Fund for the Arts kicks off $8.5 million campaign at annual showcase

Though local arts heavy-hitters like Jecory “1200” Arthur, Appalatin and Kentucky Shakespeare performed on stage as part of the annual Fund for the Arts Showcase, it was the dozens of children from several local arts groups that stole the show.

The event on Tuesday kicked off the 2017 fundraising campaign for the Fund for the Arts at Churchill Downs.

Paul Thompson, president and CEO of LG&E KU and campaign chairman, said the organization hoped to raise $8.5 million this year, up from $8.3 million in 2016, from around 20,000 donors.

The student singers and dancers came from Lincoln Elementary Arts School, Louisville Central Community Center and After School Urban Arts Collaborative, which includes the River City Drum Corps, La ‘Nita Rocknette School of Dance and the West Louisville Performing Arts Academy. These are just a handful of the more than 400,000 arts experiences that the fund supports throughout the year.

The performances drew standing ovations from the audience. A small group of students from the After School Urban Arts Collaborative sang Louis Armstrong’s “Wonderful World” in harmony. LPAS dancers in either a flowing, colorful gown or a suit and sparkly bow-tie showed off their interpretive dance skills. The audience cooed over the adorable LPAS singers and their talents.

In between the professional and student performers, community stakeholders shared updates on the FFA and on fundraising efforts.

Thompson announced that LG&E KU had initiated a $100,000 challenge grant and would match donations, from $1 up to $5,000. The FFA is selling raffle tickets for six box seats for both the Oaks and Derby as a fundraiser. Tickets are $100 each and only 500 will be sold.

Christen Boone, president of the Fund for the Arts, said the organization was operating under a “new paradigm.” The focus, she said, used to be on how the community could support the arts in Louisville. Now it’s “how we can leverage the arts to build and support the community,” Boone said.

GLI President Kent Oyler spoke briefly about the $259 million economic impact that the arts have on the city. He said that the arts “drive tourism and attract talent, which is the biggest challenge for GLI.” Mayor Greg Fischer said that 24 million tourists visited Louisville last year.

Fischer announced that the city would have a Cultural Pass again this summer. The pass allows students free and reduced admission to many of the city’s museums, performances and cultural institutions during the summer months. This year’s lead sponsor for the program is Churchill Downs. According to the mayor, since the program began in 2014, nearly 150,000 Cultural Passes had been issued to Louisville students.

Fischer said that “arts create the soul of the city” and that “the art scene we have here is second to none.”