I do some of my best thinking, venting, feeling, and fixing in the car. When I’m upset, I drive. Confused? Drive. Stuck? Drive. Feeling on top of the world? Drive. (With windows down – weather pending – and my favorite songs blasting.)

Every so often, while pounding the pavement on four wheels, I’ll turn a corner and be pleasantly caught off guard by color. Whole sides of structures telling stories in paint. Street art, of any kind, is always a happy surprise for me.

Imagine Mural Festival – Artist Liz Richter – Shelby Street

These days it’s happening more and more around the City of Louisville, largely thanks to the combined efforts of Mayor Greg Fischer, Fund for the Arts, Louisville Visual Art, and the Imagine Greater Louisville 2020 Steering Committee, who together hosted the first annual Imagine Mural Festival. Over the course of two weeks, artists from Louisville and beyond (like, Eastern Europe and more) came together to share the untold histories of the Smoketown neighborhood on blank building faces. The season of creation culminated in a day of celebration and appreciation where hundreds of people from the Greater Louisville area walked the streets of Smoketown taking in the new kids on the block.

We finally got a chance to drive the streets and see these new additions to the street art scape of our town and were AMAZED. We even had the opportunity to meet a few of the artists and hear about their inspiration and experience painting in the festival. Check it out!

Brandon Marshall is a mural artist and more from Detroit, Michigan. He heard about Imagine from a fellow artist friend who lives in Louisville and entered on a whim. He was selected to create and chose the story of Elmer Lucile Allen, the first African American chemist employed at Brown Forman. Brandon’s mural pays homage both to her life and the women who helped her rise with confidence through the obstacles of life, her mother and grandmother. Elmer still lives in the area and Brandon has had the opportunity to get to know her through both mural planning and her daily visits to the site to “supervise” his progress. A special relationship between artist and muse was born on Logan Street this inaugural Imagine season, and both parties will carry the experience with them long after.

Brandon said he has loved his experience in Louisville. He’s making his way around town to our many galleries and public art installations, where he has been consistently impressed with the quality, diversity, and accessibility of our in our town. We hope he returns and maybe someday decides to become part of our Louisville art community permanently.

Ashley Cathey grew up on Louisville’s South End, but spent time in the Smoketown neighborhood with friends. Her mural inspiration? Children currently living in the neighborhood who have the opportunity to shape its future. Using photos from their families, she captures their personalities and potential. The mural will also remind passersby that we, as a community, are all part of their success or failure. They are “our” children. We owe them intentional daily effort to make their home a place they can thrive.

We wish we knew the stories of every piece in as much detail, but there’s also something to be said for the open interpretation of art. What we know for sure is that they are collectively an invitation to imagine the potential of a city where arts and culture are serving the community to their full potential. Here’s a gallery of the other pieces we discovered. Which is your favorite and why?

For a full list of mural locations to explore Imagine Festival art up close, CLICK HERE!

Slideshow Artist Credits In Order:

1) Victor Sweatt

2) Liz Richter

3) Liz Richter

4) Andrei Krautsou and Yuliya Puhach

5) Caitlin Kannapell and Rachel Mauser (Steam Exchange)

6-7) Wilfred Sieg III (The Art Cartel)

8-9) Braylyn “Resko” Stewart

10-12) Jeremy Lewis (OSRS)

13-14) Jeremy Lewis (OSRS)

15) Annie Hamel

16-17) Tramel Harold Fain

18) Kacy Jackson (The Art of Kacy)

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