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Louisville's 10 Best Cultural Events and Festivals this August

Louisville's 10 Best Cultural Events and Festivals this August

Picture of Michelle Combs
Updated: 9 February 2017
On the border of the South and the Midwest, Louisville, Kentucky, offers an eclectic mix of some of the best cultural offerings of both regions. From exhibitions of Midwest artists to the Southern charm and tradition of the Kentucky State Fair, River City has it all. Enjoy Shakespeare in Old Louisville, bourbon on the Ohio River and cutting edge contemporary art in a distillery all during the month of August.

Art | Duke Riley: See You at the Finish Line at 21c Museum Hotel

23 April – 31 August

Interested in the ‘space where the water meets the land’, artist Duke Riley investigates states of transition through multi-media installations. See You at the Finish Line consists of two bodies of work, one focused on the illicit cigar trade in Cuba and the other centred on zodiac mythology in China. This exhibition questions the surveillance state, examines cultural traditions and creates a spectacle out of futility. Duke Riley’s work will be on display through the end of August and can be seen 24 hours a day in the lobby of 21c Museum Hotel, along with other works and exhibitions of the permanent collection.

21c Museum Hotel, 700 West Main Street, Louisville, KY, USA, +1 (502) 217 6300

Theatre | Shakespeare in Central Park

11 June – 17 August

Louisville’s Shakespeare in Central Park is the oldest free Shakespeare festival in the United States. The range of the programme is impressive: over the course of ten weeks, the company will present 56 performances of eight different plays. From the comedy of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ to the drama and tragedy of ‘Hamlet’, this summer celebration of the Bard showcases the best of the English language’s greatest playwright. Beyond the more famous works, Artistic Director Matt Wallace also seeks to represent less performed works, such as ‘Women of Will’ and ‘Pericles’. ‘Henry V’ represents Shakespeare’s history plays. All performances begin at 8pm in Old Louisville’s historic Central Park.

Central Park, 1340 South Fourth Street, Louisville, KY, USA, +1 (502) 574 9900

Cressman Center
Cressman Center Entrance | Courtesy Cressman Center

Art | Helen Tegeler: Growth at the Cressman Center for Visual Arts

Through 16 August

Growth chronicles glass artist Helen Tegeler’s fascination with nature in transition and the relationship between human experience and organic plant life. The exhibition also examines the human desire to classify and collect, and thus understand and master, the natural world. Tegeler has recently incorporated fibre and other media into her glass artworks, expanding tactile and visual possibilities within her oeuvre. Works within this exhibition display the delightful results of her experimentation, with juxtapositions such as felt and glass presenting creative contrasts. Additionally, Growth is a commemoration of Tegeler’s residency as a visiting faculty member of the University of Louisville, which owns the downtown Cressman Center for Visual Arts. Admission to the exhibition is free.

Cressman Center for Visual Arts, 100 East Main Street, Louisville, KY, USA, +1 (502) 852 0288

Theatre | Spring Awakening at CenterStage in the Jewish Community Center

7 August – 17 August

To kick off its 100th Anniversary Season, CenterStage in the Jewish Community Center presents the Tony Award-winning rock musical ‘Spring Awakening’. A recipient of the coveted Best Musical Tony Award, ‘Spring Awakening’ is a modern adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s controversial 1891 expressionist play. The plot centres on the drama and joy of the teen protagonists as they struggle to navigate into adulthood, their journeys hampered by the conservative generation of their parents. The Anniversary Season will continue with productions of ‘Chicago’ and ‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’, concluding with ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ with other performances in between.

Jewish Community Center, 3600 Dutchmans Lane, Louisville, KY, USA, +1 (502) 459 0660

Art & Culture | Maker’s Mark: After Dark

29 August

The Maker’s Mark: After Dark experience is an exclusive after-hours tour of the historic Maker’s Mark Distillery in nearby Loretto, Kentucky. The behind the scenes tour showcases the entire distilling process and guests will also have the opportunity to hand-dip their own bottle of Maker’s in the famous red wax. Offered by Mint Julep Tours, the tour includes transportation, departing from the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, leaving bourbon enthusiasts free to fully enjoy the included bourbon tasting. While enjoying Kentucky’s favourite spirit, cultural travellers will also appreciate the newly acquired glass art installation by Dale Chihuly titled ‘The Spirit of the Maker’ in one of the distillery’s warehouses.

