‘Unfair’ art show shut down

Police shut down the annual Unfair this morning, prohibiting participants from selling their artwork outside the Magnolia Bar. It turns out a relatively new city ordinance requires a special permit.

The Unfair was started years ago as an alternative to the nearby St. James Court Art Show, a large-scale event that costs at least $450 to enter.

At this point, Unfair artists will be allowed to display their work as long as no sales are made, and it appears city officials are serious, with police keeping a close watch.  If an artist does sell something, his or her artwork will be confiscated by the city, according to officials who came by this morning.

Organizers of the event are asking the owner of the Magnolia Bar if the artists can move inside, where sales would be legal.  No word yet on whether that will happen. There’s also been talk of organizers scrambling to obtain a special permit for the event — which until this year was never required.


Paul Harshaw, founder of the Unfair, returned to the Magnolia Bar carrying the necessary documents to get the show going again. Other artists participating in the alternative art show were in line downtown at the Metro Department of Inspections, Permits and Licenses receiving their proper paperwork, he says. Many were under the impression that as long as they were not vending within 100 feet of the St. James festival they wouldn’t be in violation of the law.

“Each individual vendor will have to pay $85 to Metro government. It’s getting (the city) money that’s for sure,” says Harshaw. “It’s a big kick in the butt. I don’t have the money to take on the city, but people need to speak up and let people know that it’s affecting people in a negative way, not a positive way.”


  1. Derby City Espresso
    Posted October 2, 2009 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Another Louisville win for the locals! NOT! This town loves to bite off it’s own nose to spite it’s face. Unsurprised.

    Posted October 2, 2009 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Locals should stick with the locals.. I know there are other art things like 1st friday trolley hop we can attend and sell art at…

    st. james is crap

  3. Richard Campbell
    Posted October 2, 2009 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    wow. 85 dollars permit fee??! Ridiculous!! Another reason in a long list of reasons why, as a professional artist, i do not make art in or live in Louisville any longer. ‘Conservative safe family oriented corporate crap’ is encouraged (like Gallopalooza-which makes money for the city) while anything progressive or edgy is not understood, not supported, or shunned by the city goverment or media. st james “art” fair is a joke. when did horrid decorative candles and scarecrow yard decorations deserve to be called “art”? BOO! Louisville.

  4. Nathan Smith
    Posted October 2, 2009 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    I shudder whenever I see the lifted “Keep Louisville Weird” slogan. . . although this action by the city seems weird enough. If nothing else, the “unfair” name gains a certain chilling precision. Keep the art out there, take orders, have people pick it up later to dodge the no sell rule. . . or shoppers can just go buy a unicorn paint-by-number down the street.

  5. salena
    Posted October 2, 2009 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    someone needs to take some tape out there and see how far the mag bar is from the st james line….100 feet is the limit…I bet it isn’t too far from that…if it is over 100 feet the city can’t do anything

  6. niki
    Posted October 3, 2009 at 12:14 am | Permalink

    Selling crap in your yard should be the least the city allows residents to do considering that the fair is a huge inconvenience for the residents. There is NEVER anything good in the tents.

  7. AJ
    Posted October 3, 2009 at 2:59 am | Permalink

    well that sucks, the unfair was one of the few places that has good art at st lames.

  8. Bobby Clifton
    Posted October 3, 2009 at 9:08 am | Permalink


  9. Bobby Clifton
    Posted October 3, 2009 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Possibility City? Yeah, possibly the lamest city.

  10. Jerry Abramson
    Posted October 3, 2009 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I am gay and take it in the butt.

  11. Jerry Abramson
    Posted October 3, 2009 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Cops in Louisville SUCK!

  12. Craig
    Posted October 3, 2009 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    This is disappointing. It’s not as if the Unfair artists are making a killing. In my experience the artwork there has been of high quality and exceptionally low price.

  13. JSuzanne
    Posted October 3, 2009 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    I just sent an email to Mayor Abramson about this travesty. I for one will NOT be attending the snooty, over-priced St. James show, and will instead show my support for the talented local artists at the Unfair and elsewhere!

  14. danny
    Posted October 3, 2009 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Bury the city government with emails. Show your outrage!!!!

  15. Leigh306
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 1:26 am | Permalink

    I’m am no longer convinced the the “artists” at st. james actually create their own products-I think lots of them outsource the work. The part about not being able to vend from the street has been a long going issue in this city. A vender’s permit costs more than I would actually make from selling my art. I go to st. james to look, once I bought something and found out later is was a massed produced import.

