Supporting Creatives in our Community

BY ELIZABETH KRAMER

In the cool of the KMAC Museum on a balmy Friday in June, a simple white telephone was on exhibit as part of one artist’s work. Visitors who picked up the receiver heard the recording of a man’s calming voice, who spoke of courage and coached them to be brave in life.

Throughout the evening, people also listened to other encouraging words on that recording, then walked to a square in the middle of the gallery and clapped. This often startled other visitors, who mingled among the many artworks on display.

The telephone-based sound work was created by Darrick Wood, one of 15 artists who make up the first cohort of Hadley Creatives.

Artwork by Darrick Wood, a Hadley Creative

This group exhibit celebrated the completion of their six-month professional development program the Community Foundation of Louisville established in partnership with Creative Capital. The New York-based nonprofit has provided professional development and grants to hundreds of artists since 1999. Creative Capital provided a seasoned workshop leader and 21c Museum Hotel provided training accommodations.

This is not the kind of recognition or even training that Louisville’s artists often receive, says Ramona Lindsey, the Community Foundation’s program officer who oversees the new program.

“As a city that loves the arts, we want to make sure we are giving these artists the support they deserve,” she said.

Hadley Creatives supports artists’ development

Lindsey has a passion for what the Hadley Creatives’ work can achieve.

“Through their art, we as a community can begin to look at things differently and talk about uncomfortable situations,” she says. “For me, artists do more than provide beauty to our community. They provoke thought, enlightenment and change. “

Creating more opportunities for artist development marks a new approach that foundations and art organizations are taking seriously across the country — investing in artists.

Artwork by Autumn Lindsey, a Hadley Creative

The Hadley Creatives — who practice different artistic disciplines including visual, literary and performing arts — are the first group of a five-year commitment to this professional development program, funded with $250,000 from the Community Foundation of Louisville’s George and Mary Alice Hadley Fund. Mary Alice Hadley, a well-known potter, founded Hadley Pottery Co. with her husband in 1940.

Funding for the program is part of the millions of dollars the Community Foundation distributes in grants each year toward arts, culture and the humanities.

Starting last fall, the first Hadley Creatives cohort participated in an intensive three-day workshop. They met each month after that, to work on developing individualized strategic plans for their careers with support from experts in different fields.

Four new cohorts will be selected via an application process so that at the end of five years, the project will meet its goal of helping 75 artists turn their passion into a sustainable profession.

A time of change

Artwork by Hadley Creative Vallorie Henderson

Other cities — including Philadelphia, Detroit, Des Moines — believe investment in artists can offer long-term returns. Artists can help cities form distinctive identities, make them better places to live and attractive places to visit, and boost their economic prospects by enticing business and tourism.

For nearly 20 years, organizations across the country — from Americans for the Arts at the national level to Louisville’s Fund for the Arts — have touted the economic benefits of the arts. In more recent years, organizations have been taking up the mantle for working directly with artists.

Creative Capital has been a national forerunner on this track. Colleen Keegan, who has associated with the organization for more than 20 years, heads up its strategic planning team and led the first class of Hadley Creatives.

“There are more opportunities for artists in this time of exponential change than ever before,” says Keegan.

But, she offers the caveat that artists must have the tools to organize their work lives and be strategic as they build their professions. She also advises communities to provide them with help as well, especially given the changing economics of our society.

“It’s enormously important that people give artists opportunities in our current world,” she says.

Those opportunities include showing artists how to generate and manage multiple streams of income, which their art-making careers require. Keegan adds the Hadley Creatives program also helps them answer financial questions so they can understand how to balance life with a family, children and a home and also be a practicing artist.

Building engagement

Through her work with the Hadley Creatives, Keegan learned that many of them, including Hannah Drake, had already found some support and worked in entrepreneurial ways at the neighborhood level.

Last year, Drake collaborated with a group in Smoketown, where she grew up, to put poetry and positive images on nearly a dozen billboards. They also created a mural with the message, “Smoketown is worthy of everything.” She was inspired by all the billboards with black people on them she saw during a 2016 trip to Senegal.

