The Kentuckiana area is lucky to have an amazing event once a year known to bring more than 100,000 visitors from all over the world. If your mind went immediately to horses and giant hats, think again. When the leaves change and the weather cools, the St. James Court Art Show is what attracts people from near and far.
The one-of-a-kind experience for art lovers in the heart of Old Louisville is a juried show that now has more than 700 exhibitors who sell their wares and high-level art.
Howard Rosenberg, executive director of the St. James Court Art Show, said the event is special for many reasons. “The setting is unique,” he said. “There are very few art shows in the country – I don’t know of any of them – that are right smack dab in the middle of a historic landmark neighborhood. It also gives people an opportunity to see some of the finest art in the country.”
And it’s free.
The show was started in 1957 by St. James Court Association President Malcolm Bird as a way to make money. The association was out of funds, and it had looming debt because of recent fountain repairs. The show was originally open to all and was just an exhibit. Art was hung on clotheslines from tree to tree.
Over the years, the show grew and expanded in the neighborhood, adding Belgravia Court, sections of Third Street and the West End Baptist Church. The money raised from the show has helped fund historic preservation of the neighborhood, which has spurred housing restoration in the area. “It grew because it became such an iconic art show, but it also grew because it benefits the other neighborhoods to participate,” Rosenberg said. “They’re all part of a consortium that makes up the art show as participants. It’s grown because of the level of art, because of the demand, because of it being so special.”
The St. James Court Art Show also focuses on ensuring diversity of artistic medium, making sure that it’s not just oil paintings or watercolors. There are 17 different mediums, including jewelry, clay, wood and more.
The jurors of the show select artists based on photos of the art, with no idea who the artist is, Rosenberg said. So, entry is entirely based on the quality of the art. “Then, during the show, another group of jurors – people from the art world – visit and assess the artists themselves,” Rosenberg said. “Are they engaging? What do people think of the art? Are they actively participating? Not like a car salesman trying to sell something, but are they engaging people?”
The show annually awards $52,000 in scholarships to area high school students. Several of are as high as $15,000 individually. So, visitors are not only supporting artists who are supporting themselves, they are also supporting the next generation of artists.
Rosenberg has lived in Old Louisville off and on for 36 years, and has been a volunteer and organizer of several projects in the area. He said he likes the way the St. James Court Art Show showcases the neighborhood.
“Because of the setting, because of Central Park, I think that that’s what’s so special about it,” Rosenberg said. “The fact that it continues to improve and expand, and new artists are brought in. The fact that there’s a scholarship program for students. It brings the neighborhood together and showcases it in a special way.”
This year’s St. James Court Art Show is Oct. 5, 6 & 7 in Historic Old Louisville. It’s open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free, but please leave your dogs at home. For a complete list of artists and vendors, pick up a free program available at the welcome tents at St. James Court and Magnolia Avenue, Fourth Street and Magnolia Avenue, St. James Court and Hill Street. Or just ask a volunteer, who will be happy to help you.
St. James Court Art Show
Oct. 5, 6, & 7
Historic Old Louisville
For GPS, use 1402 St. James Ct. in Louisville
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday & Saturday
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
Rain or shine
No pets allowed