By Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2018 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
The myth of left brain vs right brain has trained us to believe that creativity originates in a different part of the brain as logic; artists are therefore prone to disorder and aren’t very good with business. Whether true or not, history provides a trail of artists who are, at worst, abused and exploited, and at best, never rightfully appreciated for their real value to the community.
A new non-profit seeks to address this canard with real-life, practical support for artists of all disciplines working in the Metro Louisville area. Elevator Artist Resource is the brainchild of a group of arts professionals that includes Alison Huff, Managing Director of Commonwealth Theatre Center, and Jackie Pallesen, now a JCPS art teacher but for several years the Outreach and Education Director at Louisville Visual Art. Huff served on the Cultivation Committee for the Greater Louisville Master Plan for the Arts, and it was during that tenure that she first recognized the potential of the idea. So she prevailed upon Pallesen and some others to help write a proposal.
After receiving one of the largest grants in the first round of the Fund for the Arts Imagine 2020 initiative, the group formalized as a board of directors and earlier this year hired Arts Educator Ehren Reed as its first full-time employee.
“I think the fact that Elevator received such a sizable amount is an indication of how much this is needed,” explains Reed. “It fills a vacancy. One of the first things we did was to distribute a survey for artists to tell us what they need, and what emerged from that was the notion that there was not enough arts advocacy for individual artists. The lion’s share of arts funding goes to institutions, and those institutions employ artists, but who serves as the voice for artists outside of those institutions?”
The initiative is still in its nascent stage, but this Wednesday, November 28, they will step out onto the public stage with a launch party at Gravely Brewery on Baxter Avenue. It will be both an opportunity to introduce plans for the future: online directories for Artists and Resources, workshops for career consultation and mentorship and, perhaps most importantly: micro-grants awarded that very night. If it is true that nothing speaks louder than money, Elevator will walk the walk by essentially handing out the promise of financial support during the event itself.
Artists in attendance are invited to anonymously pitch a project idea to compete for grants in two amounts, $500 and $1000. Applications will be accepted at the event from 6pm-7:15 pm and then an independent panel of artist jurors will review the applications. Grant recipients will be announced by 8:00 pm.
To be eligible, the applicant must be an individual artist who is a resident of Metro Louisville (existing 501c3’s are not eligible). “This is an inaugural program that we hope will develop into a year-round opportunity,” says Reed. As with all of the programs envisioned, there are no limitations as to what kind of individuals may benefit from Elevator, but Reed notes that the people who may profit the most from the outreach are young creatives, such as students coming out of ambitious programs like the Governor’s School for the Arts, newly graduated from high school or college but lacking in real-world experience.
Will it work? A start-up non-profit for the arts is a risky enterprise in any climate, territory where even angels fear to tread. And one that sets its sights on crossing disciplinary boundaries to engage artists in the visual arts, theatre, music, writing, or just about any form you can imagine? Well, that might seem preposterous.
Which might be as good an indicator as any of exactly why it might work. Full disclosure: I have worked with Ehren Reed and, having seen her in action, and I would never bet against her. Wednesday night’s event will be the first proof of the pudding.
Elevator Artist Resource Launch Event
November 28, 6:00-8:00pm
Gravely Brewing Company
514 Baxter Avenue, Louisville
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.