St. James Court Art Show 2014

I just got back from walking my legs off at the St. James Court Art Show, one of the largest and most well-respected art shows in the country.


I don’t have pictures of the art, of course, because you’re not supposed to take photos of any of it, except with your mind. That’s okay. All the architecture I love was ready and waiting to be photographed.


Property owners make sure their homes and grounds look nice for the art show attendees. I heard that this year they expected a total of 300,000 people to shuffle past the 750 booths.


It’s a huge show. I never try to see the whole thing. Okay, maybe I did the first year after I moved here, when I had an apartment smack dab inside the fair’s perimeters. This year I made a pretty good go of it, getting to St. James Court proper, the Belgravia walking court, and up and down Fourth, Third, and Magnolia, including, of course, the parking lot of the Magnolia Bar and Grill, aka the “Mag Bar”. (It’s such an amazing name to begin with, I’ve never understood the allure of the nickname).  A non-juried, avant-garde second show called the “Un-Fair” has been conducted out behind the bar for the past 18 years. Now, I don’t always make it to the St. James Art Fair, but when I do I never miss the Un-Fair. This year, though, it seemed to be overrun with all things zombie, and I am burned out on zombies. It’s time to bring back vampires.

From last weekend’s trip to the Louisville Zoo:


The only book I saw in the whole show was in the Un-Fair. It was on a table with a bunch of disparate other things. It was a pretty thick trade paperback, $25 with an intriguing title but no subtitle to tell me if it was a novel, a memoir, short stories, or what. I flipped it over but found nothing but a continuation of the front cover art. No blurb, no nothing, and the book was taped closed. (!) A voice behind me said “That’s $25.” I asked if it was a novel or short stories. She said it was short stories and poetry, and then added “It’s mine. I wrote it.” I waited but there wasn’t any further pitch, and the attitude being given off was a sort of aloof boredom, so I put it down and went on. I’m sorry, but I sweat bullets rehearsing and then delivering my pitch to an editor in person. I re-examined the book, re-wrote parts of it, then re-wrote my query, and re-wrote it again. Just two months ago I finally sent it to another editor (for those of you keeping count, yep, that’s two whole editors). The next day I re-wrote the query again. What’s on my plate for today after I post this is to buck up and send it to a few more people, because the novel is never going to get published if I don’t show it to anyone. A taped shut book with no hint as to what’s inside and no clue offered by the writer when I’m standing there, waiting to be won over? That doesn’t work for me.

Contrast today’s experience with the one I had at the Pride Fair in June. Then, I happened upon a tent shared by two small press outfits (94 Creations and Iris Brown Literary Mag). I stopped and flipped through the two books they were selling. The young woman behind the booth was friendly and enthusiastic. She was excited to tell me about their work and mission, and when she learned I am a writer, too, encouraged me to submit work to them. She took my card to pass along to her boss, and I bought both books.


I didn’t buy any art today, unless you count the money I dropped into the case of a mandolin player. And why wouldn’t you count that, really? I made art for twenty years and almost none of it is extant (public television and one independent company filmed a handful of our productions) except in how it shaped the audience’s appreciation for theatre.

Anyway, art that isn’t mass produced is (and should be) expensive. I can’t afford to buy the things I really liked (they ranged from $40-1,600), but even if I did, I have no place to put anything more. Instead, I collected cards from the people whose work took my breath away or made me giddy, and I’m going to list their websites here. Check them out. Creatures full of personality, made from household objects. The website has the flower bowls, which were gorgeous, but it lacks the probably 3′ long undulating glass rainbow-hued wall hangings. Those were incredible. “Magic Tea Party” was extremely eye-catching. The website doesn’t do it justice, but choose the magnifying glass and take a good look at the Cheshire Cat and March Hare. Amazing and horrifying in equal parts, because they’re made from books. Inspired by fairy tales.

Lastly, there’s His woodwork and fiber art vases were beautiful but it was actually the sound of his voice that drew me into his booth. It had the same timbre, cadence and accent as Jeff Mann’s voice.

Kentuckiana Pride Parade 2013


It’s the morning after the Kentuckiana Pride Parade and, as usual, I am left pondering a Zen koan:

If a tree falls in the forest but no one is around to hear it, does it really make a sound?

We have four local television stations. The one with the hour-long telecast that comes on at 10pm gave last night’s parade thirty seconds of dour-faced airtime in which they related the facts – there was a parade downtown, it had a theme (United in Love), some people showed up.

The second station, with only a thirty minute broadcast, gave it fifteen smiling seconds.

I believe the third didn’t cover it at all. I can only watch so many stations at once. I know there was nothing in the three hours of re-broadcast news they aired this morning, because I DVR’d and scanned through all three hours.

I’m not sure if the last did, but I’m betting against it because while they do have coverage of it on their website it’s static coverage, not video. It’s essentially a short newspaper article capped by a color photo.  It is, however, the most flattering coverage of all the major news outlets, noting that thousands, not hundreds, of people were in attendance, and quoting several of the participants.

