I’m sitting in my bedroom in Germantown, reflecting on my last three-plus years here in Louisville. It’s strange to feel like I’m home. Home. This concept has been a moving target in my life, as I’ve moved from St. Simons Island (my hometown) to Charleston, to Chicago, back to Charleston, and then, finally, here. I’ve visited a lot of places I considered moving. I’ve written essays, poems, and short narratives about what it means to have roots in a place. Well, mostly I’ve dreamed about what it would feel like to have that. And then I moved here and home happened. Sometimes I think there’s something in the water. Most of the time I take a long, hard look at my life and the people I’ve met here in town – the ones who inspire me to keep moving, making, going – and I know why I love it here so much.
I won’t lie: This last year in Louisville has been tough. I got divorced. I moved houses. My job was at its peak of stress. It was tough to get out with a smile. And then I shook myself awake. I reached out to my Louisville community – one that, even in my darkest hours, has supported me. Other cities aren’t like this. Let me be clear: It’s not a contest. It’s just a reflection.
I’ve lived places where the creative communities had an invisible wall between them and anyone new – “clubs” with nondescript entry fees. For some reason, Louisville just accepted me, the new kid in town, warts and all. When I started my blog, discoveringlouisville.tumblr.com, people read it, emailed me, and wanted to hang out. When I wanted to bring theater to my students, Actors Theatre of Louisville helped me fill out grant paperwork and brought local actor Keith McGill into my classroom. When I decided I needed to do something outside of my comfort zone, my pal Bret got me connected with Sharon Scott and the ART+FM community. All of the sudden, I had a Sunday evening radio show and another new pack of pals in this lovely, swirling, diverse community. When I wanted to go on an adventure, friends like Patrick Jilbert took me exploring in the Kentuckiana parks. When I decided that I wanted to get healthier, people in the yoga community stepped up to help me pick out vitamins, map out my diet, and get back to the mat. I am enveloped by community here. It keeps me going.
When friends visit me in Louisville, they accompany me on bike rides to restaurants like Harvest or Eiderdown. We take walks in the park. We visit independently owned coffee shops, bike shops, and music shops. We go to art openings. If it’s hot, I take them to the Atlantis Water Park and we float about in the wave pool and giggle. They go back to their city. Then they come back. Louisville becomes a part of them. It keeps happening.
I realized that Louisville was my home when I stopped looking for the next move. Everything I want is here. And now that my feet are planted – now that the roots cling to the earth – I can work on important life things: career, friendships, and hobbies. There is a calm in me that never existed before I moved here.
When I ride my bike around Cherokee Park, I remember the first time I saw it all. I remember I thought the trees were showing off. I still do.
Every day, the folks here remind me that I am a part of something bigger than myself. Indeed, our sweet city pulses with the motivation, drive, and dreams of people who want to make things happen.
Louisville is the city where I live. It is home. I like it here.
Stacy’s community on Louisville:
Founder of Louisville MUSICulture and the nicest guy in town, 28 years
“Louisville has given me so much over the years, for which I am eternally indebted. The arts and music community has not only been a source of constant and evolving inspiration while living here in Louisville, but it has also been mostly responsible for the livelihood of both my family and me throughout the years. This town has so much to offer in terms of communitywide happenings, arts and music festivals, public education forums and events, and cross-cultural gatherings that encourage those from all walks of life to bond together, while still placing importance on maintaining one’s unique identity too. For me personally, it is that sense of true commonwealth in which I thrive as an individual, but also as an engaged member of this unique and diverse populace.”
Owner of Greenhaus, lifer
“Growing up and participating in the music scene here, there has always been, within everybody it seems, a desire to not copy anyone. If you want to be heard and gain respect, you better not sound like the next band over, or your influences. The culture here has always pushed me to make my own path.”
Toy altruist of KFHC, lifer
“I started my site (KFHC) to document some of my (mis)adventures, along with my love of Japanese toys and weirdness, but along the way it has morphed into something bigger and better. I try to help promote and cover our city’s ever-changing and growing scene. I now have a growing database of footage and pictures from shows that have taken place in Louisville. It’s amazing the amount of talent that this city has.”