Mint Julep Tours Gift Shop, Galt House Hotel, 140 North Fourth Street, Louisville, KY, USA, +1 (502) 583 1433

Cinema & Music | Early Amateur Films of Kentucky and Beyond

1 August

Discovered about a year ago and recently restored by The Filson Historical Society, Judge Arthur E. Hopkins’s amateur films showcase the Louisville and Indianapolis of a bygone era. The restored films were premiered in June, and are now being shown again at NuLu gallery Dreamland. This rare footage documents the 59th running of the Kentucky Derby in 1933, biplanes flying over Bowman Field, and a towboat pushing a barge up the Ohio River, covered in sheets of ice. In addition, Nathan Salsburg of the Alan Lomax Archives has curated a soundtrack for the films. After the screening, Dreamland will have live music and members of the Filson Historical Society will be on hand to further discuss the history and restoration of these incredible films.

Dreamland, 810 East Market Street, Louisville, KY, USA

Theatre | Behind-the-Scenes Tech Event: Love’s Labour’s Lost

30 August

The Actors Theatre of Louisville is offering a rare experience for theatre buffs to have a sneak peek at their production of Shakespeare’s ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ and see how a professional production comes together before opening night. This free, but ticketed, event begins with hors d’oeuvres and then proceeds to a technical rehearsal for the show. The production itself is a modern re-imagining of the classic comedy and is part of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Shakespeare in American Communities programme. ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ will also be accompanied by an exhibition in the Actors Theatre Gallery: ‘The Bard and The Binghams: Shakespeare at Actors Theatre’.

Actors Theatre of Louisville, 316 West Main Street, Louisville, KY, USA, +1 (502) 584 1265

Music & Culture | Kentucky State Fair

14 – 24 August

A Kentucky tradition for over 100 years, the Kentucky State Fair is ten days of music, agricultural exhibitions, comedy shows, food, history and other attractions. This year’s concert headliners include Alabama, Lady Antebellum, Styx and Foreigner. There will also be free concerts from Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Plain White T’s, Kenny Rogers and Kentucky-natives the Oak Ridge Boys. The Kentucky Cookout tent features food grown and prepared in the state, highlighting Kentucky’s cuisine and agriculture. This is Horse Country, therefore the State Fair would not be complete without the World’s Championship Horse Show, the world’s richest and most prestigious Saddlebred horse show, awarding over $1 million in prize money.

Kentucky Exposition Center, 937 Phillips Lane, Louisville, KY, USA, +1 (502) 367 5000

Music | VinylFest

29 – 31 August

With performances of Steve Katz from Blood, Sweat and Tears and rare vinyl records for sale from dealers coming from all across the country, VinylFest is an analogue lover’s dream. The weekend festival also celebrates poster and album cover art with appearances by artists Ken Kelly, who has designed album covers for KISS and Coheed and Cambria, and Louisville-native Jeff Gaither, who has created art for Guns N’ Roses and The Misfits. Other guests include local and indie bands and analogue technology experts. Film screenings, collectible guitar exhibits and vinyl appraisals and history discussions round out the weekend. All tickets are purchased at the door.

Crowne Plaza Louisville, 830 Phillips Lane, Louisville, KY, USA, +1 (502) 367 2251

Music | Kentucky Bluegrass and Bourbon Experience

30 August – 1 September

This Labor Day festival celebrates two of Kentucky’s most famous exports: Bluegrass music and bourbon whisky. The popularity of both of these has exploded in the past decade or so, with Bluegrass artists enjoying increasing popular music crossover (think Alison Krauss) and the world’s thirst for bourbon only growing stronger. Guests will enjoy outdoor concerts along the Ohio River and can look to the bourbon tasting tent for some relief from the heat and humidity of late August. Last year’s bourbon tent offered over 21 different spirits for sampling to the tunes of Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, Dave Adkins & Republik Steele, and The Roys.

Louisville Water Tower Park, 3005 River Road, Louisville, KY, USA +1 (502) 583 0333

By Michelle Combs