Louisville’s Fiber Legend: The Life and Work of Alma Lesch

In honor of Women’s History Month, “Louisville’s Fiber Legend: The Life and Work of Alma Lesch,” is on display at the University of Louisville’s Bridwell Art Library. The exhibit consists of artifacts from the Alma Lesch manuscript collection. The papers in this collection include correspondence with galleries, museums and schools concerning exhibitions and workshops; articles in newspapers and magazines about Alma Lesch; exhibition catalogs which include Lesch’s work; supporting materials for workshops Lesch conducted; publications and newsletters from Shakertown; articles, newspaper clippings and ephemera on various art-related topics; lists of students and other documents from her tenure at UofL.

Alma Wallace Lesch (1917-1999) lived her whole life in Kentucky, and although her career as a working artist started in her 40s, she attained a width and breadth of textile arts that few can attain.

Earning a B.S./Education from Murray State (1941), and a Masters of Education from the University of Louisville (1962), Alma had her first career as a 3rd grade teacher, then taught at Louisville School of Art (1961-1978) and became an Adjunct Faculty at University of Louisville (1975-1982); while at UofL she founded the Textiles Program. She also taught at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and Arrowmont School of Crafts. By 1974, she was named a Master Craftsman by the American Crafts Council, was awarded The Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in Arts in 1987.

Although Alma didn’t start her professional artistic career until the 1960s, her first quilt was started at age 5 and completed at age 12, while learning embroidery and sewing from her mother and grandmother.

Most noted for her innovative fabric portraits made by sewing vintage clothing while adding embellishments that helped describe the person, Alma also worked with quilts, embroidered art, macramé, jewelry made from beads or buttons, collaged textile sculptures, woodcuts, basketry, and glass mosaics.

Alma is also a leading authority on natural dyes, writing several books.

Her works are found in several museums including the Speed Art Museum, Owensboro Museum of Fine Art, Evansville Museum of Arts and Science, the American Crafts Museum of New York, the Arrowmont School in Gatlinburg, and the Flint (Mich.) Institute of Art, as well as the Bridwell Art Library/UofL.

The Louisville Courtier Journal called her the “Undisputed Grande Dame of KY textiles and a pioneer in the National Crafts Movement.” A historical marker is found in her honor in Shepherdsville, KY.

Art Library Remote Resources and Services

Wondering how to access art and architecture books while the Art Library is closed?

The University of Louisville has a trial subscription to the A&AePortal database which provides access to important art and art history scholarly books from some of the world’s finest publishers and museums such as Art Institute of Chicago, Princeton, and Yale University Press. This resource provides access to several titles owned by the Bridwell Art Library in an electronic format.  

RedShelf is offering free electronic textbooks to students whose institutions are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The e-books can be borrowed until May 25. The following texts are a sample of what’s available:

Stokstad’s Art: A Brief History
Gardner’s Art Through the Ages
Practices of Looking
Culture of Design
Art History: The Basics
Ways of Seeing

VitalSource is also offering free electronic textbooks to students at the University of Louisville. Use your UofL email to sign up. The e-books can be borrowed until May 25. The following texts are a sample of what’s available:

Stokstad’s Art: A Brief History
Art of Mesopotamia
Asian Art
Contemporary Art
Digital Art
Greek Art and Archaeology 
History of Modern Art
Janson’s History of Art
Medieval Art
Roman Art
Roman Art & Archaeology
The Art of Writing About Art
What is “Islamic Art”?
Women Artists

Check out the Art Library Remote Resources and Services guide for information about remote access to library resources and services for art faculty and students. If you have any questions about accessing resources while off-campus, contact the Art Library at artlib@louisville.edu.

2020 Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon Postponed

We regret to announce our Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon event has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our top priority is the health and safety of our faculty, staff, students, and community. We will keep you informed once the event has been rescheduled.

2020 Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon

Wikimedia’s gender trouble is well-documented. While the reasons for the gender gap are up for debate, the practical effect of this disparity is not: content is skewed by the lack of female participation. This represents an alarming absence in an increasingly important repository of shared knowledge.

Let’s change that. On Friday, March 13, from 5-8 p.m., the University of Louisville Libraries will host a Wiki Edit-a-Thon at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, presented by Art + Feminism.

Join us for a communal updating of Wikipedia entries on women artists. We will provide tutorials for the beginner Wikipedian and resources on artists. Bring your laptop and power cord and enjoy refreshments in a relaxed, drop-in environment. People of all gender identities and expressions are invited to participate.

Admission to the event is free as part of Late ‘Til 8 Fridays at the Speed.


