The neighborhood development initiative in Louisville is currently booming, and entrepreneurs and planners are driving to push the barrier between east and west at 9th Street straight into the abyss. Be it lifting the current residents up rather than pushing them out (let’s not turn my booze-soaked column into a gentrification debate), or campaigning for “yuccies” (the almost intolerable new term for young urban creatives — “hipster” is out, y’all) to plant roots and thrive in such a community, Portland has become the epicenter of interest, with the Tim Faulkner Gallery (1512 Portland Avenue) blazing a trail. While I knew there were stellar art events, coffee (i.e., Please and Thank You’s new Hot Coffee) and non-profit initiatives out the wazoo in Portland, it was delightful news to me when I discovered there’s a bar in the Tim Faulkner Gallery that’s open “almost every night,” according to the bartender, Joy, based on whatever event they have going on. I decided to pop into the Portland Poetry Series, which, in accordance with Pride month, celebrated and showcased LGBTQ poets, poems and spoken word.
Entering the Tim Faulkner Gallery can push the envelope of sensory overload. There’s canvas and color spewing off every surface. There’s the pungent smell of Guatemalan coffee wafting through the warm air. There’s a precious little bald man tamping the portafilter on an espresso maker with zeal at McQuixote Books and Coffee, a small but well-curated book selection. All of this is quite delightful, I thought to myself, but I need something stronger than coffee at 7 p.m. Apparently I was wearing a “where the hell is the bar?” look on my face, because another kind patron pointed me in the right direction. Beyond a menagerie of tantalizing art (and even an artist in the midst of creating), furniture, exposed brick and warehouse style garb (rather, perhaps it isn’t décor at all which makes it even cooler, right?), I entered a mammoth room equipped with a microphone and PA system and a vast array of antique couches chairs, and bar tables. Art continued to abound, seemingly oozing from every orifice, and the colors and textures of industrial design extend all the way to the bar (my favorite spot, duh!).
The bar at the Tim Faulkner Gallery, clad with neon lights and graffiti art, serves a well-crafted selection of beers, currently including West 6th, Stella Artois, Red Stripe, Strongbow Cider ($2 tonight — score!) and more, but barkeep Joy says they’ll soon have a license to serve liquor and wine, as well. I grabbed a West 6th IPA, of course, and made my way to a seat. The Portland Poetry Series began with an opening from co-producer Eli Keel, who delighted us with a poem by Elliot Darrow, “God is Gay,” and introduced the emcee for the evening, a charismatic Fairness Campaign director, Chris Hartman. The poets, varying in ages and demographics, took me through a buzzed emotional roller coaster, with stories that ranged from empowering, erotic, devastating and hilarious — moving evening amongst proud and triumphant creative energy.
Some may ask why the right ambiance is found in West Louisville amongst dilapidated warehouses and beyond a divide that makes many Louisvillians wary. “Portland is the right place for art right now for so many reasons,” says Keel, “it’s an underserved area. People talk about developing Portland, like it’s empty. It’s not. The people in Portland deserve art just as much as the wealthier parts of town like the Highlands and Frankfort Avenue.” Keel says they are conscious of existing residents being able to come to see shows, art, drink coffee and that gallery owner Tim Faulkner supports that.
While sipping my brewski chatting, I discovered some of the other magic that’s happening at the Tim Faulkner Gallery that truly shows the creative minds in all facets working to get people to explore this community and enjoy it. One Sunday of each month, the Gallery hosts a “Vinyl Brunch,” where you bring your favorite vinyl and for $5 you get fed delicious buffet-style food, listen to records, drink beers (this past Sunday West 6th Brewing Company sponsored) and the proceeds go to a Portland/West Louisville area non-profit, like Portland Now (the Portland Neighborhood Association), and the Tunesmiths, a local high-energy “genre-bending” band, holds weekly open practice night in the gallery on Wednesday nights, with $2 beer specials.
More exhibit openings, shows and concerts are filling up the calendar, which should inspire you to get down to Portland, stat, and Keel agrees, “Explore the city. Explore Poetry. Explore the gallery. And then it helps you explore yourself. You have to keep exploring no matter how old you are. It’s not just for teenagers and 20-somethings. If you’re 40 you should still be exploring.”