Presented by the Kentucky School of Art along with several other local arts and cultural organizations, the Mayoral Forum on the Arts and Culture is just getting started. It features 11 candidates in the crowded mayoral field and hopes to find out the candidates’ visions for the future of the arts and culture in Louisville.
The recession has hit the arts community hard as of late. In 2008, for instance, Mayor Jerry Abramson cut $1 million in arts funding to fill the projected $20 million budget shortfall. The budget cuts his smaller arts groups especially hard.
6:19 p.m. During the candidate introductions, Democratic mayoral candidate Connie Marshall added an interesting tidbit to her otherwise strange biography. The west Louisville resident says she was once a Tina Turner impersonator. Immediately after, Democratic mayoral candidate and Metro Councilman Jim King, D-10, showed a sense of humor and said, “I’m no Ike,” which got a good laugh from the audience. The remark was likely in reference to his recent troubles in the media after a series of stories The Courier-Journal did on Councilman King’s divorce records.
6:30 p.m. The opening remarks are either the candidates usual biographical introductions or a personal narrative about the importance of the arts. Hopefully the questions will pinpoint the agenda of arts in their potential administrations.
6:35 p.m. The first questions asking how the candidates would leverage the city’s arts resources to create a Louisville of tomorrow? Councilman King says creating a fund for the arts was the first building block, but that the best way to see if a candidate will prioritize art is to look at their personal involvement before listing a series of activities.
The candidate with the most forwarding thinking answer that hit a cord with the audience at the Kentucky Center on that question was by attorney Lisa Moxley, who advocated the importance of attracting the film industry to the state with tax incentives to produce movies. Nice!
6:42 p.m. “Arts are an agent of social cohesion,” says Democrat Tyler Allen. “It engages not just the economy in us but the spirit in us and artists are creative entrepreneurs and city builders.” If Allen can keep this sort of inspiration going and present the big idea, he might breakout of being called the “one-issue” candidate.
6: 45 p.m. From a practical viewpoint, Democrat Greg Fischer made it a point to highlight the importance of keeping and strengthening arts education in Jefferson County Public Schools. More and more the Louisville businessman that he’s a building. The JCPS component resonated with the audience and received heavy applause.
Though he’s often criticized for being “Mr. No” on development projects downtown, Republican mayoral candidate and Metro Councilman Hal Heiner, R-19, credited the arrival of the Kentucky Center for the Arts as revitalizing downtown Louisville. The east end Republican says Metro government has a responsibility to invest and build better infrastructure for the arts.
Councilman King pointed out that the area around 4th & Oak Streets is a blighted neighborhood that could be used to connect the Speed Art Museum and University of Louisville to the St. James Art Fair and downtown Louisville. Interesting, the idea that art could be the battering ram for redevelopment.
6:54 p.m. The discussion has turned to the hope of both artists and developers — east Market Street.
7:00 p.m. The question turns to harnessing the arts community and its diverse workforce.
Democrat Burrel Charles Farnsley, whose claim to fame is that his father was mayor of Louisville in the 1940s, refuses to answer any questions that aren’t asked to the entire panel of candidates. Good luck with that strategy. The moderator politely suggests they’ll wait to hear his closing remarks.
As the candidates address expanding the arts corridor, Independent candidate Jackie Green hits an excellent point that accessing public art requires a better public transit system. If this sort of remark seems like common sense in other places, you’re right. That thinking that should be commonplace among any city’s political leadership. Welcome to Louisville.
7:11 p.m. Q&A from the audience …
“If the Kentucky Consuttion allwoed would you suport local option sales tax for local arts?”
David Tandy: Absolutely. It allows for communities to be able to come up with permanent funding streams to fund different projects.
“What do you plan to do for the self-employed artists in the community?”
Tyler Allen: The landscape we create and where people live and thrive means a lot. We have to talk about land uses and public transit to integrate them back into community. It means reaching out to lower communities and helping them out.
Greg Fischer: We don’t have ample opportunities for people to stop and shop and eat to thrive with local art. We can provide local incentives with artists to finance studios and homes and apartments, bring them back into neighborhoods like Old Louisville.
“What’s the last cultural arts experience you went to and what did you learn?”
Jackie Green: … I work about six hours a day and spend most of my time with family (audience groans).
Hal Heiner: Fund for the arts kick-off, moved by choir and suggests all candidates should promise to have their angelic voices at inauguration.
“Would you include a local arts leader in your senior advisory team?”
Greg Fischer: That could be incredibly exciting. There needs to be specific function, but I’d like an artist in residence program with daily work in the Mayor’s Office.
Jim King: We definitely need someone in charge of arts and culture. It would definitely occur.
7:25 p.m. “Immigrants are the fastest growing population in Louisville. What would you do to enhance ethnic art in the city?”
Lisa Moxley: Incorporating ethic art strengthens people’s identity and infuses them in the city. I haven’t thought of particular program, but I’d support anything regarding that.
7:32 p.m. In the back of the auditorium a group of artists are holding up a big yellow sign that reads: ARTS $ = JOBS. The audience roars.
Before the candidates offer their prepared closing remarks it should be noted that an announcement is pending from the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Public Art, which spent $50,000 to hire Creative Time, a New York City-based art group, to develop a master plan for creating and displaying more public art in the city. The group of artists and curators have reportedly spent the past year studying Louisville’s visual arts history and laying out a strategy for funding and placing more public art in all parts of the city.