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    COPA Louisville, public art
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    Like any city, to get anything done, you have to go through a lot of red tape, but what if you took that red tape and created artwork out of it for the public to enjoy? That’s exactly what COPA (Commission on Public Art) is trying to do here in Louisville. Two years ago, Louisville was presented with a Louisville Public Art Master Plan, which former Mayor Jerry Abramson commissioned from Creative Time, a NYC non-profit that commissions and presents public arts projects of all disciplines. Slowly, Metro Louisville is making their way down the list of suggestions that were given in the Master Plan, and one of them, the “Artist Event Series,” took place on March 21st at Metro Hall.

    The Artist Event Series is a format for artists to present ideas publicly through a formal proposal process. Ideally, funds would have been secured to select one of the artists proposals, but, as Creative Time stated, “The commissioning of large-scale public artwork requires a great deal of administrative planning and fundraising” so there are no immediate plans for the proposed projects to be created. The public art proposal competition was designed as an exercise to get artists and the public to think about what public art can be. Chris Radtke, artist and chair of COPA, said that, “It also gives artists in our community a chance to understand the proposal process, how to look at sites and think about them in a new way and prepare for a presentation.” The artists were compensated for their work through a budget COPA had raised through private donations.

    The artist teams that were chosen for this exercise represent innovative thinkers and producers within our local area from the fields of video art, conceptual art, performance art, photography, furniture design, architecture and media. The public spaces that were studied are Manslick Road: The Loop Trailhead and Caperton Swamp, both of which are city-owned sites, open to the public, and in places generally not used for public art.


    1. Stephanie Brothers, Matt Dobson, Julie Leidner and Brett Marshall of The Paper
    2. Tiffany Carbonneau (video artist)
    3. Dan Chaffin and Matt Frederick of Frederick Chaffin
    4. Ross Primmer, Roberto de Leon, Lindsey Stoughton, David Mayo of De Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop
    5. Todd Smith (conceptual and performance artist)
    6. Peter Tower and Victor Hicks of Magnolia Photo Booth Co were supposed to participate but ended up bowing out due to other obligations.


    Michael Speaks (Dean of the College of Design, Professor of Architecture, Univ. of Kentucky)

    Suzanne Weaver (Curator of Contemporary Art, Speed Art Museum)

    Joey Yates (Director and Co-Programmer, Land of Tomorrow Louisville Gallery)

    One commonality that rang true for each team was the difficulty of the spaces that were chosen. The Loop Trailhead seems to be a huge mound of excavated dirt that has been reseeded and Caperton Swamp is, well, a swamp. This was not an easy task.

    The most promising were Todd Smith for the Caperton Swamp and Tiffany Carbonneau for The Loop Trailhead. After examining the area and being influenced by all the trash and debris in the swamp, Smith proposed his “Detritus Orb,” which would be a glowing orb of light resting within the treetops of an island that is there.

    Carbonneau, who did thorough research of contemporary nature art, proposed a path be cut from the existing dirt mound and transparent walls installed so the public can see the “nature of land art” for themselves.

    There was a lot to be learned through this process by the artists and the public, and with the help of COPA, Louisville is making progress in growing the public art in our community.

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    Julie Gross's picture

    About Julie Gross

    I’m originally from Ohio, but have been a Louisvillian for half my life. I divide my time between hubby, 3 kids, too many pets, and the 930 Art Center. When I'm not, you'll find me running the trails in Cherokee or Jefferson Memorial Forest.

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