Issue November 28, 2006

City Strobe

Kentucky Theater Project leaves namesake
Kentucky Theater Project, the nonprofit arts group that operates out of The Kentucky Theater on Fourth Street, will end its association with the venue Thursday. The group has operated the theater since April 2000; the facility, which is owned by SLS Management LLC, is independent of KTP.

In an interview, KTP director John Gage said that with funds dwindling, the group researched potential partnerships with other organizations. When none panned out, the building’s owner decided to go another direction. Gage noted they’ve been nothing if not patient with KTP.

KTP will continue, mainly through the roots music series “Kentucky Homefront,” which will be housed for the immediate future at Crescent Hill Presbyterian Church. “We just won’t have a corporeal existence ,” Gage said.

The theater was built as an art deco movie house in 1921. When KTP began staging events there, it hadn’t been open to the public since the mid-1980s, when it ran a slide show to promote local tourism. The historic building was saved in 1996, but it wasn’t until Earth Day 2000 that the arts returned. Under KTP, the theater played host to countless local and national acts. Jim Delehanty, house manager for KTP, said “it was great rubbing elbows with some of these people, like the late Dave Van Ronk, Shawn Phillips and Peter Case.”

Films, from Oscar-nominated animated feature “The Triplets of Belleville” to the feminist documentary “The War Zone,” have received their Louisville premieres through KTP.  Perhaps most importantly, the theater became home base for some of Louisville’s up-and-coming artists. Project Improv was based there, and bands like Sahara Gypsies used it as a way to find each other and their audience. And KTP’s international series has allowed Louisville’s disparate immigrant communities to meet and share traditions.

Gage has even been able to watch his son Will prosper there. A guitar prodigy while still in high school, the teen had performed almost exclusively in bars with distracted crowds. Both rabid and attentive, KTP crowds were a different beast, one that was important for Will and other artists to learn how to tackle.
Allowing himself to be sentimental for a moment, Gage recalled, “This was a place where people really listened.” —Alan Abbott

If it’s not a car, we don’t want it
On Tuesday, the Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency approved a recommendation to remove all “advanced transit” options from Horizon 2030, the region’s long-range transportation strategy. The decision comes despite protests from citizens and city officials upset that things such as light rail and rapid bus lines will no longer figure into Louisville’s official transportation plan.

The projects, totaling $1.4 billion, were removed because there’s no guarantee the city could get federal funding for them. A historical lack of political will for transit options beyond expanded roadways is most likely to blame. TARC officials hope to develop a sound financial plan for the projects by mid-2007, at which point KIPDA could reintegrate them into Horizon 2030. —Stephen George

Woe is Wal-Mart
It was a bad PR week for the leading supplier of the contents of our nation’s landfills. First, a Boyd County judge ruled that a Kentucky lawsuit against Wal-Mart can proceed as a class-action. The suit, which charges Big Smiley with denying employees lunch and rest breaks, could impact as many as 145,000 current and former Kentucky employees. (Yes, that many people in Kentucky work for Wal-Mart, where they must hold “it” in until 5 p.m., when the tube-sock six-pack special sells out and 83 more mom-and-pop merchants go under.)

Already reviled by the left for exactly such worker exploitation, Wal-Mart also took an uncharacteristic hit from the right, when two conservative Christian groups announced boycotts of the company for making anti-discrimination overtures to gay employees. And what got Big Church mad at Big Cheap? It wasn’t extending benefits to gay partners, or even recruiting Isaac Mizrahi to design a new line of camo housewares. No, the fundies are mad ’cause Wal-Mart told its managers they can no longer fire or abuse employees merely for being gay.

So, how did Wal-Mart shoppers react to all this advice from the left and right? They went shopping! On the traditional post-Thanksgiving Buy-Shit-Now Black Friday, so many shoppers hit the walmart.com Web site that the system crashed. —Jim Welp

Speaking of shopping …
From the Holy Shit! beat: American shoppers spent $8.96 billion at mall retailers the Friday after Thanksgiving, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers, a global trade association. Sales were calculated from some 45,000 stores. That figure represents a 6-percent increase from last year’s “Black Friday.”
Incidentally, that moniker, which refers to the day after Thanksgiving, on which retailers hope to get “into the black,” has a long historical lineage of which we, the Shopping Nation, may be blissfully unaware. There was the 1869 financial crisis in the United States caused by a sudden devaluation of gold, and the Johnstown, Penn., flood that killed more than 2,200 people in 1889, to name a couple. Not that crassly re-appropriating the term trivializes those events or anything. —Stephen George

Louisvillian’s WTO doc will screen at U of L
“Final Solution: The WTO Doha Round” is a documentary film by Craig McClurkin, a Louisville filmmaker who spent four years hounding the World Trade Organization for answers about some of the most nefarious (and underreported) micro issues of a body that’s more often characterized in mainstream media by the protests it draws than the things it does. LEO wrote about McClurkin’s film, formerly called “Down to the Wire,” in September. It’s showing this Friday at U of L’s Floyd Theater at 8 p.m. The showing is free; McClurkin will lead a discussion afterward. —Stephen George

New player for Museum Plaza
While Louisville’s arena “construction” seems to be under way, the development team behind Museum Plaza, the 61-story skyscraper that’s planned several blocks west of it on Main Street, has been publicly lining up plans and players. The latest is the appointment of Chris Dercon as director of museum development. Dercon, currently director of Munich’s Haus der Kunst, will continue working in Germany while taking on the new role.
Team member Steve Wilson did not return calls before press time, but LEO did hear from John Begley, professor of critical and curatorial studies at U of L, and Julien Robson, Speed Museum’s curator of contemporary art. Both said Dercon’s curatorial experience is diverse and dynamic. —Elizabeth Kramer

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