Students from Western Middle School performed pieces from "Lion King Jr." | Photo by Sara Havens

Students from Western Middle School performed pieces from “Lion King Jr.” | Photo by Sara Havens

Fund for the Arts kicked off its 2016 campaign season with two big announcements and several performances by local arts organizations at its annual community luncheon event on Tuesday. Steve Trager, this year’s Fund for the Arts campaign chair and Republic Bank chairman and CEO, addressed the full crowd in Churchill Downs’ Triple Crown Room and declared his goal is to raise $8.3 million — up from $8 million raised last year.

Trager is confident with the amount because of two new Fund for the Arts partnerships that have transpired — the organization is teaming up with Churchill Downs and the Jennifer Lawrence Foundation to throw a red-carpet Derby week opening night party as well as presenting the first-ever Louisville Awards in the Arts.

“These new partnerships have the potential to greatly expand the reach of the arts and the impact the arts can have in terms of quality of life, education and economic development,” said Trager. “We are tremendously thankful for the involvement of Churchill Downs and the Jennifer Lawrence Foundation, who will help make 2016 a banner year for increasing the impact of the arts across Louisville.”

The opening night party will be held on Saturday, April 30, and features an evening of live racing and live arts performances, creating what Christen Boone, president and CEO of Fund for the Arts, described as a “living museum.”

Meredith and Karen Lawrence with Christen Boone | Photo by Sara Havens

Meredith and Karen Lawrence with Christen Boone | Photo by Sara Havens

“We want to give guests at Opening Night an arts experience around every turn,” she said. “The arts and Kentucky Derby week are all about passion, color, excitement and fun, so this partnership can become a wonderful way to kick off Derby week and support the Louisville arts community at the same time.”

Jennifer Lawrence’s mother, Karen, and sister-in-law Meredith, who serves as executive director of the Foundation, were in the audience and recognized for their support of the Louisville arts scene. In a statement released after the event, Jennifer Lawrence said, “I am so proud to support my hometown of Louisville with this partnership with the Fund for the Arts and Churchill Downs. Supporting the arts is incredibly important to me, and I am thrilled we will be able create new, transformative arts experiences across Kentucky.”

The Foundation will help carry out the inaugural Awards in the Arts event, which will be held during Opening Night at Churchill Downs but will require separate tickets. The awards will recognize individual artists, performers and craftsmen who have achieved national recognition, lifetime achievement and emerging talent. Other awards also will highlight arts innovation, arts impact and arts education. (Nominations can be made here.)

In between the event’s speakers, several arts organizations performed, including the West Louisville Boys Choir, students from Western Middle School, the Kentucky Opera and the River City Drum Corps. Antonio Melo of Humana’s Digital Experience Center also talked about the Fund’s new app, which was created to provide more access to arts events.