⏱️ = 4-minute read (or so)
“I’m fighting for a cause that has been going on way longer than my life” — Louisville artist Jaylin Stewart, who is in her mid-20s and paints portraits of victims of gun violence
1. We’re looking for Louisville-area photographers — all backgrounds, all ages, all neighborhoods — who can contribute a distinctive style to an upcoming project, published this fall and led by our collaborators at KERTIS Creative. Those interested should be able to capture the sprit of their subjects and their environments. You can apply here. (Paid commission.)
In 2020, Louisville had more than 170 criminal homicide victims, the most the city has seen in a single year. In 1994, as stated on the cover above, the number was 53. According to a WDRB story: This year, through March, Louisville already had 47 homicides, on pace to break last year’s grisly record.
The artist Jaylin Stewart grew up in west Louisville near Victory Park and has been painting victims of gun violence for the past four years. For our issue last summer, we commissioned her to paint this portrait of Breonna Taylor:
I’ve been working in the archive on a project that has Louisvillians commenting on old covers, and I sent the one from 1995 to Stewart, who says, “I was born in ’95. I’m seeing this chalk outline and the cover mentions ‘the 53 murder victims of ’94.’ Really, I’m fighting for a cause that has been going on way longer than my life, especially in Louisville. I’m just thinking about how things have not changed, yet we are still fighting for that change. The murder numbers have drastically changed. There’s more murders now, I’m sad to say.
“When you see a chalk outline like this, you know exactly what it is and it just brings about so many different thoughts, so many different emotions. It’s so funny because I did a show called God Rest America in 2019 at Sheherazade on South Third Street, and one of the focal points was a chalk outline, on the floor right in front of the altar I created. A chalk outline really humanizes the tragic event of someone being murdered or killed. It can be terrifying. It can be traumatic.
“What my work has taught me over the last four years, when I’ve been sharing it with the public, is that the power of art is real. You can really teach people to be empathetic of other people’s lives. I was very skeptical of considering my art healing work, but I’ve learned that my art is healing.”
For a 2019 story, Stewart told the magazine that she always chooses her favorite picture of the victim to reference while painting. She said, “I always go for a picture where their eyes have the most innocence or they simply look overwhelmed with joy and happiness.”
3. I emailed the first Five. Oh! Too… almost exactly a year ago, on April 24, 2020. I wrote it from my bedroom-slash-makeshift office at a flimsy desk between two laundry hampers, and while working on it I overheard my daughter, six years old at the time, say, “Alexa, when will the virus end?” And Alexa replied, “Sorry, I’m not sure about that.”
Back then, the magazine’s staff and many contributors were talking to folks throughout the city — airline workers and barbers and chefs and doctors (and that’s just to the letter D) — about how they were dealing with life under lockdown. Did they know somebody with the virus? How was WFH? Did they still have a job? And, yeah, OK: Did they have enough toilet paper?
This week, I re-read the three-month time capsule we published last summer. The words somehow seem like they’re from a lifetime ago and, at the same time, from just yesterday.
March 17, 2020
“I keep saying this is like the Great Depression, where we’re going to be forever changed because of it.”
“For a long time we’re going to be thinking about what it means to be in big crowds.”
April 8, 2020
“You’re saying, ‘We’re putting the patient on the ventilator to buy them time to let their body fight this on their own.’”
“I’ll be honest with you here: Parts of me are fearful. I’m afraid certain things aren’t going to come back to normal.”
April 9, 2020
“I’ve worked at O’Shea’s for eight years and never once thought I would be without a job, especially on St. Patrick’s Day.”
April 10, 2020
“Hand-shaking is probably done for at least a generation.”
“How’s my hair doing? I look like I got electrocuted.”
April 11, 2020
“We knew, given the nature of the disease, that if it made it to the United States, that especially given the type of country we are, believing in civil liberties, we felt like it might be even more challenging. Our stomachs were churning.”
April 12, 2020
“Now, couples are walking their dogs, which means they’re both home at the same time. I’m watching how the leaves change, the robin’s eggs hatching in the nest in our gutter. The chipmunks in the yard become extremely entertaining because, when you have time to sit and watch a chipmunk for a while, it’s just like a Walt Disney cartoon.”
