The Louisville Arts scene enjoys a rich, diverse history. From world-renowned organizations such as the Louisville Orchestra and Actors Theatre, to the 92 years of the Speed Art Museum, the arts in Louisville are not a hidden gem; rather, these entities are ingrained in the fabric of the community and are an attraction for young talent from across the country and around the world.
For the past century the arts in Louisville have been in great hands. Standards of excellence in the arts locally, nationwide
and around the globe have set the bar high for those who have maintained positions of leadership in these organizations.
Supported for more than 70 years by a robust Fund for the Arts, a fund that has supported the large arts groups as well as the growth of emerging arts companies and disciplines, the foundation for the Louisville arts scene is on solid ground.
In the past year alone the Louisville Arts community has experienced an infusion of talent as new leaders have been hired in significant roles at the Louisville Orchestra, Actors Theatre, the Speed Art Museum and the Kentucky Opera.
The current stewards, supported by outstanding boards of directors across the artistic landscape, are bringing about a 21st-century renaissance for arts lovers and fans of all ages.
These leaders bring to the city’s art scene a distinct energy, fresh ideas and an abundance of talent. And rest assured, they all see plenty of potential for growth.
Chief Advancement and programming Officer – Speed Art Museum
Abby Shue wants everyone to experience the Speed
Art Museum. And if you’ve been wondering what has been going on since the Speed reopened, just go and experience a day in one of Louisville’s civic treasures.
If you haven’t stepped foot there since the renovation, you’ll see that it’s not your parents’ Speed Museum. The architecture, the exhibitions and the programs provide something for everyone. And it dazzles in the process.
“We may be 92 years old, but we are also a bit like a start-up,” Shue said with a chuckle as we spoke in the Wiltshire (café) at the Speed.
A ballerina in her youth, Shue is brand new at the Speed. In the past ten years she has worked at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts where she began her career and moved up to the Vice President role before taking a position leading the campaign with the Fund for the Arts. While there, she earned her M.B.A. from Vanderbilt University. All of those experiences have proven valuable in her current role at the Speed Museum.
“I’m fortunate to have built connections with leaders and organizations across the entire arts community through my work history, and those connections help to enrich the partnerships and programming efforts at the Speed.”
“The Speed has done a remark- able job using its 92-year history to change lives through the arts and become ever more relevant and accessible to the entire community,” Shue continued. “The (Speed) team takes seriously not only its role to curate world-class exhibits, but also to create a welcoming space for all, to facilitate dialogue, build connections and create shared experiences in an increasingly divided world. The community invested sixty million dollars during the renovation to make the Speed a place to convene and we’re excited to bring in new partners and people to experience that.”
Upon completion of the renovation in 2016, the Speed Art Museum has approached programming by answering the simple question, “How do we use art to spark dialogue about real things happening in the community?”
From the ever-popular Owsley Free Sundays supported by Brown-Forman to the monthly After Hours at the Speed, Shue and her staff oversee the endless opportunities for the community to utilize the facility and all that it has to offer.
“We’re passionate about serving the public,” Shue said. “Our mission is simple and clear: ‘At the Speed Museum, we invite everyone to celebrate art, forever.’ In just the past year, we’ve grown our Advancement and Programming staff from two to eight employees so that we can align the support to fully realize our mission.”
“On September 19th, we’re thrilled to hold our 2nd Annual ‘Art of Bourbon’ auction, an event that has quickly become not only the premier national nonprofit bourbon auction, but also the second largest annual fundraiser to support the operations, the Speed’s exhibitions, and education programs.”
That bourbon auction is going to be strong, just like the products. For more information on the auction go to www.artofbourbon.com.
President and CEO – Fund for the Arts
Christen Boone is a premiere advocate for the local arts and culture community. As President and CEO of the Fund for the
Arts, Christen oversees one of the country’s oldest and most successful annual arts campaigns. In its 70th year, the Fund for the Arts raised more than $8M to help support a diverse array of local arts organizations.
“Our community has grown and evolved, and we have grown and evolved with it,” Boone said. “We are more than a fundraising organization. We are a driver of community impact and collective action. We work to lift our local arts organizations through capacity building opportunities. We work to identify and build new leaders.
