Barbara Sexton Smith, Mayor Greg Fischer and the dancers
 after the tap-dance finale. Photo- Fund for the Arts.

By Kathi E. B. Ellis

Entire contents are copyright © 2013 Kathi E. B. Ellis. All rights reserved.

The last week in January means that the Fund for the Arts is gearing up for the year’s campaign. And this past Tuesday, January 29, was no exception with a kickoff celebration in the historic Brown Theatre.

President and CEO Barbara Sexton Smith reminded the almost full house (she claimed to see only one empty seat in the 1400 seat Brown Theatre!) that the Fund has existed since 1949 and has raised more than 180 million dollars for the arts in its 64 years of operation. 

Admittedly “preaching to the choir” – with representatives from workplace campaigns, arts organizations, Fund board members and volunteers, and enthusiastic students in the balcony – the evidence of the wealth of arts opportunities within the Greater Louisville community was on display on the stage of the Brown, with very few talking heads. This celebration is about the arts.

Almost every Fund Cultural Partner participated in the celebration, with the Louisville Ballet providing almost a full corps for the Waltz of the Flowers (The Nutcracker), to smaller ensembles, the Mozart Flute Quartet (the Louisville Orchestra making a welcome return to this celebration after last year’s absence) and the two person play, Love Always, performed by two engaging Walden Theatre students.  When the Louisville Youth Choir can provide a full, or seemingly so, student choir to perform during the school day and Actors Theatre fields a combination of its education department and Apprentice Company members, it’s unfortunate that neither the Louisville Youth Orchestra nor Kentucky Shakespeare were represented. Mention must also be made of the hardworking visual artists who represented LVAA (Chris Chappell) and KMAC (Bart Galloway) – and without wishing to stress these artists, who created original work as the audience streamed in, the question is whether it would be possible to project their painting onto the screen so that more people could be more aware of the visual arts served by the Fund.

The undeniable highlight of the celebration was Ben Sollee’s performance. Including, equally effectively, the students and adults in the house, he seamlessly demonstrated that the cello is made for all genres of music. The celebration came to a close with a high-energy ensemble of Motown hits.  But more was yet to come. This year’s campaign chair, Greg Heitzman (Louisville Water Company and MSD), demonstrated that we all have a desire for the arts, with good gamesmanship beginning a rendition of “Amazing Grace.” The gathered special guests on the stage – including JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens, Congressman John Yarmuth, Mayor Greg Fischer and others – looked relieved that they were not expected to join in, as the curtain swept up to reveal an unexpected grand finale of tap dancing. Fund staffers said that a call was sent out to dance schools throughout the community for dancers interested in participating that could commit to a handful of rehearsals and to the performance. The finale began with an impressive duet, followed by row after row of dance students filling the stage. If a community can bring together so many young artists for a one-time performance, then we truly are on the way to becoming a great American City – as the Fund’s tireless CEO never tires of telling us.