  16. cameo
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    i am a 30 year pro artist. i saw a booth at the top of st james court selling pendants and rings made in china. the booth was packed and product was flying at 5.oo a ring or pendant. huh??
    the unfair fair is the best part of the show for me. i love the kids, i love the work and i want to support them. i have several pieces and guess i just might be an unfair fair collector.
    these folks are trying to work at what they love for a living. how very sad, that in this lousy economy the city is keeping them from makling a buck. terrible.
    and about me. i applied to st james and was rejected. it may be the first show i have applyed to in 20 years that i have been rejected from. that’s the way it goes in this world. you can be really good at what you do and be juried out, and imported work, not handmade by even china gets in. the show is getting a terrible name locally and its the local people who support it.
    what a mess!!!

  17. Brenda
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    St James, Cherokee Triangle….I don’t go to either of them. You’ve seen one “art fair”, you’ve seen it all — literally.

    The Unfair was the last bastion of a real art fair. But we can’t just blame the city government. If this town’s citizens supported local art, The Unfair wouldn’t have to do their thing on the first weekend in October in order to draw interested crowds.

    What is really unfair? That talented, original artists with something to say can’t draw crowds, yet tacky crafts draw tens of thousands of people.

  18. Dora the Explorer
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

  19. Yoko Ono
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Let’s all give Paul Harshaw a big hand

  20. cindy maupin
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    I bought a rather expensive necklace at Cherokee and the vendor assured me she hand made all the beads…around the corner was another vendor seeling the EXACT same necklace under a different name. Pissed…
    you bet I was. I suspect the same thing of St. James and sadly many art fairs now. It is so unfair to those of us who create our own art.

  21. M Cantrell
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    C & D Designs was juried into the Art Show this year. They claim they make all of their glass fused pendants. That is a big load of BS. I know they buy them wholesale. There is absolutely no way that they can make them and sell them for $5!!!!!!!!!! Give me a break! How ironic that the Art Fair association is trying to rid the “outer perimeter artists” and they have a wholesaler with crap from China right in the middle of it all!!!!!! I will never step foot in that courtyard again!

  22. M Stottmann
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    As an Old Louisville resident, I was really sickened by the behavior I witnessed over the course of the St. James Art Fair. Louisville loves to advertise about the fair’s setting downtown amongst classic Victorian homes, but the respect paid to these very domiciles was nowhere to be found. I came home from work to find a food vendor dumping a bucket of sludge into my ivy bed in my backyard, and then jovially using my faucet to replenish the water in his filthy bucket. Numerous tenants’ mail were stolen on Saturday, and access to my own backyard was so cramped with vehicles that I couldn’t even fit my bike through my back gate. This fair has become a giant inconvenience to many Old Louisville residents, and if only we could see the type of police presence found here during the fair on any given day of the week! Maybe then the random octogenarian ass-kickings that occur around here will abate.

  23. Kirby Adams
    Posted October 5, 2009 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    It is no secret that St. James sold out long ago. In my opinion the The St. James Court Art Show® has been hi-jacked by The Metro Government and certain Corporations. I say if you want to run a “craft mall”, please run a “craft mall” but locate it to the parking lot of Oxmoor or at The Kentucky Fair and Expo Center. Do not hide behind a beautiful, cool neihborhood and the word “art”. I used to bring friends from out of town to show off Louisville with the fair as being the highlight, now I would be embarrassed.

    Whatever entity is running this Show® should take note of the recent “Renegade” and “DIY” craft movements(not that I am a fan, but…) they attract alot of people who spend money, young people, the same people Louisville keeps trying to recruit. The same people who think it is lame to shut down local fair spin-offs as in The UnFair and other “local parking lot art fairs”.

    Instead of Possiblility City or Keep Louisville Weird, what about, Keep it Real Louisville.

  24. Kirby Adams
    Posted October 5, 2009 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    The Metro Government does not make money from local people who attend the fair, local people do. They make money from the vendors at the fair. The more vendors at the fair the more money for The Metro Government. They all have to stay in hotel rooms and eat in our restaurants. The bigger the better, right? Just the way The Metro Government dismantled Central Ave I don’t see a bright future for Possibility City.

  25. Kevin
    Posted October 5, 2009 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Very sad! All my money this year went to the unfair!

  26. Christian Trabue
    Posted October 5, 2009 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    As a person in the arts in Louisville I loved the fact that a young group of creative folks got together to sell their wares outside of the traditional art fair. To be honest, last year was the first time I have attended St. James in 5 years and it was only because the ‘unfair’ intrigued me. I see no reason to belittle the artists and craftspeople of St. James. They are making a living and doing what they love. However, if the city wants to be known as a creative center then we are going to have to stop putting down every creative endeavor outside the norm. The unfair is exciting because it helps support those artists who are still struggling and it caters to a younger crowd. If I recall, Jeff Koons was not allowed in prestigous fair and so he created his ‘flower dog’ which drew more attention to him and his work. Good luck UNFAIR. I’m rooting for you to continue…..

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