This former curator is well-suited for her current job as Public Art Administrator for the city of Louisville. Meet Sarah Lindgren, the FACE behind the wonderful public art exhibition down on the waterfront known as Connect|Disconnect: A Public Art Experience. She loves working downtown and exploring all the great spaces, businesses and restaurants there, always scoping out places to bring our city together with art. You will love her dream scenario of what she would want to bring to Louisville in the future; it involves a net over Fourth and Jefferson streets downtown. We can’t wait to see it. Welcome, Sarah!
Tell us a little bit about your job.
As a public art administrator, I work with Louisville Metro Government’s public art initiative, which is under the Advanced Planning Department of Louisville Forward. My colleague Kristin Gilbert and I work closely with the Commission on Public Art and a variety of partners to manage the city’s public art collection and initiate new projects in public spaces, like the exhibition on the waterfront, Connect|Disconnect: A Public Art Experience.
What is your background and how has it helped in this current job?
I started my career in arts administration at the Saint Louis Art Museum, working in the Registrar’s Department, where museums keep records on their collections and process new acquisitions and loans. This experience with collection management and policy definitely helps inform my current role, which has so far included cataloging artwork in the collection, conservation, moving and siting artwork, and commissioning new projects.
I also worked at the Speed Art Museum, gaining additional arts administration experience with programming, donor engagement, fundraising and project management. Being part of a team that is responsible for the stewardship of the museum’s historical collection and embarking upon a major expansion project prepared me for my current role with the city’s emerging public art program.
Connect|Disconnect has been an introduction not just to public art, but to a developing part of the West End of the Waterfront. How long will it be installed? Will anything go in this space after it’s gone?
Connect|Disconnect will be installed through November 30, and there are a number of initiatives in the works for the waterfront area. For example, there was an RFP recently for a project to improve the Main Street underpass at Ninth Street, which has the potential to activate this important urban space. Waterfront Development Corporation is making progress with plans for Waterfront Park Phase IV, which will dramatically transform the area where Connect|Disconnect is currently installed.
What’s on the horizon for public art in Louisville?
We are fortunate that in Louisville we have several organizations that are planning and implementing exciting things in public spaces, including visual art, music, performance and community engagement. With the success of recent projects in Louisville, I think we will start to see more and more activation of public spaces from arts and design organizations and universities.
For Louisville Metro Public Art, we have our sights set on year two of our project series. We will identify ways for public art to serve as a communication tool to increase awareness of our communities’ priorities. We continue to examine, with our communities, what public art is and broaden our understanding of what it means. We hope that as we challenge ourselves, we are able to open a dialogue about our public spaces and invite our community to experience new spaces or see them in a new way.
We continue to advocate for dedicated funding streams for public art. You may notice that many cities across the country with active programs are supported through a percent-for-art ordinance and/or cultural tax. The Commission on Public Art’s goal for these public funds is to establish grant support for artists and nonprofits to realize public art projects citywide. As we get closer to this goal, the program has the capacity to make a significant impact on our city.
What would be your dream scenario art installation here?
The Statue of Liberty just off the Belvedere? Just kidding. Can I have two? Right now, my dream scenario might be a Janet Echelman net sculpture environment, suspended over a downtown intersection, maybe at Fourth and Jefferson next to an extraordinary, reopened convention center. Echelman’s artworks are like fantastical amoeba jellyfish floating across the sky with an enormous scale, yet mesmerizing delicate movement. Lighting design makes them seem like a living presence from another universe.
A second dream scenario would be to offer the new bridge-related infrastructure — underpasses, easements, walls, even the construction equipment with which we coexist — and transform them into arts experiences. Sculpture, mural, mosaic, environments created with light and sound, interactive experiences that respond to the human presence … what a different morning and afternoon commute that would be! We might even walk or bike to that festival or sporting event a few blocks away without even considering the parking lots that are closer!
Give us a peek at your agenda. What’s a typical day or week like for you?
Meetings, and then emails about scheduling meetings, and then more meetings after that. My agenda often has drastic swings, such as a board meeting in the morning and then working on a site in the dirt in the afternoon. I love working downtown and the daily opportunity to be outdoors and walk a few blocks from my office on Fifth Street to Metro Hall, Main Street and other nearby meeting locations. Visiting public art sites to photograph and monitor the condition of artworks is typical, which can be an adventure in certain situations, like a photo op in heavy snow, getting a vicious sunburn or when you didn’t anticipate climbing on a truck that day and you are wearing a skirt and heels!
Who are your mentors, and what advice do you treasure?
When I worked at the Saint Louis Art Museum, the head registrar was an important mentor to me, and she taught me so much about collections and museums. Today, I have a few colleagues who tell me, “breathe.” That is advice that I treasure. For me, it translates to: “It’s okay. Take a moment to gain perspective.”
Fill in the blank. You’ll never see me without my ________.
Sunglasses. My eyes are sensitive to light outside, and I usually wear sunglasses, even on cloudy days. I am loyal to the cheap models because I break them or lose them quite often.
Where can we find you hanging out around town?
Coffee shops near my office: Heine Brothers at Fourth Street Live or Sunergos on Fifth Street. For long phone calls, sometimes I go sit outside in the beautiful courtyard at the Center for Interfaith Relations on Muhammad Ali Boulevard.
What’s your bucket list travel destination?
St. Petersburg, Russia, is high on the list. I studied in Italy in college, and I want to go back to see things that I missed, especially in the Umbria region and Cinque Terra, and to catch the Palio in Sienna’s Piazza del Campo. Also Nepal, to see (not climb) Mount Everest.
Night owl or early bird? What do you do during that quiet time?
Definitely night owl. I stay up late most nights and use the quiet time to decompress. I usually read, watch TV or Netflix, and do the New York Times crossword puzzle in the LEO. A crossword puzzle is the best way to zone out.
Tell us some of your favorite local restaurants.
What’s on your personal reading list right now?
I usually have a few books that I rotate. Right now, I am reading I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, Making Good by Billy Parish and Dev Aujla; X, Sue Grafton; and The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. A few years ago, I started a mission to read Hemingway’s novels but got a little sluggish with all the bullfighting, so I switched to the short stories. Sometimes when I feel ambitious, I will pick up my old copy of Mark Twain’s A Tramp Abroad that I selected from my grandmother’s book collection when she passed.
Lightning Round! Give us your:
Candy or junk food splurge: Vanilla milkshake or Raisinets
Guilty pleasure song: “Cooler Than Me”
Tearjerker movie pick: Cold Mountain
Standby nail polish color: Nude or classic red
Favorite cocktail: Old-Fashioned or Kentucky Mule
Cartoon alter-ego: Hmmm, the Pink Panther?
What are three of your favorite things right now?
My son, my daughter and crisp fall days.
Thank you to Adele Reding for her beautiful FACES photography. To see more of her work, click here.