In an odd twist, the Courier-Journal newspaper has video coverage on their site. It’s actually a really nice representation of what the parade/march was like, but the clip is edited to end with an image of the only float I’m aware of with that classic Pride feature: cage dancers. Because of the editing, that’s the image you see when you click to read the headline, and if you don’t play the video, that’s the only image you get outside of the more generic one back out on the main page. Interesting. They also ran the headline, Hundreds turn out for Kentuckiana Pride Parade. Hmm.

This sort of one note, scant coverage – don’t blink or you’ll miss it – always frustrates me. When I first started marching the event took place on Saturday morning. Downtown Louisville was a ghost town on weekends back then, and pretty much still is, especially in the mornings. There were a hundred, maybe a couple hundred, participants and no one to view the thing. So we would march down empty streets, shouting, then have a festival in Central Park, and at night none of the stations would cover it.

Though this isn’t my first rodeo or even my fifth, it is the first year in quite some time that I have marched. First, events in my own life got in the way. I’d been going strong, never missing a year, and then came the year we were set to move into our new house on the weekend of Pride. Let’s just say my proposal that I spend the majority of one of the days marching for social justice instead of schlepping boxes on and off a U-Haul did not go over well.

We did manage to get up to Chicago for Pride that year, though that turned out to be a mixed blessing. We stood on the sidewalk outside the 7-Eleven watching as the firefighters and police and floats by major companies went by, and it actually made me more depressed about the marches back home. Compared to Chicago, Louisville’s Pride seemed to be happening in a vacuum. Sure, we marched, but we were alone.

Shortly after this there was a power struggle among some of the groups here and the march was moved to Friday evening. The rallying point changed, too; it became a bar not a public space. Looking back, I think it was a misperception
on my part, but I felt uninvited. I wasn’t the only one. The friend I would always meet up with at the event and march with took it the same way. Because of it, I began simply attending the festival on the Belvedere on Saturdays. I’ve been pleased to see the attendance at that grow, and the expansion of the number and type of organizations represented, but I felt very distanced from it.

This year, everything’s different. I just got back from the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New   Orleans. A story I wrote was just published in their annual anthology. I read a selection from my work at the book launch party and got a lot of nice feedback. I made many new friends, got re-acquainted with an old one, and felt extremely welcome throughout.

And then, last week on Facebook, a call went out from the Fairness Campaign: We need people to walk with us.  So I put on my Fairness tee and I marched. One of the first things I noticed was that the chant has changed. Now in between “What do we want? (Fairness!)” and “When do we want it? (Now!)” there is “Where do we want it? (Kentucky!)” I’m not sure I like that change. First of all, it’s the Kentuckiana Pride Parade. Yelling “Kentucky!” omits Indiana. Secondly, I don’t know about you, but I’m over the whole statewide thing. At my job I screen people for Medicaid eligibility (yes, I really am a socialist*) and periodically we are reminded that it doesn’t matter if according to their state two persons are legally married, we go by federal rules and on a federal level, those people aren’t married.

Lastly, I miss the other slogan we used to chant: “We’re here. We’re queer. Get over it. Get used to it.” I liked that. A lot. It worked for me. But then again, I’m a Sagittarius, and we’re not known for our tact. I’m also from Chicago, which means you get a double-whammy of bluntness.  Have a problem with that? Get over it. Get used to it.

Here’s the thing: If you don’t go to the parade, you don’t experience the parade, because if the media cover it at all, they barely cover it. Fifteen seconds. Thirty seconds. So I was thrilled to see so many people, and so many organizations, marching. Ford; UPS; Humana; Third Lutheran Church; Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church; the Geek Squad; the IAW; the ACLU and many, many more. And spectators, too, especially as we got closer to Main Street. The area around the Connection nightclub complex was packed, of course, but the sidewalks on other stretches were also filled, lots of middle-of-America types clapping and cheering, waving and smiling, or else with their cellphones out, snapping away or making videos. I hear there were one or two groups of protestors along the way. I never saw them.

Last night and this morning I started to get upset because of the sparsity of traditional media coverage. It seemed the same old, same old. We marched, but who knows that we did? Then I realized – the world has changed. Every one of the people along the route and in the parade was busy uploading images to their Facebook wall, or their blog, or their Pinterest account, where it will be seen and shared by all of their friends. That’s more coverage than any news outlet could ever provide, and more important coverage, too, because it comes with a human face. It says “I support this issue because it affects me and/or people I care about.” I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Harvey Milk was right. If everybody can be made to realize that they know people being discriminated against, things will change. Social media is the key.

A tree fell in a forest, but it wasn’t alone. Thousands of people were there, and they uploaded the video to YouTube, so that millions of people could hear the sound.

*That’s a joke. I see nothing inconsistent with being a member of a democratic country and wanting all citizens to succeed, but apparently some people do.