All-Libraries MLK Exhibit Leads Visitors Through Civil Rights Timeline

To honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King on his birthday, all University of Louisville’s libraries will participate in an exhibit of posters and materials celebrating Dr. King’s life, “A Walk Through the Civil Rights Movement with the University Libraries.”

MLK 2020

The exhibit highlights pivotal events in the civil rights movement in the United States, beginning with the Brown v Board of Education decision in 1954, and ending with Dr. King’s assassination in 1968. Visitors can follow the panels’ timeline starting in Kornhauser Library, then moving to Music, Law, Archives and Special Collections, Ekstrom, and ending at the Art Library.

The featured panels commemorating the civil rights movement once hung in Ekstrom Library for a decade. Each library will display some of the panels and supplement the exhibit with their own materials.

An accompanying MLK digital timeline and Library Guide (LibGuide) will reference all materials displayed in the exhibit, showcasing the numerous civil rights-related works within each library’s collection. It will be linked to the University Libraries’ website.

New Art Library Director Makes Outreach a Priority

Helping art students feed their craft by learning about art-bookmaking; promoting visual research across disciplines; bringing the library to where students are on campus – these are the goals that drive UofL’s new Art Library Director, Courtney Baron.

Since beginning work in August, Baron has focused on a broad agenda of promoting the library’s resources and services to its core constituency, fine arts students and faculty, as well as to non-art students and researchers across campus.

“We want to raise awareness that we’re here, and make people aware of some of the things that make us unique,” she said.

These distinctive offerings – a growing collection of artists’ books; high-profile visual art databases; over 300 domestic and foreign journals and museum bulletins; and a bevy of materials in fine art, graphic design, painting, sculpture, interior architecture, fiber art, art education, and photography – are a reason so many current and former UofL art students and faculty continue to visit and contribute to the library.

Baron is excited to talk about the library’s 400+ artists’ books. Works of art themselves, the books reveal surprising, creative, sometimes hilarious takes on the construction of a book. Some are tiny, some sculptural, made with exotic or unusual materials, and all are photographed for visual reference and appear on the library’s website.

“Students can learn the various techniques shown in each book construction and gain inspiration for making their own books. We really want them to be inspired.”

Another singular library offering among its digital collections is Artstor Digital Library, an online database of great works of art scanned at high resolution.

Artstor is such a great resource in that it offers images at an extremely high quality with accurate color and representation,” she said. “You can zoom into each work of art to see a fine level of detail without much pixilation. It’s a visual resource aid that is useful certainly for fine arts students and faculty, but also non-art students and researchers.”

Students of geography, theater, information technology, and other areas can use visual research in their scholarship; such participation across disciplines could spark many creative and inspiring projects, she said.

“I am really excited to collaborate as much as possible with other areas on campus. Theater, pan-African studies, the Commonwealth Center for Humanities and other departments have so many interdisciplinary projects where we might partner.”

In addition to spreading the word about the library’s collections, Baron wants to make sure faculty and students know they can receive one-on-one research consultations, walk-in appointments and in-class lectures on information literacy.

“We will always be student-centered. I want students to know about our collections and services and particularly that our staff are a resource for research assistance. We’ve set up our virtual chat service and research consultation scheduling system so students can get one-on-one help,” she said.

The focus on research help for students extends from the library to the classroom. Baron hopes to increase collaboration with faculty in the classroom to build the information and visual literacy skills of art students. “I see myself as a facilitator of student learning, encouraging students to pursue topics that excite them and building their confidence in the research process.”

She also is seeking ways to “be visible to our art students and faculty where they are. So it’s important to figure out how to bring the library to all the different spaces on and off the Belknap campus,” like the Cressman building downtown, which houses glass studios, and the new Portland MFA Studio in western Louisville.

“I also want to make some community connections, particularly with the Speed Art Museum. I also plan to partner with the Hite Art Institute to reach out to the west Louisville community – there are many opportunities in the Portland neighborhood – particularly among high schools and students where there is a need for more resources. There are also many opportunities with galleries around town.”

Baron most recently served as Head of Library Teaching and Outreach Services at Oxford College Library, Emory University in Atlanta. Previously, she was director of visual resources at Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia. She earned her MLIS from Valdosta State University and her undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia in Classical Archaeology and Latin.

Baron’s love of the arts encompasses more than the visual: from elementary through high school, she danced with the Atlanta Ballet. She has also appeared in productions with the Northeast ballet. After high school she focused on other forms of dance, including ballroom dancing and a four-year stint with the Modern Pin-Ups, a dance performance company in Athens, Georgia.

Scenes from the Libraries Holiday Party 2019

University Libraries personnel noshed, swapped stories, and enjoyed good company at the annual holiday luncheon on December 11. Dean Bob Fox and the administrative team supported and arranged the buffet lunch.