Owner of Ultra Pop!, transplant
“Moving to Louisville, I just felt like it had a lot more to offer than one would assume from the surface. Ultra Pop! is a labor of love and, by opening my store, I was able to discover the wealth of creative people and artists who are here. When I look back at my most important friendships I have in the city, all have basis in the store.”
Sarah Teeple Swain
Lead singer in The Ladybirds, lifer
“Louisville is such a little bohemian oasis. There is a huge number of multitalented folks here who are also so down to earth. That’s one thing that I think sets Louisville apart from some of the bigger cities in the U.S. We’re home to some of the most skilled musicians, but there is often no pretension. And that is damn refreshing! I’m constantly inspired and humbled by the number of creative people here and all the cool projects they’re involved in. Not just in the arts either. So many of my peers are so committed to community service in areas like neighborhood beautification, cultural awareness, youth outreach, and so much more. Having worked in nonprofit for years, I am totally inspired by [organizations] like [Kentuckians For The Commonwealth] and the Center for Neighborhoods and all they do. Around every corner, selfless people are doing good work.”
Jeffrey Lee Puckett
Music writer at The Courier-Journal, lifer
“Louisville offers a variety of opportunities. And people here will support someone who does things right and with some heart, some passion. I never wanted to be an investigative journalist or be the first person to blog that Kanye has a new track. I want to write about what people do, not what they did 30 seconds ago. Louisville allows that. Once I fell into my job, I just never felt there was a good enough reason to leave. There’s a real appreciation for the arts here, including musicians who are dedicated to having genuinely meaningful careers at whatever level. Some want to go big and some just want to play a show and go home. I can appreciate both desires. Music has always been my go-to life support and the musicians here have very kindly let me into their worlds, which has allowed me to appreciate music’s potential and power even more. I’ve been able to see them at work, to get some insight into the process of turning words and music into colors, explosions, and emotions. I’ve been able to develop at my own, very slow, pace and no one has fired me because I’m too deliberate. Except for Bacon’s department store. They weren’t into slow and deliberate.”
“Louisville is a great place for a beginning performing artist. There are a ton of open mics for comics and theater opportunities for beginning actors. Plus, I think the comedy and theater communities are very welcoming and supportive of folks not originally from Louisville. I know a lot of comics especially who have moved to Louisville from Indy, Nashville, Chicago. If you’re a comedian who drives a lot, Louisville, Kentucky is central to the eastern half of the United States. Once you’re in this artistic
community, you’re in.”
President and visionary of ART+FM, transplant
“When I moved here, Louisville was the awkward teenager of the American landscape, growing quickly, uncomfortably. In just over a decade, the city has grown into a charming young socialite, kicking her heels up with the movers and shakers. It is exciting to see her suddenly take command of the national contemporary arts scene through expansions at local institutions and riveting shows at local galleries. There is no doubt that I have grown alongside the art scene of Louisville to become more focused on my mission, accomplished with my work, and confident in my abilities. The supportive environment among artists, curators, and collectors here in Louisville is unlike any I have experienced in my travels. I owe much of my success to this collaborative atmosphere. I love Louisville because it provides me the space, breath, and freedom to give flight to ideas that in other cities only felt like dreams.”
“Now that I am a wife and mother, I have a new appreciation for my city. There is always something for us to do with our kids. Seneca Park, Cherokee Park, Tyler Park, the zoo, the [Kentucky Science Center], a Louisville Bats game, or the Louisville Slugger Museum – this is just a few. This small list doesn’t even include some of our favorite places that are not far outside of the city. Louisville is blessed with incredible farmers’ markets, small boutiques, and too many wonderful restaurants to even name. Louisville has many other local businesses that can fulfill any wish you may have. We choose to stay in Louisville because we love it. We are grounded here by family and friends. We do love to travel, but there is no place like Louisville – The Derby City, Gateway to the South, The ‘Ville, River City, my home!”
Owner of Kopilot Press, lifer
“Louisville is a small, tight-knit community. I feel like I live in a small town. Every time I leave the house, I run into people I have known or met over the years. I feel like I am always waving or saying hi to someone I have met over the years. I have lived and worked in the community and I feel like people know who I am and that makes me feel like I am part of the community.”
