This semester students have been working with the Louisville Central Community Center (LCCC) and the University of Louisville Photographic Archives to provide mural scale imagery for The Walnut Street Project.
Students toured LCCC and met with Executive Director Sam Watkins to gain understanding of LCCC's mission and goals. LCCC's mission is to "advance self-reliance by increasing competence and confidence among individuals and families in Russell and the larger community." Mr. Watkins discussed LCCC's goal of revitalizing this Russell neighborhood in hopes of helping it return to the vibrant and thriving community the old Walnut street had been in the forties, fifties, and sixties.
Sam Watkins introduced the students to the space and panels that would house the mural photographs. Through discussion between the students, Mr. Watkins, and Billy Carner of the Photographic Archives, the class formulated a plan for a Then and Now photography project of the Russell Neighborhood. At the photographic archives, students pulled images of the Russell neighborhood from the twenties to the seventies and then set out to re-photograph the locations.
Amerisa, Bill, and Lexi out shooting "now" images for the project on a snowy Saturday morning.
The reward of Hot Chocolate after a cold morning of shooting!
Bill Carner hanging the show to perfection!
Louisville's Russell Neighborhood Then and Now
In late January and early February students from the Collaborative Art Projects documented a few of the many changes to the Russell neighborhood since the 1920’s using the “Then and Now” format. The project and this exhibit were inspired by a visit to the Louisville Central Community Centers, Inc. office at 13th Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard to look at their new atrium space in order to design mural type installations depicting the ”Old Walnut Street” business district. We saw that the Russell neighborhood had been drastically altered by urban renewal far beyond the normal changes brought on by the passage of time. The once thriving Walnut Street business district, sometimes called ”Louisville’s Harlem” in its heyday during the 1940’s and 50’s, has been transformed into parking lots and apartment complexes with only a few businesses and churches remaining, almost all signs of commerce having disappeared from the heart of the old business district now bisected by a four lane boulevard.
We found many photos of Russell the way it was in the Photographic Archives, particularly in the Caufield & Shook and Urban Renewal collections. Matching the Nows to Thens was often difficult with few or no buildings from the past remaining to reference current locations to the ones in the old photos. Sometimes even the house numbers had changed. The photographers would often work like surveyors, starting from a known point, an intersection or a still standing pre-urban renewal building, working their way to site for the Now photo.
Free African American first lived in the eastern end of the Russell neighborhood in the years before the Civil War. The western part was considered the suburbs in the 1870’s and many wealthy white families settled there. The wealthy families started moving to the new suburbs in the east and south like the Highlands and Old Louisville in the 1890’s. African American families had moved on beyond 21st Street by the 1920’s. The neighborhood was named for nationally recognized black educator Harvey C. Russell in 1926. Russell lived in the neighborhood which now bears his name until he died at the age of 66 in1949. The neighborhood continued to grow and prosper through most of the 1950’s until desegregation, white flight and urban renewal took their inevitable toll in the 1960’s. Now citizens, entrepreneurs, and organizations the like Louisville Central Community Centers, Inc. are rebuilding and revitalizing the Russell neighborhood.
1302 W. Walnut Street, Current location of LCCC
Mammoth Life Building, 6th and W. Walnut Street
914 W. Walnut Street
920 W. Walnut Street
1210 W. Market Street
1309 Walnut Street
17th and Walnut, Current location of the African American Heritage Center
Bill proudly shows off the artist's statement that Crystal reads through.
Mary Ceridan, Barbara Hanger, and Andy Johnson all check out the show.
Students look at and discuss the photographs.
JP Begley, Fred DiGiovanni, Gail Gilbert, and John Rieger checked things out.
The last few at the end of the night.
Sam Watkins, Clinton Bennett, and Jack Norris, met our class met in the Photographic Archives to discuss and look at possible images for LCCC's foyer at their new facility.
Here are Sam Watkins and Clinton Bennett at the Photographic Archives,
Mr. Watkins talked to our class about what types of photographs they are hoping to find for the space.
Louisville photographer Jack Norris joined Mr. Watkins and our class in the Archives to look through photographs.