The Hadley Creatives program has boosted her confidence level. “I found people who were artists and living well. They weren’t Beyoncé. But they weren’t struggling,” she says.

Hannah Drake performing her poem “Spaces” in front of an oil painting of her done by fellow Hadley Creatives Sandra Charles.

Drake and fellow Hadley Creatives worked with other artists from around the country to contribute visual art and poetry to a public art project commissioned by KMAC Museum in Smoketown called Reflection. The installation serves as a promise to the community that art and culture are ways to invite conversation and build community engagement.

That work is part of a greater effort called The Wheelhouse Project, which signals changes to the area once home to Hillerich & Bradsby Co.’s original Louisville Slugger bat factory. The company donated the land to the Community Foundation, and the Foundation has worked with the community to determine how to best use it.

By the end of 2018, the Boys & Girls Club is expected to begin building there, and Bernheim Arboretum is designing community green space and outdoor programming for families.

Community efforts in the arts

Other Louisville organizations are looking to do their part to support artists. One is Louisville’s Fund for the Arts, which President and CEO Christen Boone says plans to work in new ways with groups such as Louisville Visual Art and the new Elevator Artist Resource to develop training and networking opportunities.

Artists are a key part of the community, Boone says. “They encourage us to reach out across barriers, whether that’s neighborhoods or political barriers.”

That idea was partly on Kara Nichols’ mind when she founded 1619 Flux, which opened on West Main Street in 2016. She also wanted to serve artists and the neighborhood where the gallery is located.

Photo by Ron Burgis

Its mission is focused on working with public art projects and transforming spaces. Nichols says both can be powerful tools in “breaking silos and segregation — those related to geographic, racial and sexual orientation.”

She wants 1619 Flux to be a hub for art and for people to talk about art and ideas.

“We want to show artists of all levels together,” she says. “All of it can encourage community conversations on a regular basis and give immerging artists a place to learn and grow.”

Growth through travel was part of what Community Foundation donor and longtime art collector Al Shands had in mind when he established the Great Meadows Foundation two years ago. It awards professional development grants to artists and curators through travel.  Several Hadley Creative artists have received awards. Others are planning to apply.

“We encourage them to be ambitious,” Shands says. “”We are continually focused on how we can help strengthen critical engagement among artists in the region.”

The Community Foundation has worked with Louisville Visual Art to award the annual $5,000 Bill Fischer Award for Visual Artists, which supports the execution and exhibition of artwork and other efforts to foster a professional career as a visual artist. The two organizations also administer the $5,000 Mary Alice Hadley Prize for Visual Art, which goes toward an enrichment experience to help the recipient achieve their full artistic potential.

Artist development yields positive results

In 2013, Susanna Crum received the first Mary Alice Hadley Prize after returning to her hometown to establish a print shop with her soon-to-be spouse and artist, Rudy Salgado. They used the money to visit print shops nationwide.

Today, they own a building in Smoketown that houses Calliope Arts, a fine art printmaking studio that offers printmaking classes, sells prints and provides services to artists for projects.

“Many artists get in touch with us for project advising. We’ve been able to work with all kinds of professional artists,” Crum says.

She sees more work to be done to encourage people in Louisville to purchase and collect art by regional artists. She thinks local companies and government can do more to encourage recognition of local art as “a resource with distinct value.”

Hadley Prize Winner Susanna Crum

Through her work as an Indiana University Southeast assistant professor, she talks about the Hadley Prize, grant-writing strategies and entrepreneurship with her students and others at conferences outside the region and the country.

“We’re trying to pay it forward as much as we can,” she says.

That idea — paying it forward — is intrinsic in the minds of both artists and the Community Foundation.

This year’s Hadley Creatives have talked about ways they can support each other in fulfilling their goals after the program ends, including continuing to meet regularly. They also want to help mentor artists in upcoming groups over the next four years.

