the whole community,” Welch said.

Museum CEO Ghislain d’Humieres, standing in the museum’s atrium before about 50 visitors, said today that Brown-Forman’s generosity will introduce the museum’s treasures to even more members of the Louisville community.

D’Humieres told IL that he hopes families come to the museum campus on Sundays to have picnics outside, tour the museum and talk about their experiences. Unlike many other activities, such as going to the movies or seeing a play, visiting an art museum allows patrons to exchange their ideas as they’re experiencing the art, d’Humieres said.

“We want to create a place for dialogue between generations,” he said.

If people go back home with their minds excited and inspired, the museum will have done its job, d’Humieres said.

Brooke Barzun, daughter of Owsley Brown II, and co-chair of the museum’s capital campaign, said in a press release that the gift “brings together so many things my father cared deeply about: Brown-Forman’s commitment to Louisville, Louisville’s devotion to the arts, and arts as the common ground of our shared human story.

“‘Owsley Sundays’ gives those ideas a name,” she said, “and I hope it will allow every resident to visit and take ownership of our reopened community treasure.”

Construction at the Speed Art Museum is continuing. The facility will reopen March 12 after a $60 million renovation and expansion. | Photo by Boris Ladwig.
Construction at the Speed Art Museum is continuing. The facility will reopen March 12 after a $60 million renovation and expansion. | Photo by Boris Ladwig.

The museum will reopen with a free 30-hour event beginning at 10 a.m. March 12. Festivities will include live music, talks by curators, art-making activities, film screenings in the new cinema, interactive programs by the Actors Theatre of Louisville and the Louisville Zoo, and joint performances by the Louisville Orchestra and the Louisville Ballet.

General admission to the museum costs $12 for adults and $8 for members of the military, senior citizens and children ages 4 to 17.

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Boris Ladwig
Boris Ladwig is a reporter with more than 20 years of experience and has won awards from multiple journalism organizations in Indiana and Kentucky for feature series, news, First Amendment/community affairs, nondeadline news, criminal justice, business and investigative reporting. As part of The (Columbus, Indiana) Republic’s staff, he also won the Kent Cooper award, the top honor given by the Associated Press Managing Editors for the best overall news writing in the state. A graduate of Indiana State University, he is a soccer aficionado (Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Köln), singer and travel enthusiast who has visited countries on five continents. He speaks fluent German, rudimentary French and bits of Spanish, Italian, Khmer and Mandarin.