This Friday, Jason D’Mello brings his Idea Mornings to the Kentucky School of Art’s 849 Gallery, where KSA Founder and President Churchill Davenport will discuss the school’s role in and vision for the revitalization of the South Broadway neighborhood: “A Catalyst for Change: Kentucky School of Art and the Revitalization of the South Broadway Neighborhood,”
“I don’t have vision,” said Davenport in an interview this week. “I have memories.”
And what he means by that is that there is precedent for art as a catalyst for urban renewal. He cites NuLu here in Louisville. But he also cites the growth of art and design schools like Maryland Institute College of Art and Savannah College of Art and Design and the effect that their expansion had on their respective neighborhoods. In less than a decade SCAD has grown from 900 students to more than 10,000. MICA now takes up 31 buildings in its neighborhood.
Of course art and art education can serve as a catalyst for all kinds of growth, he explains. Design is one of the fastest growing disciplines in academia and design jobs are in high demand. “Two thirds of the people on the iPod team at Apple were design people,” explains Davenport.
As “design thinking” rises in prominence in entrepreneurship and industry, we’re going to need more employees trained to look at work through that lens.
And that’s where KSA comes in.
The Kentucky School of Art was established in 2009 and will graduate its first class of students in the Spring of 2014. The KSA Class of 2014 will number 3.
These students—who entered KSA back in the fall of 2010 and took a leap of faith on this brand new school—have recently found out that the school completed its accreditation process and they will be awarded with Bachelors of Fine Arts degrees.
It’s nearly unheard of for a school to get accredited in three years, says Davenport. He was told that it would probably take ten years.
Davenport is a Louisville native and a fine artist who has taught and/or served as an administrator at some of the most prestigious art schools in the country, including: Pratt Institute in New York, Yale University and MICA.
Davenport was struck by the fact that there’s no school in Louisville– or even the region– dedicated to the visual arts.
“The closest ones are in Savannah, Kansas City, Chicago,” he explains. “But we’re right in the center of the Midwest.”
Owsley Brown II was a lifelong friend of Davenport’s. “I grew up across the fence from him,” he says. And when Davenport shared his vision with Brown, Davenport says that Brown was “all over this.”
Davenport formed a National Advisory Board who along with a national arts management consulting firm, AMS Planning & Research, completed a Feasibility Study in 2009. According to the study: “Interviews with civic and community leaders, a situation and market analysis of trends in national art school enrollment, and a series of case studies of potential model art schools has resulted in a positive assessment of the school’s viability in Louisville.”
In order to receive accreditation, KSA had to partner with an existing school to take advantage of support services, supplemental classes and curricula, but Davenport was concerned that the school wouldn’t be able to find the right relationship.
“We didn’t want to be an art department,” says Davenport.
When Davenport conferred with Tori Murden McClure, president of Spalding University, he knew he’d found the right home for KSA. Davenport describes Spalding as growing incredibly fast and as a “very nimble” institution.
Of the top twenty-five art schools in the U.S., sixteen are paired with other schools like KSA is paired with Spalding.
Currently KSA occupies a former car dealership building repurposed as gallery and studio space at 849 S. 3rd St. It also has classrooms, offices and more studio space across the street on several floors of two buildings directly on the Spalding campus. There is an additional gallery in the lower floor of the Spalding library.
The abundance of studio space is essential to Davenport’s vision. Each student enrolled at KSA has his or her own personal studio space. Davenport says that typically when a student starts school and is given assignments “their personal work takes a hit.” He says students who end up regretting going to art school often complain, “I didn’t do any of my own work there.” Davenport says that the personal studios allow students to continue to hang onto the passions that brought them to art school in the first place.
“I didn’t have a studio until grad school,” says Davenport.
This year’s freshman class has thirty students from twenty high schools in ten counties in Kentucky, explains Meredith Rubin, the school’s development coordinator. There are currently 74 students enrolled at KSA, over 90 percent of them are from Kentucky.
We stopped by a sculpture class with only four students. Rubin explained that many of the classes are that small, but some classes have “as many as” fourteen students.
Students can earn a BFA in five majors: Digital Media, General Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Interdisciplinary Sculpture and Painting & Drawing.
The school is moving fast, says Davenport. It has twelve full time faculty members, “most of the faculty went to top ten art schools,” he says. “And those are twelves sophisticated artists that wouldn’t normally be in Louisville.”
Davenport says he shares Mayor Greg Fischer’s vision of filling in the Fourth St. corridor from Broadway to Old Louisville. Be believes that KSA’s plan for growth with draw commerce to the neighborhood: housing units, shops, coffee shops and restaurants. His hope is that KSA will add ten buildings to its campus in ten years.
He also has an aspirational goal, he says, of providing continuing education classes and pre-professional design training to “empower people in the neighborhood through education.” He envisions a “badge” program, like a certificate program, where students could earn badges that certify that they have completed training on some aspect of design or some professional software or hardware.
To earn a BFA at KSA, 70 percent of your coursework is in studio arts. 30 percent of your coursework is in liberal arts like Speech, English, Math, Science and History. 90 percent of all KSA students receive some financial assistance either from Spalding or from KSA. While many art schools’ tuitions run $45,000-50,000 a year, KSA’s tuition is under $20,000.
Currently the school has a commitment from Board of Directors member Owsley Brown III to match annual fund donations up to $50,000.
Hear more about KSA and Davenport’s visions at Idea Mornings:
“A Catalyst for Change: Kentucky School of Art and the Revitalization of the South Broadway Neighborhood,” Fri., Oct. 25, 7:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m., 849 S. 3rd St – KSA’s 849 Gallery