Next time you’re scurrying through the produce section at the Highlands Kroger, take a moment to notice the brand new mural by local artist Clare Hirn. Or if you’re shopping at the Prospect, Springhurst or Middletown locations, check out the murals in the cafés by artists Ashley Brossart, Carrie Neumayer and Hirn.
The project came about through a partnership between Kroger and Louisville Visual Art (LVA) as a way for the large, corporate grocery store to better connect with its neighborhoods. Each mural features iconic images from the surrounding areas.
Tim McGurk, Kroger’s public affairs manager, says the concept first began in Lexington last year with the help of the LexArts organization, and it was met with open arms as an example of a corporation infusing money into the community through commissioned art.
“Our Lexington customers have been thrilled with the addition of the local art, so we are excited to expand this to Louisville now,” he tells Insider. “We were looking for ways to better connect with the neighborhoods that our stores serve; we believe adding locally produced art is a powerful way to do just that.”
Kroger approached LVA to help them create a comprehensive list of local artists who have experience with large-scale work, and soon after, Brossart, Neumayer and Hirn were selected to submit proposals.
Neumayer, whose art is featured at the Middletown location, says she was thrilled to be contacted by LVA for the project. They told her that a panel from Kroger had looked at a variety of local artists’ portfolios and decided they wanted her to submit a proposal.
“I was very pleasantly surprised,” she says. “I hope this project might encourage other businesses to commission local artists more often. I hope seeing original artworks inside Kroger stores might encourage more of their customers to take an interest in the many other awesome local artists working in our community.”
Neumayer, whose illustrations are regularly featured in Louisville Magazine, decided to focus her mural on the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs because the Derby and Oaks’ Garland of Roses and Lilies are crafted each year at the Middletown location. She also included some of Middletown’s historic downtown architecture, which she was familiar with having taught at Hite Elementary School from 2003-06.
For the Prospect location mural, Brossart says she spent some time exploring the neighborhood before submitting her proposals, and she actually was commissioned for two separate pieces for the same store. Her trademark approach of bringing life and character to familiar neighborhood architecture offers a fresh viewpoint for Prospect residents.
Brossart believes Kroger is setting a positive precedent for the community with this project, and she was happy to participate.
“It was exciting to work on, and I hope more large-scale projects that employ Louisville-based artists grow from this,” she says. “I am so grateful this project made its way to Louisville — we have great resources for creating community-based artworks, and it’s motivating to see them put into action.”
Hirn created the murals for both the Highlands and Springhurst locations. For the Highlands piece, she integrated the grocery store’s colorful produce with familiar neighborhood landmarks. And for the Springhurst mural, she incorporated the area’s proximity of open land and residential living into a farm-to-table concept.
Each mural had a budget of $10,000, which Brossart called “refreshingly appropriate.”
“The budget was very generous,” she says. “The work of artists is all too often undervalued, and that was absolutely not the case for this commission. I’m very grateful to both Kroger and LVA for the opportunity.”
McGurk says more murals will most likely be commissioned for other area Kroger locations, but there are no specific plans at the moment. He also hopes the concept will expand to other Kroger locations in 34 states.
He mentions that the mural project is not the only local initiative by the company.
“In addition to the local murals, we are adding food carts inside some stores that are run by popular local restaurants,” explains McGurk. “Plus, we have vastly increased the variety of our Kentucky Proud product offerings in all of our Kentucky stores. Customers are responding very well to both of these initiatives.”
Kroger and LVA will unveil the large-scale installations at each of the four locations on Tuesday, Aug. 4.