Readers' Forum | 'City of Arts and Parks'

Mar 02, 2010

CHRIS SCHULZ Courier Journal

Former Mayor Charles Farnsley invoked Confucius when he said, “A city with high culture and happy citizens attracts wealth and power.” Mr. Farnsley created the Fund for the Arts, the oldest such organization in the country, and spurred the Louisville Orchestra¹s recording series, which brought the city worldwide attention. Mayor Jerry Abramson may also have been aware of this idea when he helped instigate Olmsted Parks Conservancy and Operation Brightside. As Louisville moves to be a 21st-century leader, we need to focus again on what makes us a great and unique city: our parks system and our commitment to the arts. This is why we propose a simple, catchy and memorable slogan that Louisville can use to identify itself: “City of Arts and Parks.”

Arts: Louisville is also home to “21C,” the recently named sixth-best hotel in the world, which is a combination hotel and art gallery that proves the power of mixing art and commerce. The East Market Street District, also known as NuLu, features a popular monthly trolley hop, over 20 art galleries as well as Lincoln Elementary, the city's first performing arts magnet elementary school. The St. James Court Art show draws 750 artists and over 300,000 visitors from all over the country and was three times chosen as the best art show in the country.

Louisville Public Media is the only station in the country to house three different public radio formats under one roof; it uses this synergy to promote local talent and to bring national acts to town to perform free concerts. Actors Theatre of Louisville is an international force, each year breaking ground in the Humana Festival of New American Plays (now underway). This is all in addition to the Louisville Orchestra, Ballet, Opera, Kentucky Center for the Arts, Children's Theater and Speed Art Museum. Louisville boasts an impressive variety of the arts and makes Louisville one of only 11 American cities supporting all five of these fine arts institutions.

Parks: Most Louisvillians know that our local park system was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the Father of American landscape architecture and the nation¹s premier park designer at the turn of the century. What they may not know is that Outside magazine named Louisville one of the top cities to live in for 2008. The reasons cited include the park system, Jefferson Memorial Forest (the largest municipal urban forest in the nation) and the currently-in-progress 100-mile bike loop connecting the city. Louisville is home to an impressive 22.3 acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents. This number will grow with the $110 million 21st Century Parks project following in the Olmsted tradition with a ring of parks stretching from Shelbyville Road to Bardstown Road along Floyd's Fork.

In order for Louisville to gain the recognition and growth that it deserves, the city should be re-branded as the “City of Arts and Parks.”

This moniker tells a potential visitor, resident or business much more about what makes Louisville special than “The Possibility City.” The Metro government needs to focus on these two areas of our city and appoint qualified people to positions to improve them. A comparable city, Austin, Texas, has received worldwide recognition as a popular and forward-thinking city because of its commitment to their music scene. As residents we need to remind our leaders what makes Louisville special and what it will take to ensure our continued growth and success. We need to think long-term and imagine how investments and commitments to the arts and parks will pay off for future generations.

Louisville 40204

Gill Holland is a filmmaker and co-developer of The Green Building in Louisville. Chris Schulz is a University of Louisville student in the MBA program. — Editor.

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