United States

10 Exhibitions to Visit in Kentucky this Spring & Summer

by Paul Joseph  |  Published April 3, 2023

This spring, museums across the southeastern state of Kentucky will be playing host to a diverse programme of exhibitions for visitors to enjoy.

(Photo: Josh Sachs)

With a long history encompassing agricultural power, coal production, military bases, horse racing and bluegrass music, Kentucky’s cultural institutions certainly have a diversity of subject matter to celebrate and  explore. If you’re visiting the state this spring or summer and would like to check out an exhibition during your stay, we’ve picked out 10 of the best scheduled over the coming months.

Search and Rescue

Artists Kennedy Yanko, James Benjamin Franklin, Kiah Celeste, Amy Brener, Bette Levy, Josh Sachs, and Denise Furnish recontextualise found objects and materials that transport otherwise recognisable forms into the realm of art.  Appropriated from the disaster management term for rescuing those threatened or endangered, this exhibition explores the possibility that among each artist’s work lies an undercurrent of recovery and reclamation. In particular it looks at how their practices engage with methods of collage and assemblage that stretch the conventional boundaries of sculpture, painting, installation, and fibre art, probing the ways in which found objects and materials can imbue a work of art with new meaning while simultaneously exploring the notion of the artist’s hand in the act of making.

KMAC Museum, Louisville / Through 9 April 2023

Shades of Compassion

(Photo: Guy Mendes)

The first stop on an international tour, this thought-provoking exhibition features work by dozens of acclaimed photographers, all aimed at promoting notions of compassion and understanding. The photographs are categorised across three perspectives – environment, humanity and spirituality – with each perspective accompanied by Meditation Stations as well as Pause Stations for deeper exploration. An Action Station at the end of the exhibition provides visitors online resources to further spread compassion in their community, as well as a writing area where they can share their thoughts and emotions.

Headley-Whitney Museum, Louisville / 8 April – 18 June 2023

The Art of Fashion

(Photo: Behringer-Crawford Museum)

During the mid-20th century, working from her home into the late hours of the night, native Covington fashionista Fay Applegarth Maddux pursued her art – despite the demands of motherhood, home management, and a cultural environment of women not earning their own wages. Her excellent eye and talent for storytelling gave her work a special quality that engaged the viewer and made her a favourite of advertisers. This exhibition features some of her one-of-a-kind illustrations, advertising clothing and accessories in local newspapers from 1945-1965. Dresses, coats, hats and other haute couture are also on display.

Behringer-Crawford Museum, Covington / Through 20 August 2023

Among Women

On June 24, 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark piece of legislation that made access to an abortion a federal right in the United States. This exhibition features works showing women of various ages, backgrounds, and orientations. Paintings and prints of young girls are seen alongside mature women, including rural and urban subjects. Along with the art on view, the exhibition solicited opinions, information, and interpretive texts from a range of community members to create an installation that provokes much contemplation.

University of Kentucky Art Museum, Lexington / Through 8 July 2023

Fearfully & Wonderfully Made

For many devotees of the Bible, every human being from the moment of fertilisation is made in God’s image, both male and female. And for such believers, this is true regardless of one’s level of development, physical or mental ability, ethnicity, or age. Although issues regarding life in the womb continue to be hotly contested around the world, believers genuinely feel the matter is settled by the ultimate authority: the very words of their Creator. This exhibition calls attention to biblical claims and scientific truths about the unborn while pointing guests to the hope and forgiveness that many  feel can be found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Creation Museum, Petersburg / Ongoing

Louisville’s Black Avant-Garde: Robert L. Douglas

Robert Douglas American, (1934 – 2023) Then What Did She Say?, 1964 (Photo: Bill Roughen for the Speed Art Museum)

A prolific visual artist, community organiser, and mentor to generations of artists and thinkers, Professor Emeritus Robert L. Douglas is a long-time Louisville resident. Douglas’ work is at once rife with visual references drawn from art history and uniquely his own, exploring themes including defining black art and aesthetics; connections between Africa and African America; standards of beauty and femininity; art and everyday life; and improvisation and abstraction in the creative and artistic process. Featuring more than 30 paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures, this exhibition presents rarely seen work from throughout the artist’s career, demonstrating the breadth of his practices and the continued relevance of his work in examining and reflecting the Black community in Louisville.

Speed Art Museum, Louisville / 30 June – 1 October 2023

Styles & The Gist Of It

In the late 1800s, women became more involved in business and working outside the home. However, few women owned companies. Those that did were in women-centric industries, such as home goods, apparel, or personal care. Carrie Taylor was a dressmaker who began her business, the Mrs. A. H. Taylor Company, in 1878, which she continued running until her death in 1917. For nearly 40 years, the Mrs. A.H. Taylor Company was known for quality, lace-embellished dresses. This exhibition explores Taylor’s life and work, helping us understand shifting gender roles, the transition from custom-made to ready-to-wear fashion, and female entrepreneurship at the turn of the 20th century.

Kentucky Museum, Bowling / Through 31 July 2023

Heritage & Heroes: Black Ballplayers

(Photo: Louisville Slugger Museum)

Amazing black athletes and inspiring heroes like Josh Gibson, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Frank Robinson, Willie Mays, Tony Gwynn, Ken Griffey, Jr., Derek Jeter and many others have made incredible contributions to baseball and wider society. This permanent exhibition features lifelike sculptures that salute some of baseball’s best black performers down the years, as well as a wide range of historic artefacts including a number of retired baseball bats used by renowned players of yesteryear that can be touched and held by visitors in the flesh.

Louisville Slugger Museum / Permanent

United States of Trophies: Saddlebred Trophies & Their Stories from Across the Fifty States

All across America, each state has a unique legacy of horse shows, and nowhere is this more true than in towns and cities across Kentucky, where local horse shows are at the heart and soul of the community. This exhibition showcases trophies handed out at horse shows from across the nation – representing equestrian champions spanning a number of different disciplines. Also on display are a wide range of exhibits and artefacts relating to this long-standing and quintessentially American tradition.

American Saddlebred Museum, Lexington / Through June 2023

Cool Kentucky

(Photo: Frazier History Museum)

Through its diverse arts, customs, and achievements, Kentucky possesses a unique culture that many believe has helped change the world. This exhibition is designed to bring the state to life in all of its many facets, inspiring thought, providing insight, and bringing understanding about who Kentucky people are, how they came to be, and where they can go. Highlights include KentuckyShow!, an emotionally compelling multimedia experience that takes visitors on a journey to discover all the things that make Kentucky so engaging.

Frazier History Museum, Louisville / Ongoing

Here and There: Navigating the Cultural In-Between

This exhibition explores a diverse range of works from Korean ceramic artists that negotiate the complexities of bicultural identities and perspectives. Despite the commonality of Korean heritage, these artists navigate cross cultural influences as they pertain to their own unique histories and lived experiences which are manifested through ways of making. The exhibition showcases subversive forms that cull from history, mythologies, and techniques between east and west, as well as unique markers of their own histories that are specific to their own personal experiences.

Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights / 6 – 23 March 2023