Community Foundation President and CEO Susan Barry was thinking of ways to pay forward the success of the Hadley Prize even before the 2017 launch of Louisville’s plan to support the arts, called Imagine Greater Louisville 2020. She wanted to find ways to help more artists thrive, and she wanted to establish a project to contribute to that community-wide effort. She knew the talents in this region, Creative Capital’s track record and the Community Foundation’s commitment to be a force for good. And so, Hadley Creatives was born.

“I think this is a defining moment for the artistic, creative and cultural community in Louisville,” Barry says. “And it’s just the beginning.”

Supporting Creatives in our Community

Roy Taylor | Stop Motion Animation Artist

Making movies wasn’t something Roy Taylor thought he’d do full time, even though he had gone to film school in the 1970s.

Taylor has carved much of his career in the music business. Since 2002, he has been the production and tour manager for singer-songwriter Patty Griffin. But her light tour schedule has afforded him the time and financial flexibility to work as an artist in recent years.

During the past decade, Taylor began experimenting with stop animation, which he had toyed with as a child using a Super 8 camera.

His big opportunity came when Griffin asked him to create a music video for her song “Ohio” more than five years ago. The 2013 video features cut-paper illustrations alluringly accentuated with color and light.

“Plus, Robert Plant sang on the song and was in the video, so it got more attention than it probably would have gotten otherwise,” Taylor says.

The video put Taylor’s name in some prominent press, including Rolling Stone.

Taylor continued to make other films, and in 2016 moved to Louisville from Austin, saying the Texas town had become too big and expensive.

Last year, he got word about the Hadley Creatives program and wanted to take advantage of the skills it offered to help him learn to better manage his career. He decided to apply.

“I’m so new to all of this coming from the music business,” Taylor said.

He became part of the inaugural class of 15 artists last fall, who received training in creating strategic plans for their careers. He says he learned about topics he “had no clue about” before, including marketing, social media, finding sponsorships, pitching ideas, and grant writing.

“What I learned is that you should know what your work is worth and value what you do properly,” he says.

These days, Taylor is making his home in a camelback shotgun house in Louisville’s Portland neighborhood. His major goal is to make a feature-length film.

Equipped with new insights about how to work as an artist thanks to the Hadley Creatives program, Taylor says he’s more focused on developing his career, making his films and getting them into festivals around the world.

Brianna Harlan | mixed media artist

Frustration. Restlessness. Yearning.

These emotions grew within artist Brianna Harlan after her 2015 graduation from Hanover College with a bachelor’s degree in studio art.

Harlan had studied business as well, thinking she it would help her more easily transition to the professional world, but “that’s easier said than done,” she says.

Then last year, she readied herself for change.

“I wanted an arts community. And I missed not having that, which I had in school,” she says.

This desire compelled her to apply for Hadley Creatives, a new program designed to support artists by helping them create strategic plans for their careers and connect them with other artists.

Once she got into the six-month program, she found the community she had been missing with the other 14 artists. Early on, the program’s intensive three-day workshop gave her confidence and the impetus to take steps in her career planning.

“What clicked for me is that I needed to get out of my own way,” she says.

In December, Harlan made a proposal to the Center for Interfaith Relations for a large-scale art installation for its Festival of Faiths.

“I would have never done that before the program,” Harlan says.

Festival organizers accepted her proposal. So in April, visitors walked through her installation, “Oasis,” in the lobby of the Kentucky Center for the Arts. The multimedia work enveloped visitors in a glowing orb of purple, pink, and blue cloth.

Overall, Harlan says, the Hadley Creatives program taught her how to plan her art, find support for it and thrive.

“When you are around so many people going after their pie-in-the-sky dream, it really shakes you up,” she says.

Harlan has already found additional support through the Great Meadows Foundation, which has arranged for her attend the Ox-Bow School of Art and Artists’ Residency program in Saugatuck, Michigan, for four weeks during the summer of 2018.