Bartender at El Mundo, transplant
“This city has been like a friend with benefits.”
Violinist and cellist in Quiet Hollers, transplant, 5 years
“I knew there were more opportunities, but I didn’t know how much there was until I started to get into ‘the scene’ and meet new people, word of mouth. It’s actually a cool community like that and I really do believe it is one of the better communities I’ve been a part of. People are cool about talking and letting me be a part of whatever. I guess the most important way it’s helped me thrive is to be surrounded by creativity. Also, I haven’t had a vehicle in a year and a half. It is possible to get around Louisville by public transit, walking, and biking. This is a really good place to have a home base – everyone that you know and all of these things going on. People who move away come back. What they thought they were looking for elsewhere, they already had here in Louisville.”
Owner of LIFEbar and Ready Valet, transplant
“Louisville is a city of open arms. It’s very sound, not too glamorous, easygoing, and nurturing. It’s cheap enough to get into business without putting a lot on the front end. I don’t know if my businesses could have happened anywhere else. LIFEbar started as a community-oriented thing and I opened it because there was nothing else like it in town. I wanted a place to be my bar and now it’s a serious business.”
“Falling into the local yoga community has also helped me to find some grounding. During a particularly rough period in my life several years ago, I discovered this community, with its tight-knit group of studios and instructors. We have a very vibrant yoga presence in Louisville, which has helped to shape me (and teach me lessons) throughout the last few years!”
Graphic artist and baker, lifer
“People in Louisville are really open minded and they want you to try new things. It’s a great place to be a small business and it’s a good place to be a designer. I would recommend Louisville as a place to be. I’ve always lived here and, when I picture my life, I always see Louisville as a part of it. Quite a few transplants say they were looking for something their town didn’t have. I’ve never felt that way here. We have great grocery stores, food, outdoors, music. It’s a progressive city that fits into my lifestyle.”
Artist/local lurker, lifer
“Louisville has been a good place to pursue goals without feeling intimidated or overwhelmed. In that sense, it’s much easier to get things accomplished that way. I was raised here and it’s a comfortable place to live. Lots of friends and acquaintances are here, so it feels like a smaller town that way. I’ve lived other places and enjoyed them, but they just make me appreciate Louisville even more.”
Writer, public information officer for the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District, lifer
“I think Louisville is a mix of cosmopolitan and provincial, but in a good way. People are knowledgeable of the outside world; they are keenly aware of the issues of the world and of cultural happenings. This is a town where people are motivated to create and do something. And it’s a safe place to do something because you’re not under the 24/7 pressure you’d find in New York, LA, or Paris. You can operate at your own pace to get your feet under you. There is also a standard of excellence in the culture here. People know what’s good, from coffee to bourbon, film to artwork. Overall, we are a city with a good sense of those things, so you have to bring your A-game. But you also won’t get crushed if you’re not perfect right away. There are many opportunities to reach your stride. After school I went other places, but I wanted to come back to Louisville because I liked it here. It’s rare to have a feeling about a place so fondly. There are so many towns who all have something special going on, but I do think that Louisville has a lot of special things because of the location. We’re not north, south, east, or west, so it’s got a certain uniqueness. I’m not sure if it’s in the DNA here that makes it more intangible – this quality about why Louisville feels different than other places, but it just does.”
Managing director at Actors Theatre of Louisville, transplant, 6.5 years
“I moved to Louisville for a dream job. Actors Theatre is one of the best in the country and I’m thrilled to play my part. Because this community values the direct and indirect impact the arts have on people’s lives, it is really rewarding to be a part of civic dialogue about how the arts can impact the economy as well as quality of life. It was an unexpected growth opportunity to be able to participate in shaping the future of the community as a whole. Louisville has everything a person who is interested and curious about the world needs, on a scale that makes it accessible instead of overwhelming. There is an easier way of going about the business of living your life (errands, parking, no traffic, etc.) that offers a more calming existence. I also appreciate the vibrancy and eclectic nature of Louisville. It makes a truly rewarding and fulfilling place to live. And the welcoming nature of the community is the best.”
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