Kentucky Derby festivities officially start with Thunder Over Louisville, but there’s a case to be made it really begins earlier. I’m as guilty as the next Louisvillian who says, in March, “Let’s do that after Derby.” Galleries and museums have to book their Derby-themed shows in advance, all to get residents and visitors in the mood. So in honor of Kentucky Derby 141, I’ll use horseracing lingo and say, “They’re off!”
The Gallery at The Brown Hotel (335 W. Broadway, brownhotel.com) has become the place to see top-tier horse art. Jaime Corum, one of the state’s best equestrian painters, is showing there again this year in the group exhibition “Across the Board” through June 30. Other artists in the show are Michael Alexander, Andre Foreman, Victor Montoya-Blanco and Pamela Stockard.
You can also see Corum’s work at the Kentucky Fine Art Gallery (2400-C Lime Kiln Lane, lesliespetzcustomframing.com), along with Lynn Dunbar, Bob Halliday and David Schuster, in “Take a Piece of Kentucky Home with You” through April 30. The April 29 reception from 6-8 p.m. will feature a raffle organized by Corum and gallery owner Leslie Spetz to benefit Second Stride, a nonprofit organization that rehabs former racehorses.
If visitors and locals go to only one museum for Derby art and memorabilia, make it the obvious choice – the Kentucky Derby Museum (704 Central Ave., derbymuseum.org). This year’s official Derby artist is Kimberly Santini. If you’re looking for unusual items, check out her tote bags, towels and glasses in the Finish Line Gift Shop.
The museum’s various Derby-themed exhibitions include “The Prince of Jockeys: The Life of Isaac Burns Murphy,” celebrating the three-time Derby winner who was the first African American jockey to be in the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame. The photographs are on view through May 31.
Regalo (562 S. Fourth St., regaloart.com) always has inspired choices for Derby mania. Jaime Lopezortiz, a neo-Surrealist artist, is covering the gallery in horses and sugar skulls through May.
Block Party Handmade Boutique (560 S. Fourth St., blockpartyhandmade.com) has a group show celebrating all-things Louisville and Derby (up through May 22). Liesl Long, being an equal-opportunity horseracing artist, is also showing her Keeneland prints.
It has been said that Louisville has “hat culture.” I’m not exactly sure what that means, but, yes, we do wear them, especially at Derby time. There are many galleries and museums that feature hats, including the shop at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft (715 W. Main St., kmacmuseum.org). Una Hats are carried at Block Party and Regalo features Brazen Gypsy. Mo McKnight Howe, owner of Revelry Boutique Gallery (742 E. Market St., revelrygallery.com) loves hats and fascinators, especially those by Nina Rosenberg (through May 3). The gallery is also showing equestrian art by Melissa Crase from April 24–May 21.
The Brennan House Historic Home (631 S. Fifth St., preservationlouisville.org) is again presenting an Oaks Brunch on Friday, May 1, for $50. Music, live entertainment and house tours are included with the food and drink. Sounds like a perfect place for men and women to wear those new Derby hats.