Kentucky’s Speed Art Museum to create $22m sculpture park

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The Speed Art Museum In Louisville, the oldest and largest art museum in Kentucky, is about to expand even further. On 15 August, it revealed plans to create The Speed Outdoors, which will transform three acres of surrounding grounds into public green space. Expected to open in late 2025, the sculpture park will be free and open at all hours as a community-centric extension of the museum’s galleries. A $22m capital campaign is underway to fund the project.

The Speed Outdoors will include 13 large-scale sculptures (bequeathed by the late Al Shands and his wife, Mary)—with works by artists like Zaha Hadid and Sol LeWitt comprising the backbone of its initial installation. With design oversight by Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architecture, the space will feature outdoor sculptures from the museum’s growing collection as well as collaborations with contemporary land artists, which the museum hopes will reach a larger intersection of the surrounding community. Special events and educational activities are also in the offing, as is a plan to cultivate pollinator-friendly native vegetation, plant more than 150 indigenous trees and build recreational areas. One of the few public parks in central Louisville, museum leaders expect the Speed Outdoors will attract around 500,000 visitors per year.

“The Speed Outdoors represents our vision for a museum shaped by dedication to inclusivity, belonging and boundless forms of creativity,” Raphaela Platow, director of the Speed Art Museum, said in a statement. “Paying homage to the Olmsted brothers’ dream of a Louisville connected by public parklands and emphasising the restorative potential of accessible green space, it will serve as a welcoming forum for the whole community to connect with art, nature and each other for generations to come.”

Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. designed many parks and university campuses across the United States, but only five “park systems”, the last of which was in Louisville. Between 1891 and 1935, Olmsted and his sons, John Charles and Frederick Law Jr., created 18 parks and six parkways throughout the city. After a series of interstate encroachments and natural disasters, the Olmsted Parks Conservancy was established to renew the parks, and has been working in partnership with Louisville Parks and Recreation on a major revamp of Olmsted’s original vision since 1989. The museum sees the Speed Outdoors as a new chapter in the Olmsted vision.

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