By ASHLEY ANDERSON
In the last two decades, Kathy Oyler and Patty Kantlehner have witnessed the progression of The Speed Art Museum, a Louisville treasure, through their commitment to numerous volunteer activities around town.
Oyler and Kantlehner’s initial involvement with the Louisville institution began in 1990 and 1991, respectively. Today, they serve as co-chairs of The Speed’s new Board of Governors and eagerly look ahead to the museum’s future.
“Our friendship has been decades, has been through young marrieds, through children,” Oyler said. “We’ve always found time to give some time, and this year, we’re back together (through the Board of Governors) after a little hiatus.”
“The nice thing about the Board of Governors that we’re really enjoying is that it’s so diverse,” Kantlehner added. “People who are brand new to town, young to old, and maybe a few who are a couple years older, lots of experience with The Speed, no experience with The Speed, it’s all different types of faces. It’s really, really fun.”
Before joining the entity established to promote The Speed Art Museum within the community, Oyler and Kantlehner each served as president of The Speed’s volunteer arm, the Alliance – now the pARTnership – and chaired the annual spring gala, The Speed Ball. “When (The Speed Ball) was at the museum, many times, that’s the only time people in the community came to (The Speed Art Museum) the whole year,” said Oyler. “A lot of leaders in the community came, leaders in the state. … It was a fundraiser, bottom-line, but then also to have community leaders come into the museum and have a connection with it and enjoy being there was really important.”
Now, The Speed Ball will – for the first time in 40 years – head outside the museum to The Gillespie as The Speed undergoes its three-year $50 million expansion and renovation. The first spring gala of the year in Louisville, The Speed Ball is the largest fundraiser for the institution’s education programs, exhibitions and family activities.
“(The Speed Art Museum is) right there, but it’s like a hidden jewel,” Kantlehner said of the importance in supporting the museum. “You travel and maybe go to different museums, when we have some fabulous pieces of art (at The Speed). And our world has gotten so tech-y, which can be good, but to experience some of those pieces, I just love that. And the new building space will be so different than the older part, but even the older part there’s all sorts of areas that I’ve always loved just to kind of (visit), and it’s peaceful, and I just think that it has a lot to offer.”
Not only is the museum physically changing as a result of its expansion project, but its community appeal and support has increased tremendously. “We’ve also seen sort of an opening up of The Speed,” Oyler related. “A long time ago it was a little more insular, it was sort of run by the same people who ran everything in town, and it’s now a lot more diverse and open to anybody who wants to roll up their sleeves and work.”
Through Speed About Town, the museum is extending its outreach even further while the museum’s galleries are closed to the public. The initiative collaborates with local organizations including the Frazier History Museum to host enriching and engaging events, from artist lectures to art exhibitions, held about once a month for Speed members. “The Speed has a real involved outreach, not only just in terms of art, but performance artists and musicians and all sorts of things are happening as far as the calendar at The Speed is concerned,” Oyler said.
While Oyler and Kantlehner share many fond memories and have grown even closer as friends from their past participation with The Speed, their focus now is on the advancement of the independent museum as it searches for its new permanent director/CEO, as well as the expansion that will turn the building into one of the finest experiential art museums in the country. “What will be interesting will be the search for our new director, and each director brings some thing of their personality,” Kantlehner said. “The person they get, I think, will be so lucky because they’re going to have a new facility, they’ve got a clean slate as far as the programming, so it’s going to be really interesting and I’m sure it will be different.”
“I think The Speed is part of the anchor of our community,” Oyler continued. “We’ve got an incredible art scene with ballet, opera, performing arts, actors, children’s theater, and the museum is one of the bedrocks with the original, and I’d love to see that continue and grow and grow and grow. I’d love to see people in the (entire state of Kentucky) taking an interest in the museum.”
Fore more information on The Speed Art Museum, its expansion and the 40th annual Speed Ball, held March 2 at The Gillespie, visit www.speedmuseum.org.
Contact writer Ashley Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org, 502.498.2051.