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February 5, 2008

LAVA House

For six-and-a-half years, the Louisville Assembly of Vanguard Art lived in a warehouse on Shelby Parkway that burned to ashes last month. Here, a photo essay

 

What do you even say?

For a generation of young Louisville creators — artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers, punks, closet revolutionaries, wayward journeyfolks, innovators — the mothership has burned to the ground. The party’s over. Quarter the fun hog.

The six or so years that the LAVA House was around on Shelby Parkway, and the three when it fired on all cylinders, were foundational for a relatively small but affecting group of people, and equally meaningless for far more than that. How many people really knew what happened inside? Our only vantage point to this sort of culture-of-community phenomenon, and to the singular kind of creative process it conducts in its womb, is, was and will be standing inert at some gallery or airport hangar, glaring as some piece of art pulls at your energy without so much as twitching. You may briefly consider mimicry, standing inside the place during a rock show, surrounded by 500-some people, eardrums crackling and furious, but it’s embarrassing to even ride out the notion.

Because really, how many people think a steely warehouse full of artists and all kinds of random, weird shit is worth the tinder? A fire the size of a city block brought it down, took its keeper Bill Christie with it, took the poor dog Helvis too. That got your attention.

As humans, we all understand in some deep place that soul isn’t found in things, it’s found in people. Most of the people who made the Louisville Assembly of Vanguard Art a viable institution of this city’s superior underground culture are still around, and lucky for us, they still care. The ones who lived and worked at the LAVA House as of two weeks ago, their tools are gone. For a few, everything is gone, burned up, contributing to the pile of ash that still litters the warehouse’s substantial footprint.

To me, when it comes down, the best art is confrontational, even aggressive; a reaction to its environment. I spent a decent chunk of time hanging around the LAVA House a few years ago, and it always struck me as a place of protection, where all the evil shit outside its walls was momentarily kept at bay, where the creative process could take over unencumbered. We all should hope for such a place.

What else can you even say? —Stephen George