Bridget Clark had more work than she could handle when she lived in New York: Her ceramics company was getting orders left and right, and she was featured in Vogue and Bon Appetit. But when work supplants art, things can change.
“I kind of got bogged down,” says Clark, 27, now creative director at Mellwood Art Center. “It was losing its meaning for me.”
She moved to Louisville last year at the urging of a relative. Meaning has returned. And one of Clark’s first projects is to kick off a new juried fine art show series March 4 and 5 that will feature more than 50 artist booths. The plan is for the show to become an annual event similar to the fall show Mellwood hosts each year.
Louisville and New York are quite different places, as anyone who has visited both can tell you. But Clark seems to feel right at home.
“It’s been very, very different, in a good way,” Clark says. “It’s the first time I’ve been able to see the sun rise while the moon is still in the sky.”
That’s one difference, but there are others, and they relate well to the mission Clark sees for Mellwood. First and foremost, she sees a spirit of cooperation and openness that she hopes to accentuate.
“People here are very willing to share and experience and give their time to you, which is not something I’m really used to,” she says.
To that end, she found a willing co-conspirator in Don Cartwright, owner of Kore Gallery in the center. Cartwright features local fine artists, including a rotating exhibit with featured artists. He was asked if the energy level at Mellwood has increased since Clark’s arrival.
“Oh my god, yes,” he says. “Bridget has brought that young enthusiasm.”
The March show, which will be held in event rooms 1 and 2, will focus on fine arts, Cartwright points out — painting, sculpture, glass art and fine jewelry. The participants were chosen by a jury of four of the region’s most respected artists. In addition, another 20 local artists will display their work in the hallways.
The works will, obviously, be available for sale, but that’s not the point, according to Cartwright. Whereas the fall show is a big driver of funds for the center, the new spring show has a different purpose.
“The focus is not to make money,” he says. “This one is more focused on the artist.”
Clark’s overall goal is to simply create more collaboration between the Mellwood Art Center and the rest of the arts community. She feels it has been somewhat segregated in the past and wants to make it more of a hub for all artists in the community, not just those who rent studio space or have shops or galleries in the building.
“I kind of want this place to be a center for people to learn from each other and have a community,” she says. “They need to be able to come here to explore all mediums of art. It needs to be an arts center, not a rented arts space.”
She sees it as being something of an artists’ version of Chef Space, the popular kitchen incubator located in the Russell neighborhood. She envisions having resources such as a forthcoming kiln, and possibly a printing press, with education for all ages. She wants all facilities to be accessible to those who want to use them or learn to use them.
“Why hinder creativity by saying no?” she says. “Being creative and letting who you are out should not be difficult. It should be nurtured.”
The show will run from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on Saturday, March 4, and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday, March 5. In addition to art, there will be food trucks aplenty, including Long Shot Lobster, and Hi-Five Doughnuts. The Bristol Bar & Grille will offer its lauded green chile wontons, and Apocalypse Brew Works will serve beer. Clark promises music and other entertainment as well. Fat Heads Rescue also will have a presence, with adoptable dogs on site.
Clark may have left an overabundance of work behind in New York, but she doesn’t seem to have slowed down any. Fortunately, she feels Louisville is welcoming to her vision.
“People here are incredibly supportive,” she says. “It’s a very nurturing city that is also open to change.”