“The arts drive Greater Louisville’s economy through tourism and by attracting top-notch talent. And the arts improve academic performance, unify communities, and improve general well-being. Understanding that, our goal is to ensure community-wide access to arts and culture experiences.”
The big picture is clear: Christen and the entire Fund for the Arts organization work to give as much exposure and opportunity to the arts as possible. From programs in schools and community centers to supporting large organizations, the Fund for the Arts positively impacts every zip code in Greater Louisville.
“Greater Louisville is recognized nationally and internationally as a leading city of arts and culture,” Boone said. “We are one of the only cities our size with an opera, ballet, orchestra, children’s theater, and regional theaters. Not only do we have those amazing organizations, we ensure unparalleled access to them. But, it’s the generosity of our nearly twenty thousand donors that have helped to create that quality. They are the true difference makers. It’s our job and privilege to honor their commitment by creating a stronger, more vibrant city.”
CEO – Louisville Orchestra
When going through the interview process with the Louisville Orchestra, Memphis native Robert Massey and his wife Lisa knew that this is where they wanted to be; back in the Midwest, a return to their roots. Having held positions in Jacksonville and Cedar Rapids prior to his move to Louisville, gravitating towards the center of the country held great appeal to him and his family.
What he’s discovered in his six months on the job as Chief Executive Officer in charge of leading the $8M company has affirmed their decision. The opportunity to work with a world-renowned orchestra and one of the budding superstars in the music world in Music Director Teddy Abrams was a major attraction to Massey and his wife.
“I remember coming to town for the first time and I hadn’t yet met Teddy,” Massey said in his sixth floor office overlooking Main Street and the Ohio River. “Here is this guy who plays the piano, the clarinet, he composes, he conducts; I was really interested to meet him in person to get his perspective. His artistic vision, his ideas, what he views is possible for this orchestra literally knows no bounds. You know he’s committed to executing and fulfilling that vision. I’d known his reputation, but to meet him and experience that was special.
“I called my wife, who’s also a life- long musician (a violist) and told her, ‘This guy is the real deal.’”
And so is Massey. A gifted trumpet player in his youth, Massey knows well the organizational workings of an orchestra from the talent to the board room, from the box office to the volunteer workers. It helps to have an Ace in your hand and Massey knows what he has in his music leader. The popular and affable Abrams is a music wunderkind. Appointed Music Director of the Louisville Orchestra at age 27, he has dazzled audiences here and around the world with his infectious energy and innate artistic sense.
But worldwide recognition is nothing new to the Louisville Orchestra. Founded in 1937 and with a superb reputation locally, nationally and globally, Massey is the current care- taker of a history-making musical treasure and a strong advocate for promoting its excellence.
“I’m not a leader if no one is following me,” Massey said. “We are a group of incredibly skilled musicians and staff dedicated to this community. From our ‘Music Without Borders’ program to our Education Week initiatives, we want to continue to promote growthand foster a love and appreciation for what these talented artists do. We want to inspire the community through our unique and diverse offerings through our performances and performances with the Kentucky Opera and Louisville Ballet.”
The rich tradition the Orchestra maintains here and abroad is a testament, Massey says, “to the depth and commitment of our business and community leaders. Their in- vestment in us, whether monetarily or as consumers or volunteers, goes right back into the community.”
As one of the bedrocks of the Louisville Arts community, Massey appreciates and understands the orchestra’s role as a vital member beyond the performances and presentations.
“This is a vibrant and collaborative arts community,” he said. “We look forward to the challenges and opportunities ahead of us. And we are committed to extending our reach and look to make a deeper impact through our work in this community and in the music world.”
Founder – Louisville International Festival of Film
A proud Louisville native, Conrad Bachmann has enjoyed a healthy career in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. Movies, television shows, commercials; you name it, he’s performed it.
A song and dance man from his days in the Air Force, Bachmann speaks fondly and with great pas- sion about his hometown and all of the opportunity it can bring to the film industry.
Indeed, he founded the Louisville International Festival of Film (LIFF), now in its 10th year, and will preside over the festivities October 10-12 in several downtown locations including the Muhammad Ali Center and the Kentucky Science Center.
“We want to show off downtown in a way that our guests, traveling from all over the world, will enjoy,” Bachmann said. “We’re thrilled to have great partnerships with the Ali Center, the Science Center, the Slugger Museum and so many others.