“My decontamination process when I get home is extensive. I leave my shoes in a box in the car — those are my work shoes. I change into non-work shoes in the driveway. I enter through the back of the house, I put all my clothes in a trash bag, take a shower, do laundry. I do this every time I finish my shift at Aldi.”
“At the end of the day, it looks like a pack of wolves went through the store.”
April 13, 2020
“Seventy-one employees. I sent an email out right away and told everyone to file for unemployment immediately. I only have seven employees now. I told the others to hold on tight. I hope to bring them back when they’re needed.”
“A quote that made me laugh, somebody said, ‘My house is like Vegas — I’m losing money by the minute, cocktails are acceptable at any hour and nobody knows what day it is.’”
“As silly as it sounds, I can’t believe how much I miss just going to Target and strolling through all the aisles.”
April 14, 2020
“I don’t think people will hug as often after all of this, which will be hard for me because that’s how I show affection.”
April 15, 2020
“Weirdly enough, I miss my 35-minute commute and listening to podcasts in the car.”
April 16, 2020
“When they removed the basketball rims at parks, that frustrated me. I bought an indoor rim and there’s a three-week wait. I’m staying in shape by jumping rope and doing push-ups and sit-ups. I use my glove and ball sometimes, but throwing to yourself gets old after a while.”
April 17, 2020
“I’ve gotten to know my neighbors, who, before this, we’d never done more than wave. And now we found this whole cul-de-sac of couples our age and we’ve all even brought our chairs outside and sat six to 10 feet apart and hung out a little.”
“I keep saying I wish I would have bought stock in Zoom.”
April 21, 2020
“My husband says that as long as I shower at (the hospital) and I don’t touch them, he won’t banish me to another room. I can’t remember the last time I hugged my six-year-old. It’s probably been four weeks since I’ve touched him, and same with my husband. And that’s probably — that’s the hardest thing.”
“I miss accidental run-ins. There is this level of friendship that I have with people where I don’t know them well enough to have their phone number, but if I saw them at a party I would talk to them for a long time. Right now, I feel like that outer ring of friends, I don’t have as much connection to.”
April 23, 2020
“At the end of life, we will allow one visitor for a patient, unless they have COVID. Unfortunately, if they have COVID, we’re not allowing any visitors. We just do the iPad approach.”
April 28, 2020
“I don’t want to be too snarky, but I think Matt Bevin would have basically tried to pray it away.”
May 14, 2020
“One of the weird things to me about the coronavirus situation is having to wash a bottle of wine like it’s a little baby. I’ve been wearing a particle mask for drywall when I go out. When I go into the grocery store, everybody walks around me. I feel like I stepped out of a Mad Max movie.”
May 15, 2020
“Because Bernheim is closed and it’s so quiet in the arboretum itself, nature has responded. We’re seeing coyote droppings all over the place. We’re seeing birds at ponds — green herons, for example, are coming to our ponds. And I hadn’t seen a green heron at those ponds for eight years, because there’s been so many people. Now I’m seeing them on a daily basis. Nature, we’re caring for. Nature, we’re connecting with. But we can only connect with people remotely.”
May 19, 2020
“I’ve been ready to open up the Back Door since day one. I’m not saying that there isn’t a pandemic, but we can’t live in fear. That’s my personal opinion. Some of the regulars are definitely ready to come. You kind of worry about it because of some of their ages, but I think the younger generation will be out. I do wonder if I’ll get my regulars back. I think eventually I will. I guess it depends on if they get a vaccine for this virus or not. I feel bad for the places that won’t reopen. Small businesses are the backbone of America, and I hope we all come back.”
June 8, 2020
“As a chaplain, I was outside the room with a wife. And her family did not want her to go into the room because they were already losing their dad, and they didn’t want to lose Mom as well. And so we were outside the room, looking through the glass doors. And there’s a couple nurses. One of the nurses put her hand on the husband’s head, and then on his shoulder. And I remember that nurse, she leaned down at one time and whispered something to him. I asked her afterward, ‘What did you say?’ And she said, ‘I told him we were sorry that we couldn’t save his life.’”
