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Louisville creator wants to use her experience to uplift more Black visual artists

Three women sit at a table. One is typing on a computer and another is speaking and gesticulating with her hands.
Breya Jones
Shauntrice Martin came up with Black Future Fest after meeting with several local artists about what they feel is missing from the local arts scene.

Shauntrice Martin is a Louisville artist. She has experienced firsthand how difficult it can be to navigate being a small business owner and trying to get her work out to the public.

Applying for grants and fellowships, getting work placed in galleries and reaching possible buyers is a lot to juggle, especially for artists who are early in their career.

As someone who has grown her own skills through experience, Martin wanted to help newer artists understand how to get the most out of their work.

When she began meeting with people, she started to see a pattern.

“No matter the generation, no matter the type of art, there were some of the same complaints that came up that they did not have access to opportunities,” Martin said.

From those conversations, Martin came up with the idea for Black Future Fest. The event would create a space for upcoming artists to display and sell their work to large audiences.

But the actual festival is only part of the vision Martin has for a larger effort.

“The first part is not an incubator, but a series of professional development [sessions] based on where they are, for some artists, they need help with the money side of things; for some, they just need to know how to professionally hang their work,” Martin said.

The first part would be made up of 10 to 15 sessions leading up to a certification. Their completion of that process would act as their payment to participate in the festival.

Martin doesn’t want to have to charge artists to have booths at Black Future Fest and would rather pay artists for their presence.

Martin is in the early planning phase. She is hosting several meetings with artists, people and organizations that might support the festival financially, and otherwise.

That includes meeting with potential sponsors like the Louisville Downtown Partnership.

Taylore Bass, the small business program manager at Louisville Downtown Partnership, attended a recent meeting to hear Martin’s proposal.

The Louisville Downtown Partnership has tried to support local artists through initiatives like Alley Gallery. Bass said there’s potential to further that work through Black Future Fest.

“There's different forms of art, and a lot of people may not get the same exposure, whether it's in the home, education or just life,” Bass said. “So this is a great initiative to start to bring more people aware of all the mediums of art.”

Trying to break down barriers that have historically prevented marginalized people from consuming or selling art isa key part of Martin’s idea and the potential partners for the event.

“Coming from a museum perspective, a lot of what I know and we talk about a lot is the fact that for years and years, art has been a club of the rich and those who are in the know and that has very much not been in these marginalized communities,” said LJ Jones, who works in the learning and engagement department at the Speed Art Museum.

Jones said the lack of accessibility means the entities of Louisville aren’t being properly represented in art.

Martin hopes to meet with at least 50 people or organizations before moving to fundraise this summer. She is keeping an open call for interested artists or businesses who want to participate.

Her current aim is to have Black Future Fest in September 2024.

Support for this story was provided in part by the Great Meadows Foundation.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.