The St James Court Art Show is held the first full weekend in October in Historic Old Louisville.
St. James Court Art Show was founded on October 12, 1957 by St. James Court Association president, Malcolm Bird. Back in 1957, St James Court Association was faced with an empty treasury, mounting debt for recent fountain repairs, and an immediate need to generate funds. The Art Show seemed to be a perfect means to pay the bills and bring residents together.
The Art Show started simply enough. “At first, it was to be an art exhibit only, although open to anyone wishing to enter an exhibit. The pictures were hung on a clothesline extending from tree to tree,” wrote Marguerite Gifford in her 1966 history, St. James Court in Retrospect.
In the early years, music was a part of the Art Show including special programs of chamber music, choral performances, and big band concerts. The Art Show also provided an opportunity to celebrate the history of St James Court. Plaques were placed on certain houses to honor their notable residents – poets, authors, and mayors.
In 1965, the Art Show’s profit was $700, sufficient to purchase and install twenty gas lights the following year. Ms. Gifford wrote, “They shed a gentle twinkling among the trees and a refined illumination giving emphasis to the atmosphere which prevails in the Court.” By 1967, Malcolm’s last year as chair, attendance reached 40,000. According to newspaper coverage, 200 exhibitors offered a “mélange of paintings, antiques, photographs, flowers, painted stones, portrait sketches, ceramic and assorted bric-a-brac.”
The Walking Tour and Cooking Guide of St. James Court declares “Although we are indebted to Malcolm for many things, the Art Show is foremost because we all know without this money-making event we could not have undertaken and completed the expensive projects that have made it possible for us to preserve this landmark (St. James Court).” The momentum of these improvements spurred housing restoration and a rebirth of St. James Court and Old Louisville that continues today.