Award-Winning Art Project Officially Expands to Louisville

LOUISVILLE — A nationally and internationally recognized public art project that began in Lexington has officially expanded to Louisville.

What do you want to know

  • The “I am Here” project started in 2016
  • he has won several awards
  • The Louisville Project offers augmented reality experiences
  • Muhammad Ali Center, Roots 101 Museum also partners

the “I was here” The project began in Lexington in 2016 with a set of iconic ancestor spirit portraits created by photographing contemporary black people as archetypal ancestor spirits. The portraits embody family and form cohesive, ethereal images that convey the dignity of the black individual and family. Lexington is home to Cheapside, once the largest auction site of enslaved Africans west of the Allegheny Mountains.

Now, Downtown Louisville Partnership and the office of District 4 Metro Boardthey are sponsoring the first phase of the “I Was Here” project – a augmented reality (AR) experience to engage downtown visitors interested in learning more about the historical significance of Black Americans in the city’s business district. Roots 101 Museum and the Muhammad Ali Center are partner sites of the project.

According to its description, the project “allows visitors to witness an unseen story, to examine who we are for each other, who we are as a nation and, most importantly, how we can work to repair the wounds created by slavery”.

Portraits of ancestor spirits like those on display around Lexington have been installed at the Muhammad Ali Center in addition to five AR sites: the main lobby of the Muhammad Ali Center, the Roots 101 Museum, the Arterburn Brothers Slave Pen historical marker on the 1st Street just south of Market Street, Garrison Slave Pen Historic Marker at the southeast corner of 2nd and Main Streets and the building across from the Garrison Slave Pen Historic Marker at 122 W. Main Street.

An app provides the AR experience available on iOS and Android platforms.

“While Black History Month is an essential part of our cultural learning, Black history is American history and should be recognized every month,” said Rebecca Fleischaker, executive director of the Louisville Downtown Partnership. “By combining technology with public art and public history, this installation project acknowledges wounds and history, providing a unique forum for education, discussion and healing.”

The project has received grants and honors from the American Association for State and Local History, the National Endowment for the Arts, CODAworx, Kentucky Humanities, and the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation, among others.

“Black Americans are on every page of our nation’s history, but in most cases we are written in invisible ink,” said Jecorey Arthur, alderman for District 4 Metro. “Our city, our republic and our country were built with our blood, our sweat and our tears. This project will honor those contributions while offering hope to all who carry on the fight.

Marilyn Jackson, president and CEO of the Muhammad Ali Center, said the project adds a dimension to learning about black history.

“The AR experience provides an immersive, sensory snapshot of the past that you experience in the present,” she said. “At the entrance to the Ali Center storefront, visitors will see an ancestor spirit-angel rising from the water to the soundscape of a motherless child. The emotional impact is something that cannot be reproduced by reading manuals.We are proud to be part of the “I Was Here” project.

Roots 101 founder and owner Lamont Collins said “I Was Here” is a step toward an accurate telling of history.

“We were bulldozers before bulldozers, jackhammers before jackhammers, and engineers before engineering degrees,” Collins said. “We built the place we call America.”

A second phase of the “I Was Here” project in Louisville is dependent on future funding and is under development.

About Margaret L. Portillo

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