Street art and photography converge in Louisville and Southern Indiana
The Paste-Up Mural Project (PUMP), which features the photography of numerous local artists on outdoor walls, is a first-time extension of the Louisville Photo Biennial. The people behind it hope that the project inspires interest from those who might not usually go to galleries.
Down a battered alley outside of the Bourne-Schweitzer Gallery in New Albany, legendary folk singer David Crosby’s steely glare peers out from an image pasted on a concrete wall. Next to it, a vibrant blue dress and a pearl necklace draws the same sense of magnetism. Five more images of the same size, all of which are prints of original photography featured in this year’s Louisville Photo Biennial, continue down the wall, forming an outdoor mini-exhibition.
“That was kind of just an ugly alley, now it’s the art alley,” Julie Schweitzer, co-owner of the Bourne-Schweitzer Gallery, told LPM News.
The prints in the alley are part of a project called PUMP, or the Paste-Up Mural Project, a first-time extension of the Louisville Photo Biennial that Schweitzer spearheaded. For the project, 24- by 36-inch prints of around 60 of the pieces of photography featured in the Biennial are or will be wheat-pasted on the outside walls of galleries and other buildings in Southern Indiana and Louisville. Locations include the Bourne-Schweitzer Gallery and Chestnuts and Pearls in New Albany, the flood walls and the library in Jeffersonville, as well as the Paul Paletti Gallery, 21c Museum Hotel and Revelry Boutique Gallery in Louisville, among others.
“The whole goal of the Biennial is to promote photography and make it available to the public, to make it accessible; to teach, so people can learn more about photography,” Schweitzer said. “So, this was the perfect thing. We’re hoping this encourages people to go to the different galleries and it gets those artists more exposure. A lot of people don’t go into galleries, but when we were hanging these, everybody who walked down the street stopped and looked at them.”
The Photo Biennial proper — which takes place at indoor spaces from Sept. 8 through Nov. 12 — is spread out over 50 venues across several cities in Kentucky and Indiana. PUMP is an outdoor teaser of the Biennial. Every gallery participating in the Biennial also had the opportunity to participate in PUMP, and about half accepted the offer.
The goal is to create distance between the original photo and the outdoor mural print, to create a crosscurrent of foot traffic in multiple neighborhoods across the two states.
For example, while the aforementioned outdoor mural print of David Crosby is pasted in Southern Indiana outside of the Bourne-Schweitzer Gallery, the original photo is currently showing 10 miles away across the river at The Monarch in the Highlands.
There’s a QR code at the bottom of each print that tells people where the original photograph is being displayed.
While many of the pasted prints in PUMP are already up, the goal is to have all of them up by Oct. 6, when the Bourne-Schweitzer Gallery will be hosting a kickoff party, alongside an artist reception for its indoor exhibition, “Purpose and Repurpose,” by Kimara Wilhite and Fred DiGiovanni.
“We’re hoping it helps the galleries, that it helps tourism, that it’s a really cool thing for the public,” Schweitzer said.
‘A great way to get more exposure’
For years, the Louisville Photo Biennial has been trying to add an outdoor component, but there were challenges. How could it be cost-effective? How could there be assurance that art wasn’t damaged?
They settled on a process similar to how renowned street artists like Shepard Fairey create.
The prints in PUMP are semi-permanent murals that will last at least a year — and very likely longer — but can be removed with a pressure washer.
Wilhite, the photographer displaying at the Bourne-Schweitzer Gallery during the Biennial, has also been helping to paste the prints. She told LPM News that it’s an efficient and effective way for photographers to be shown outside.
“It makes it possible for photographers to display outdoors in public, relatively cheaply, without your stuff being stolen,” Wilhite said.
Wilhite said that as she has been pasting the prints around town, she’s noticed that the PUMP project creates a pull to the indoor Biennial exhibitions.
“As I was going through some of the images… just a single image, I would be looking at it, and I’m like, ‘I don’t really get this, but, you know what, now it makes me want to see the entire show so I get this in context,’” Wilhite said. “So that’s the other thing, maybe on its own it’s not making sense, but it’s like, ‘What else is with this, though?’”
Dave Becker, a photographer currently displaying at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest and a member of the Louisville Photo Biennial board, said only a small percentage of people stop into galleries for exhibitions, and that the outdoor murals are a way to greatly increase the visibility of photos.
“As a photographer, it’s a great way to get more exposure,” Becker said. “[The photographs] will receive way more foot traffic than a gallery.”
A goal of the Biennial, Becker said, is to get a diverse selection of work that encompasses many different types of creative methods. Becker is also involved in the annual Ripple Effects photo contest for Louisville-area K-12 students revolving around the subject of what water means to them. The winners are included in the PUMP project. PUMP, he said, also includes photography that bends in different directions.
“When the Louisville Photo Biennial emphasizes photography, they also emphasize different photographic techniques,” Becker said. “So a lot of the images that are out there in galleries might be mixed-media or they might be prints from a dark room or they might be on metal, they might be on all kinds of substrates. Those things that can’t live outdoors. So this is another way to get people to get to see the image.”
A rolling project
The people behind PUMP not only hope it becomes part of the Biennial every two years, but also that pasting art photography prints outdoors becomes a rolling project in Louisville and Southern Indiana.
And, according to Schweitzer, there’s a demand. She said New Albany business owners, even those who are unfamiliar with the Biennial, have taken notice of the pasted murals of photographs popping up around town.
“Some of the other businesses downtown have seen them, and so now they’re calling me and asking if they can have one,” Schweitzer said.
While PUMP displays are already set this year, Schweitzer recently wrote a grant proposal to the city of New Albany for those businesses to get involved in the future.
Becker, the Louisville Photo Biennial board member, said that he could see the PUMP project as a year-round extension of the Biennial.
“Our vision is to promote visual art in general,” Becker said. “So, we foresee the PUMP project as something that’s ongoing, that keeps the interest in photography and visual arts alive in between other types of events. I think it will grow feet and grow in size.”
Support for this story was provided in part by the Great Meadows Foundation.