Similar to what other cities do, Louisville will add sidewalk poetry downtown in 2018. | Art found in St. Paul, Minn.

This week, submissions close for “Love in the Street,” a poetry-based public art initiative hosted by Louisville Metro. Hopeful poets — or anyone interested — can submit poems, and if their work is selected, it will be stamped into the pavement along Fourth Street between Chestnut and Broadway next summer.

Insider sat down with Sarah Lindgren, the Louisville Public Art Administrator, to talk about the project’s evolution and how it will be implemented in 2018.

Sarah Lindgren

“Our office announced an artist call in 2016 for a project series called Art Moves Louisville, and the artist call was pretty broad — we were open to considering any location, any kind of medium or materials,” said Lindgren.

The medium and the location were open, but there were goals and suggestions outlining the kinds of projects in which the city was interested.

“They were things like looking at pedestrian corridors and how to present engagement and value in pedestrian spaces, maybe breaking down barriers to using alternative forms of transportation,” she said. “And inviting dialogue in public spaces and creating art experiences that appeal to a wide audience.”

The city got plenty of applications, but one that stood out came from Lance Newman and his company Spreadlove Enterprises.

If that name looks familiar, it’s because Newman has been attached to a lot of high-profile poetry projects. He was one of the originators of Roots and Wings and the Poetry Operas the group performed; he was instrumental in bringing the Southern Fried Poetry Slam 2017 to Louisville; he’s the executive director of Young Poets of Louisville; and he runs a regular poetry slam at KMAC.

“He came to us with the idea of putting poetry in the street — or on the sidewalk within pedestrian space,” said Lindgren.

Here’s a video Newman made about the project:

 

Newman’s original idea was to paint the poems, but his idea got a little more permanent as it made its way through City Hall. Public Art is actual under the Office of Advanced Planning, so this means they are aware of a lot of other projects coming down the pipeline. It’s the one of the biggest reasons Public Art is in that department.

“Knowing there was a streetscape project coming up on Fourth Street, between Chestnut and Broadway, we started to explore the idea to bring Lance’s idea into that streetscape design,” Lindgren said.

Lance Newman, executive director of Young Poets | Courtesy of Lance Newman

Streetscape projects have been brightening up boulevards all over Louisville in recent years, so the matchup made sense.

While the idea of poems painted on city sidewalks stood out among the proposals, by folding Newman’s idea into the existing streetscape project, the poems could get a lot more permanent as part of the new sidewalks that would be installed.

So the pavement will be the page in which the poet’s work is presented and saved — in a more permanent way than using paint.

Submissions are open through Friday, Nov. 17, but the panel is looking for a certain kind of poem. Here’s a description of what they’re looking for, pulled from the announcement:

“Poets are asked to consider the existence of love in their city. How did they first fall in love with the city of Louisville? Their answers will be poetic summarizations of the admiration they have for the city and the places that mean the most to them. Whether deeply abstract or satirically literal, Love in the Street supports the writing prowess of Louisville residents.”

Lindgren stressed that the project wants to honor all voices.

“We just wanted it to be participatory by a wide variety of people, whether that was a published poet or an emerging poet, young poet, or someone further in years,” she said. “We wanted anybody who was interested to submit a short poem — so that includes different languages.”

So far, Lindgren is excited by the variety she’s seeing.

“The submissions are coming from zip codes all over the city, and I’m really excited to see that,” she said.

Once the submission window is closed, Newman will choose poems based on merit. The authors’ names will be removed while he reads over them to make sure there’s no bias involved in his choices.

After the poems are chosen, the ball is back in the city’s court, as the Office of Advanced Planning starts to take proposals from companies that will be responsible for printing the poems on the pavement.

Expect to hear more on this project next year in the late spring or early summer, the projected start date for the implementation of the project.

When it is all finished, it will make a beautiful addition for both tourists and residents who can take a little break from their hectic lives and enjoy creations from the city’s finest.

To see the full submission guidelines and to get info on where to send your poem, check Louisville Metro’s page.

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Eli Keel is “pretty much” a Louisville native. You may have seen him around town reading poetry, short stories, dancing or acting. He’s a passionate locavore, so you may have also seen him stuffing his face at one of Louisville’s amazing restaurants. When he isn’t too busy writing short stories, he blogs at amanwalksintoablog.wordpress.com.


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