Bourgard College of Music and Art

Bourgard College historical picture
The Bourgard College of Music and Art is centrally located in the Russell neighborhood, a predominately African American neighborhood, just west of the central business district of Louisville. While the building was first used as a private residence, Caroline Bourgard purchased it in 1927 and moved the College there. Well-known across the state, Bourgard felt strongly that music should be available to every student. She saw the discrepancies in the educational opportunities of African Americans and by creating the College tried to assist. The College was the first art school in Louisville for African American children. Bourgard personally supervised the education and was the school’s first teacher. Unable to find African American teachers, she worked with Frederic Cowles, director of the Louisville Conservatory of Music, to secure graduates for part-time teaching. Bourgard wanted to ensure that good instructors would teach the children a variety of art disciplines.

The Bourgard College of Music and Art was established during Jim Crow-era Louisville. Schools were segregated and African American schools were not as well funded. Thus, they lagged behind in supplies, equipment, and building construction. The 1904 Day Law outlawed integrated higher education in Kentucky, which further narrowed the education opportunities for African Americans. Despite the Jim Crow-era laws that blocked African Americans from many opportunities, the students of the College were successful in their careers and lives. The College continued to thrive from 1930 through the 1960s and “helped produce many of Louisville’s most popular African American musicians.” Former piano instructor Carolyn Kaufman noted that the school was “the only facility of its kind in the black community.” Parents sent their children to the College, in part, to see successful, talented black teachers and professionals, which during the 1990s were not as common in the Louisville school systems.

In the 1990s, there were many newspaper articles about the school’s need for financial assistance to make building repairs and purchase supplies. Unfortunately, the school closed around 2017 and the building became vacant. The school had always served as a safe place for African American children as well as a place for them to learn and explore things they could not in school or anywhere else in Louisville. In Louisville’s history of the struggle for equals rights, the Bourgard College of Music and Art is an important place that made a large impact on the African American community for almost a century.

The Bourgard College Building retains its integrity in design, materials, and craftsmanship to support the historic significance of the structure, as it relates to its architectural style. Built as a Queen Anne residence, the building retains almost all of its architectural, character-defining features. Some of the interior details like moldings and mantels have been removed while the building was vacant, but other important features like windows, doors, and other decorative details are intact.

Bourgard College building today
Bourgard in the news

Release - Louisville Metro awarded $500,000 grant to stabilize, rehab Bourgard College of Music & Art in Russell neighborhood

WHAS - Former Louisville arts school building saved by $500,000 grant

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