Kentucky’s favorite autumn tradition, the St.James Court Art Show, is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 art shows in the nation. Annually attracting about 600 artists and more than 250,000 visitors to Old Louisville, people come from near and far to purchase one-of-a-kind handcrafted art directly from the artists that created them.
What most people don’t know is the positive impact the St. James Court Art Show has on the community.
What originally began as a way to fund the fountain’s restoration has grown to help so many more in the Louisville community. All eyes are on the art during the first weekend in October, but as a result the weekend generates a boost for artists, nonprofits, schools, and churches. One of the top priorities is neighborhood philanthropy and preservation, but several other organizations benefit from the art show, including: the Asia Institute Crane House; Cabbage Patch Settlement House; Cochran Elementary School; Conrad Caldwell House Museum; Actors Theater of Louisville; Filson Historical Society; Garvin Gate Blues Festival; Kentucky Shakespeare Festival; Kling Center; Old Louisville Neighborhood Council; Presentation Academy; and SpringFest. How does the art show support those organizations? When you pay to park at one of the following locations: Cochran Elementary School, Dupont Manual High School, Youth Performing Arts School, Noe Middle School, or the Louisville Woman’s Club, your money is directly benefiting that school or nonprofit.
In addition to helping community organizations, the St. James Court Art Show is awarding $45,000 in scholarships to area high school students. Several are as high as $15,000 individually. This is the 50th year since the first scholarship was awarded by the St. James Court Association and it continues to grow to help young adults achieve their goal in the arts. The University of Louisville hosts the competition and Gallery Showing to offer high school students a chance at a scholarship to attend the university and to show their talents to a multitude of people. Each student submits at least four pieces for their portfolio and they can be a combination of 2-D, mixed media, and 3-D. Each year, visitors are not only supporting the participating artists but also the next generation of artists.
Beyond the financial support the St. James Court Art Show provides, the art show’s community partnerships continue to expand by collaborating with several other art and community organizations to bring something new to this year’s art show. Branching out to the performing arts world, the St. James Court Art Show is partnering with Fund for the Arts, the Trager Family Jewish Community Center Centerstage, and Kentucky Shakespeare. The different forms of art will come together as performers sashay their way through the art show. Howard Rosenberg, the Executive Director, expressed how “The St.James Court Art Show is more than just a show and we couldn’t be more thrilled about our new community partnerships this year. We are a show with 17 fine art mediums and adding performing art that promotes our talented community performers just made sense.”
Sarah Battle from the National Gallery of Art, the art museum in Washington, D.C, is also partnering with the art show to develop a series of lectures during the show about the influence of local African American artists on the arts in Louisville in the 50s and 60s. Sarah is working with Fari Nzinga and Toya Northington of the Speed Museum to create programming recentering the legacy of the Gallery Enterprises to ground the history of the Louisville art scene during the years bookending the very first several St. James Court Art Shows. This programming offers a unique chance to relearn this context of Louisville modern art by hearing from artists who shaped, or were directly shaped by, the Gallery Enterprises & the midcentury Black art scene in Louisville, Kentucky. According to Sarah Battle, “The same year Malcolm Bird and the St. James Court Association debuted the first St James. Court Art Show, the art collective, Gallery Enterprises, formed across town. The Gallery Enterprises included emerging luminaries Sam Gilliam, Bob Thompson, Robert Douglas, G. Caliman Coxe, and Kenneth Victor Young. Between 1957 and 1961, the collective offered artists of color the opportunity to exhibit their art in Louisville. The collective’s influence has not been properly acknowledged, and consequently, over time, the narrative on this period in American art has overlooked their contributions.” This weekend of programming is made possible thanks to the St. James Court Art Show as well as the oral history project, ‘Painting a Legacy’, supported by the Kentucky Oral History Commission, Oral History Center at the University of Louisville, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art.
2022 marks the 66th year of the St. James Court Art Show, which makes it one of the longest-running art shows of its kind in the country. Many of the artists and visitors travel from all over the country to participate and attend. For Kentucky artists, the historic show has created a sense of place where they can return year after year to share their passions with other art enthusiasts. Each section averages about 10-40 Kentucky native artists ranging in mediums and artistic style.
“As a native Kentuckian and having grown up in and around the St. James Court Art Show, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for this magical place. As a senior artist now, and with innate curiosity, I wanted to know why artists return to this show, year after year. So, I went about seeking answers. I asked artists from Kentucky and artists from across the US…’Why do you come to St. James?’ The answers were always the same: …’We come here because this beautiful place nurtures our souls as artists. It doesn’t get any clearer than that. This stunningly beautiful place is unlike any other across the nation and certainly unlike any other as a venue for an art show,” stated Mark D. Bird, the artist commissioned for the show’s print series, “A Sense of Place; a collection of fine art prints.” The third edition in the series will tell the historic preservation success story of the iconic St. James Court Fountain of neighbors coming together as guardians of the past and preservers of the future. The Old Louisville Neighborhood has always been community driven and the dedication to keeping art alive is what attracts artists and visitors alike.
Make plans to attend the 66th annual St. James Court Art Show, happening Friday, September 30-Sunday, October 2, 10AM-6PM Friday and Saturday, 10AM-5PM Sunday.
Visit stjamescourtartshow.com for more information.