June 17, 2020
“She was more fatigued than usual. She was going to sleep, and she offered for me to sit down on her bed. She said, ‘You can rest if you need to.’ I was like, ‘No, I’m good. Thank you.’ I didn’t want to be sitting on one’s person bed and then go in another patient’s room at the nursing home.
“The next week she found out she had it. And a few weeks later she passed away.”
4. C-J sportswriter Tim Sullivan has a detailed front-page story today about the controversial 2019 Derby finish, which made Country House winner-by-disqualification. (I was in the stands that day and can still recall the crowd’s collective gasp when the announcement hit the big-as-a-football-field screen in the infield.) Sullivan interviewed Barbara Borden, the state’s chief racing steward, who spoke about the incident for the first time since she and her colleagues DQ’d initial winner Maximum Security. She told Sullivan: “We got bundles of mail — a lot of it positive, but a lot of it negative and a lot of it with some threatening content, to the point where they put an armed security guard on me for the remainder of the spring meet.” Newsletter slow clap for Sullivan and Borden, who was so open.
👏…👏 …👏👏…👏👏👏…👏 👏👏👏👏👏👏
5. And now some day-after-Earth Day, um, advice from my four-year-old, Miles, and his preschool classmates.
“I want to go outside to pick up trash and put it in the trash bag.”
“Scrub your windows, turn off your lights and Swiffer your floors.”
“When your cell phone is broken, throw it away?”
“Throw trash away. And eat all your dinner.”
Events — remember those? This newsletter used to be called the Weekender, and as a vaccinated Louisville starts to open back up in the coming weeks and months, please let me know if you have an upcoming event I should consider mentioning in this newsletter.
The nonprofit Change Today, Change Tomorrow is hosting a spring-cleaning, everything-must-go yard sale tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the corner of East Washington and North Johnson streets. Brand-new clothes and toys, books, refurbished tech and much more.
The Derby Diversity & Business Summit, April 27 to May 1, is offering both in-person (at the convention center) and virtual sessions, with titles such as “Celebrate Diverse Curiosity of Thought,” “Diversity in Fashion and Entertainment Today” and “Business Resiliency.” More info here.
The Louisville Ale Trail has proclaimed May 2 (“5/02,” this year the day after Derby) as Louisville Beer Appreciation Day. More info here.
A little something from the LouMag archive.
I asked Sarah Lynn Cunningham, founder of the Louisville Climate Action Network, for her thoughts on this cover from almost 14 years ago.
“I remember that issue, and pulled my copy from my files to reflect on it more clearly.
“Environmental scorecards are always a mixed bag. The discussions that go into them are much more informative than any grades we assign. Comparing 2021 with 2007, I’ll offer the following thoughts:
“1. More of us are acting on the dire need for climate action. More young people see the connections to racial justice. We’re investing more into energy efficiency and solar power. We’ve seen big reductions in our four worst sources of air pollution, especially air toxics. Storms are more intense, but they send less sewage into Beargrass Creek and the Ohio River.
“2. But we continue to worsen our dependence on automobiles by building more suburban sprawl while giving sidewalks and TARC or bike routes short shrift. Lacking a car still means second-class citizenship here. We continue to lose trees, especially by suburban developers, faster than we replace them, though we have more public and nonprofit programs planting trees.
“3. I continue to lament our lack of progress on diversifying our local environmental movement.”
The second dose of the Covid vaccine had me achy and in bed — sweating, chills, sweating, chills — for two days. When I finally emerged, Bri and I were driving home after a storm, the late-day sun trickling through, then overtaking, the ash-colored clouds. We spotted a vibrant rainbow (wait, was that a second, faint rainbow!?!?) and drove the hilly neighborhood streets around Trevilian Way, searching for an unobstructed view. We ended up in a lot at Atherton High School, and when we got out to take some pictures, a guy with his dog was smiling so big and yelled at me, “Double rainbow, my dude!”
editor, Louisville Magazine