Last weekend, close to a quarter of a million art enthusiasts assembled in the heart of Old Louisville for the St. James Court Art Show, a nationally renowned art exhibition that features the work of over 750 American artists in everything from ceramics, jewelry, and pottery to glasswork, paintings, and photography.
The show is held annually the first full weekend in October, rain or shine. It takes place around the picturesque St. James Fountain in St. James Court, Magnolia Avenue, Third and Fourth Street, Belgravia Court and Central Park.
Old Louisville as the backdrop for the show is so appropriate. It contains one of the country’s largest collections of Victorian homes, allowing art lovers to not only admire the uniqueness of handcrafted art, but also experience the beauty of architecture.
A number of these stunning homes graciously opened their doors to visitors wanting tours during the show. The fascinating “Condrad’s Castle” replete with gargoyles, colossal arches and fleur-de-lis is located on the northwest corner of St. James Court. It has been converted into a museum and is open to the public throughout the year.
The Art Show, which now has a 54-year-old legacy, was originally created in order to generate funds for repairs of the famous St. James Fountain. Nevertheless, the art show has continued its economic success and continued to help preserve and improve the landmarks on which it takes place. The Walking Tour and Cooking Guide of St. James Court said that these momentous improvements have “spurred housing restoration and a rebirth of St. James Court and Old Louisville that continues today.”
St. James Court Art Show, second in size only to the Kentucky Derby Festival, brings approximately $10 million worth of business to Louisville each year. Its planners, however, have not lost sight of its original purpose, which was to distribute money earned to several Old Louisville neighborhood associations for maintenance and beautification. Profits also fund a $19,000 high school scholarship.
“One of the exhilarating aspects of being an artist is perpetually having opportunities to respond tangibly to experiences through the creation of something which reflects both those moments and oneself,“ said Genie Stewart, a fiber artist from Oregon. “The festival attracts some of the most talented and passionate artists in the country. This is what keeps me making art.”
Other artists like Emily Gartner and Raymond Vigurs from Pennsylvania, creatively combined their passion for art with their concern for the environment by selling handbags made of recycled items like vinyl LPs, album covers and movie posters.
St. James Court Art Show undeniably flaunted some of the country’s most unique artwork. But some artists weren’t fortunate enough to display their creations, because of the finicky selection process and high price of booths. The aptly named St. James UnFair featured artwork of about 20 “starving” local artists. It’s held behind what’s familiarly known as the Mag Bar on Second Street for the last 13 years.
You haven’t experienced the city of Louisville or what it has to offer without having attended the St. James Court Art Show. It has frequently been voted the nation’s best art show by the trade journal Sunshine Artist. And after seeing the amazing art at this show, you’ll see why.
(Published in The Concord Oct. 5, 2010)