Center offers local artists
new place to call home
former meat packing plant has shops,
rental space for special events
LOUISVILLE, KY. (June 2006) Louisville and
its surrounding communities are filled with vibrant local art, music
and culture scenes, but no one place encompasses all the scenes quite
like the Mellwood Arts and Entertainment Center.
by Michella Marino
Moss works at her booth
in the Mellwood Center.
This new facility at 1860 Mellwood Ave. is located in
a former meat packing plant but since 2003 has been the artsy vision
of local developer John Clark and his family. Clarks wife is also
a painter, so he realized the necessity and potential for an art center
where emerging artists could work, display and sell their wares.
He saw the need for this, said Scooter Davidson, Mellwoods
leasing and marketing director.
According to Davidson, the Mellwood project is loosely based on a few
other factory-turned-art center projects like the restoration and recreation
of the former torpedo factory in Alexandria, Va. However, the torpedo
factory was only 87,000 square feet, whereas this reconverted meat packing
plant encompasses four times the footage.
Clark loved the Louisville factory building with its original brick
still intact and its unique architecture, so he hired Moseley Putney,
an architect who specializes in adaptive reuse, to turn the old factory
into a spunky character-filled art center. Under Putneys tutelage,
Mellwood changed its zoning from heavy industrial to that of a covered
mall like Oxmoor or St. Matthews. Davidson said no live animals
have been in the factory for almost a decade.
Thus, as of September 2003, Mellwood Arts and Entertainment Center has
housed a variety of art studios, galleries, retail stores, restaurants,
event rooms, and even a fitness center. Mellwood continues to grow daily
and is a work in progress. The first two phases of Mellwood are completed,
but several floors of the building are still under renovation and construction.
For instance, the street level floor of the building, which is 13,000
square feet, will be completed around August and will house a furniture
and design center, which will also feature antiques. Due to be completed
in 2007 is the three-story open air Mellwood Tenant Gallery Bar, and
a theater is also in the works. Davidson hopes that some of the upper
floors will be turned into offices for businesses that would enjoy working
in an artful environment.
Mellwood boasts a large special events room including a patio and balcony
and adjacent lawn area that can be rented out for such events as weddings,
art shows, fundraisers, proms, dance recitals, plays, book readings,
reunions, corporate luncheons or parties.
The room itself is 10,430 square feet and holds up to 720 people seated,
which makes it one of the largest rentable rooms in the area. A second,
smaller event room, which holds 125 people seated and is 4,000 square
feet, should be completed by August, and the lobby of the art center
can also be rented out.
by Michella Marino
addition to artist studios for rent,
the Mellwood Center Arts and
Entertainment Center offers a restaurant
and fitness center, and rents space
for special events.
Several events are being held at Mellwood this summer.
On July 28-29, Mellwood will play host to the fifth annual Forecastle
Festival. According to a publication for the event, it is the
largest regional gathering of artists, musicians, and (environmental)
activists featuring national headliners. Estimated attendance
for the Forecastle Festival is expected to be between 5,000-6,000 people.
The 10th anniversary Benefit for the Shamrock Foundation, Inc. Art
for the Animals will also be held at the Mellwood Center. This
event will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 3. Art for the Animals
will include a silent and live art auction, gourmet hors doeuvres,
fine wine, BBC beer, and live jazz. Mellwood also participates in the
F.A.T. Friday Trolley Hops that are held on the last Friday of every
month from 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Plenty of free parking is available
at the art center and a trolley stops by every 10-12 minutes.
Despite continual construction and renovation, almost 200 various artists
and businesses have made their home at the center. Items ranging from
jewelry, oil paintings, posters, mirrors, woodwork, clothes, pots, vases,
paper mache can be found there. Music is also available on the weekends
in the courtyard, and the Moms Music Headquarters will soon take
over the old Tumbleweed building next door.
Art and music go together, so this is the best thing to happen
for this whole corridor, Davidson said. However, businesses are
also represented that arent so directly related to art, such as
a spa, hair salon, interior design, café and a fitness center
to name a few. As more space is completed, more studio and retail space
will open up.
Celia Smith, owner of Celias @ Mellwood, has rented
space since Mellwood first opened in 2003. She initially used the space
as a working studio but now has a retail store that houses her own creations,
along with showcasing other artists work that isnt normally carried
in the area. Smiths store features home and personal accessories
and she enjoys hunting for quirky, functional stuff to sell
in her store.
I have no doubt that Mellwood Center, when completed, will become
a major destination place, Smith said. It will be able to
entertain people all day long. Its perfect for an art center sightly
bizarre and interesting.
Janie Moss, another local artisan and studio owner at Mellwood, shares
Smiths feelings. Moss is a working artist who focuses on what
she calls fun arts such as paper mache. Moss has rented
space in Mellwood since December 2005 and has virtually been there everyday
I love it because its my second home, Moss said. She
has discovered a great camaraderie between the artists in the center
to the point where some of the women even host a girls night out.
Theres a real good feeling among us.
For more information on the Mellwood Arts and
Entertainment Center, call (502) 895-3650. or visit: www.mellwoodartcenter.com.
Back to June 2006 Articles.