From the outsider in

First-ever Visual Arts Festival focuses on C.J. Pressma

Jun 3, 2009 at 5:00 am
'Giving Space' by C.J. Pressma
'Giving Space' by C.J. Pressma

When the dust settles after this weekend’s kick-off of the first-ever Louisville Visual Arts Festival (LVAF), it’ll mark the first time that more than 35 local galleries and museums came together for a common cause — to celebrate and honor the work of C.J. Pressma, founder of the Center for Photographic Studies in Louisville in the 1970s.

“He created something really special,” says gallery owner and LVAF organizer Paul Paletti. “Back in the 1970s, he had the guts — or the insanity or something — to found a school to teach fine art photography. It was something outside of the normal flow of education. It was a brilliant idea. His passion fueled it, and that made it a reality.”

The Center attracted students from 35 states from 1970-1978, some of whom still remain as working artists in Louisville. Along with darkrooms and classroom instruction, the Center housed two galleries that exhibited works of local, regional and international photographers including Ansel Adams and Minor White. A majority of the exhibits during the festival will showcase work by former students, as well as memorabilia from the students, works of renowned artists who visited the Center and other photography from independent artists. Even fabric galleries like Mary Craik, the Embroiderers Guild and Garner-Furnish will have photos on display.


Pressma’s Center for Photographic Studies was a little less formal and offered a more hands-on, experiential approach to learning than standard colleges or universities. Pressma started the Center soon after receiving his MFA in photography from Indiana University. There were only about five openings for teaching photography as fine art in the country, and he wasn’t selected. “So I came back to my hometown, and with encouragement and financial support from my family, I started my own school,” he wrote in an e-mail. “As an undergraduate at Antioch College, I had always been interested in educational philosophy. I decided it was time to put some of these ideas to use.

“I signed a lease with the then-owner of the Brinkman Building on the northeast corner of Second and Main streets. Julius Friedman Images was the first tenant and the Center for Photographic Studies was the second.”

The philosophy of the school, he wrote, was to provide an intensive self-directed program of the study of photography as fine art. The school did not offer any grades or degrees. The full-time program was limited to a maximum of 30 students annually. The only prerequisite was a willingness to commit to an intensive program of study.

“The mix of these objectives created a very rich learning environment where every student, young or old, had something to contribute to the group,” Pressma wrote.

“Perhaps the most wonderful aspect of the school was the lack of administrative bureaucracy,” he wrote. “We as teachers were also the administrators. Our program was always directed to enhance the learning experience for the individual student. We took field trips to make pictures — sometimes day trips, week trips, month trips. The faculty was always challenged to set the example of photographic artists engaged in their own creative work as well as mentoring the students.”



The Louisville Visual Arts Festival kicks off June 5 during the First Friday Trolley Hop. A number of events at more than 35 galleries throughout Louisville and Southern Indiana will continue through July 31 (see sidebar).

Paletti says the collaborative efforts of Louisville’s visual arts community made the LVAF possible. “We wanted to do something that shows an absolutely unprecedented cooperation between a number of organizations in the visual arts — that we have a common interest and that we can put on an incredible, national-quality show. Beyond that, we want to make this into an annual event that changes every year in terms of its focus.”

 Louisville Visual Arts Festival

June 5-July 31


Friday, June 5 Openings at galleries from 5-9 p.m. followed by the Festival Kick-Off Reception with live music and cocktails held at LVAA starting at 9 p.m.

Saturday, June 6 Afternoon discussion panel at Filson Historical Society followed by reception that evening at C.J. Pressma’s home.

Sunday, June 7 Panel discussion on collecting photography at the Speed Art Museum starting at 1 p.m. Fritz Klemperer to lecture at LVAA starting at 3 p.m. followed by a reception at Paul Paletti Gallery.

Friday, July 31 F.A.T. Friday Hop beginning at 6 p.m. End of Festival Celebration including a chosen artwork from each participating gallery and museum to be submitted for a show at Mellwood Arts & Entertainment Center. A reception will also follow.



Actors Theatre, 316 W Main St., 584-1205

Art Ecology, 224 S. Clay St., 690-2311 Corporate Headquarters, 1201 Story Ave., 583-0509

Carr-Waite Gallery, 221 Hancock St., 540-1168

Chapman Friedman Gallery, 624 W. Main St., 584-7954

Crescent Hill Gallery, 2033 Frankfort Ave., 893-0511

Cressman Center, 100 E. Main St., 852-0288

The Embroiderers Guild, 426 W. Jefferson St., 589-6956

Filson Historical Society 1310 S. Third St., 635-5083

Galerie Hertz, 711 S. Third St., 584-3547

Gallery 104, 104 E. Main St., La Grange, 222-3822

Garner-Furnish, 642 E. Market, 594-2039

Gayle Cerlan and Jacque Parsley Gallery and Studio, 620 Baxter Ave., 895-7568

The Green Building Gallery, 732 E. Market St., 561-1162

Glassworks, 815 W. Market St., 584-4510

Huff Gallery Spalding University, 845 S. Third St., 585-7111

Jewish Community Center, 3600 Dutchmans Lane, 459-0660

Kaviar Forge & Gallery, 147 Stevenson Ave., 561-0377

Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, 715 W. Main St., 589-0102

Lime Tree Gallery, 2040 Frankfort Ave., 384-7728

Louisville Visual Art Association, 3005 River Road, 896-2146

Mary Craik Gallery, 815 E. Market St., 749-0060

Mellwood Arts & Entertainment Center, 1860 Mellwood Ave., 895-3650

Paul Paletti Gallery, 713 E. Market St., 589-9254

PYRO Gallery, 624 W. Main St., 587-0106

River Bend Winery, 120 S. 10th St., 540-5650

Speed Art Museum, 235 S. Third St., 634-2700

Starvin-Artist Gallery, 1228 Highland Ave.

Swanson Reed, 638 E. Market St., 589-5466

Tim Faulkner Gallery, 815 E. Market St., 381-1314

Tom Gnadinger, 707 E. Market St., 468-6130

21c Museum Hotel, 700 W. Main St., 217-6346

U of L Photo Archives, Ekstrom Library, 852-6752

Wayside Expressions Art Gallery, 800 E. Market St., 345-5200

Zephyr Gallery, 610 E. Market St., 585-5646