Summer is almost here and the best thing about the season is being outdoors. Taking in art is something we usually think of as an indoor pursuit at museums and galleries, but Louisville has a large collection of art in public view. If you’re not feeling the crowds of summer concerts or are still a little skittish about being indoors with others and yet, really want the experience of art, take a few suggestions from this list and enjoy both the outdoors and a little creativity as well.
Louisville Public Art Collection
“While we have all been staying safe at home, new art has arrived in our public spaces, and now is a great time to get out and see it,” said Louisville Public Art Administrator Sarah Lindgren. “Art in public spaces tells us about the identity of a city, its people and its individual neighborhoods. It also livens up our streets and starts conversations.”
For this “tour” you don’t need reservations, just a trip to the city public art website: louisvilleky.gov/government/arts-culture/explore-public-art. Here you will find a list of public works. You won’t be able to walk the entirety of Louisville’s public art collection, but many pieces are within walking distance downtown and others are a short car ride away. It is worth it to explore.
There is no time limit for most of the art in the public sphere unless it is located in one of the metro government buildings. Most outdoor works are available to be viewed at any time.
Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest
Bernheim is a place that has come to be synonymous with finding ways to blend creativity with nature. Each year they host several artists-in-residence and public programming to coincide. This summer, there are three events that highlight the work of Bernheim with the creative community. Two of the events highlight work from last year’s artists-in-residence, Gabriella Boros and Lee Emma Running. FEMMEnomenal Bluegrass Botanicals and Sycamore Hatch/Sycamore Haven are open daily. FEMMEnomenal has two locations, one at Bernheim and the other at the Harmony Building at 425 W. Muhammed Ali Boulevard.
FEMMEnomenal takes the portraits Boros did of 10 notable Kentucky women and reimagines them on canvas which is then suspended along the Lake Nevin loop. The other, Sycamore Hatch/Sycamore Haven is both an installation indoors and one that incorporates an old hollow Sycamore near the visitors center.
Other events at Bernheim include the Spirit Nest opening on June 12 with artist Jayson Fann. Visitors to the park will hear the artist speak and be able to listen to live music.
Bernheim is open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information and directions: bernheim.org
Located just 20 miles northeast of Louisville in Goshen, Kentucky, Hermitage Farm is another project by Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown. Known for their 21c art museum hotels, the pair uses Hermitage as an opportunity to engage their extensive art collection and the public in a different way. Originally a project to rescue the farm from development, Hermitage Farm does have overnight stay opportunities in the main house, but the attraction of Hermitage is a full Kentucky heritage experience that also incorporates the couples’ love for contemporary art. Hermitage is a working farm. There is a lot to experience in a visit so make careful reservations. Hermitage offers bourbon tastings, horse tours, a farm-to-fork restaurant with Barn8 that also offers picnic lunches, and at night, an art walk with 1,500 feet of trail that comes alive when the sun sets.
For more information and directions: hermitagefarm.com
Hermitage Farm hours vary, reservations are necessary.
Josephine Sculpture Park
Just a few miles down the road in Frankfort, Kentucky, Melanie VanHouten decided to honor her grandmother and the land where she spent her childhood. She opened Josephine Sculpture Park. It is a place for the whole family including the dog. Pets must be leashed and owners are responsible for picking up after their pooches.
VanHouten opened the park with the mission that art is for everyone. The park encourages and supports work of artists from diverse backgrounds. Like Bernheim, they also host an artist-in-residence program.
Josephine Sculpture Park is filled with over 70 works of art. Many are quite large and add to the scenic landscape of the farm. Definitely a “grammable” experience.
“We don’t charge admission, we removed that barrier, and it’s open from sunup to sunset. It’s meant to bring all kinds of people – artists and visitors – together to experience something meaningful,” said Marketing and Communications Manager Jill Malusky.
Be aware that there are a few private residences within the park. For more information and directions: josephinesculpturepark.org
Waterfront Botanical Gardens
Though the site for the Waterfront Botanical Gardens didn’t open until a few years ago, the dream has been in the works since 1993. At one time, the site of large industrial dumping, a lot of work went into preparing the site for its current use.
The Waterfront Botanical Gardens is a pretty traditional botanical gardens experience, but at different times in the year there are events that certainly fit the “arts” category. This summer, they will be hosting outdoor music events and other happenings including yoga events, planting classes and wine nights called “Sunset Sips.”
During the holiday season, the grounds are lit with colorful lights that take visitors on a tour.
For more information and directions: waterfrontgardens.org. The Waterfront Botanical Gardens are open 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Thursdays; and Noon – 4 p.m. on Sundays.
Yew Dell Botanical Gardens
Another save from developers, what we now know as Yew Dell Botanical Gardens was almost lost to industrial building. Instead a committee of community volunteers got together to preserve and restore the gardens. On the grounds of Yew Dell Botanical Gardens, the plantings and the architecture serve as an inviting backdrop during a visit. The grounds include a stone castle, a couple of stone homes and a log cabin. There are also barns, greenhouses and other pavilion and event spaces.
Yew Dell routinely hosts camps and other events throughout the season. This year it is hosting an outdoor music series called Bourbon & Botanicals throughout the months of July and August.
For more information and directions: yewdellgardens.org.
Yew Dell is open 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and Noon – 4 p.m. on Sundays.