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Smoketown Arts Festival Brings Music, Dance to Neighborhood

Smoketown Arts Festival

The first Smoketown Arts Festival this Saturday celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Louisville neighborhood.

Performances include the River City Drum Corps, the Fierce Tigerettes dance troupe, and a reprise of the West End Poetry Opera that was premiered at the Kentucky Center for the Arts in May.

The evening will also include a tribute to the late Smoketown artist Zephra May-Miller, known as “the bag lady” for her artwork made of recycled plastic bags.

Also, Hong Kong-based artists Parry Ling and Yang Hao are in the midst of a three-week residency in Louisville, and they will be presenting some of their work at the festival.

IDEAS 40203 and YouthBuild Louisville are the primary organizers of the festival, with additional support from with support from Louisville Metro Housing Authority, ArtPlace America and others. Many of the groups will provide “Learning Lab” booths, for adult education on a variety of topics, in addition to arts activities for children.

Activities will be available from 4 to 10 p.m. at the corner of Lampton and Preston streets. In case of rain, all events will be held at Meyzeek Middle School.

Smoketown was one of the first communities founded by African-Americans in Louisville after the Civil War, and gets its name from the kilns that made bricks used in building much of Louisville.

Theo Edmonds of IDEAS 40203, one of the organizers of the event, said both homegrown and cross-cultural partnerships are important to the work of revitalizing Smoketown.

“The more opportunities we can have for people from across the street or across the world to sit down at a table and share a meal and a story together, the world gets a little bit smaller and a little bit happier," Edmonds said.

Edmonds said the festival is just a small portion of the work that IDEAS is doing in Smoketown.

“It’s not just the work that we’re doing, there’s a lot of players doing a lot of different things and we’re all beginning to really talk to each other to look at how we build a community together,” Edmonds said.