“I am blown away by this year’s entries that come from about 30 nations around the globe. We have entries from nations large and small including: Argentina, Spain, France, Germany, Russia, China, Ukraine, Honduras, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Wales, India, Austria, Bosnia, England, Portugal and South Africa,” Bachmann noted. “One interesting entry called, ‘Against the Wall’, is from a man who rode his bike the entire length of the Great Wall of China. So it’s going to be another spectacular event here.”
The three-day event is designed to show these aspiring filmmakers, as well as those well-established in the industry, the beauty and depth of what downtown Louisville and its surroundings have to offer. The veteran actor beams about the city to his friends in the business.
“I want to spread out the viewing locations around the town to let people see the greatness of the city,” Bachmann said. “The idea for LIFF came up when I saw that Goshen had a film festival and I thought, ‘Why wasn’t it in downtown Louisville?’
“So we got the idea going. My son Brett, who is the Chief Executive Officer of the festival, and the staff and I work to give as much opportunity and exposure as possible to all entrants. We want to make a difference in the lives of filmmakers around the world.”
In giving Louisville the LIFF, Bachmann reaps the benefit of watching others achieve their filmmaking dreams in a unique setting. A leader by example, Bachmann brings filmmakers from around the world to Louisville and sends home all of the winners with a piece of the city.
“Everyone knows the Louisville Slugger bat and we’re proud that they create such a unique award for us,” Bachmann said of the iconic bat company that makes the LIFF version of “Oscar.”
“From the preview locations to the Holiday Inn Express downtown on Market Street, to Southern Wine and Spirits, to Masterson’s catering and Angel’s Envy bourbon, this event shows off Louisville in a true collaborative fashion,” Bachmann said. “We’re looking forward to our best ever Louisville International Festival of Film.”
Robert Barry Fleming
Artistic Director – Actors Theatre
When hired as the 5th Artistic Director of Actors Theatre of Louisville, Robert Barry Fleming stated, “To come home and lead this singular organization with its distinguished legacy of artistic excellence is humbling and simply mind-blowing. I look forward to being a part of the collaborative, radically humanizing and inclusive artistic work at Actors Theatre of Louisville.”
Having grown up in Frankfort, theater has taken him from the east coast, where he was Director of Artistic programming in the nation’s capital at the acclaimed Arena Stage, to the west coast, where he served as Chair of the University of San Diego’s Theater Arts and Performance Studies Department. Since 2016, Fleming has served as the Associate Artistic Director at the Cleveland Play House. A choreographer, actor and director, Fleming brings an abundance of talent to Actors Theatre and he’s thrilled for the opportunity. He’s also mindful of the national reputation of the Tony Award acclaimed Actors Theatre.
He cites as his strength, “My eclectic back- ground and the unique way that, that seems to synthesize and influence how I frame and perceive the world.
“I'm inclined to focus on the growth of others and effective stewardship of my organization as my primary role and responsibility,” he said via email as he’s in rehearsals in Cincinnati. “I believe that is the way to increase my chances of creating great art.
Standards are high for Actors Theatre, a credit to the thousands of actors, directors, designers, costumers, choreographers and all who support the company.
“We tell stories and that gives us the opportunity to speak the unspeakable and reflect what it is to be human,” Fleming wrote. “The conversations initiated are a central function of how we invest and participate in our ecosytem, create meaningful relationships with our stakeholders and offer a key value proposition that is mutually beneficial. I believe the poetic and metaphoric rendering and reflecting what it is to be human, simultaneously, encourages us to see the world as it is and imagine it as we hope it to be.”
Distinct goals to be sure but reaching new heights in performance has been a staple at Actors Theatre. And that’s something that Fleming promises to continue to do.
“I'd love to see Actors Theatre be a cultural watering hole and civic meeting place where disenfranchised and polarized communities can heal and grow together,” he wrote. “Less of a melting pot, but a place where our difference creates more curiosity and compassion because we accept the world is one of abundance rather than scarcity. Sharing stories is one of the most powerful tools of creative collaboration and knowing ourselves. It's how the human-animal reifies values, attitudes, beliefs and social locations. And there remain many untapped and untold in our region and community; so, more active commissioning of work that allows us to deepen our relationship to our own stories is an area to investigate.”