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

June 17, 2021

Mayor Greg Fischer today announced that Louisville Metro Government is the recipient of a $500,000 grant from the National Park Service to help fund work to stabilize and rehabilitate the historic Bourgard College of Music & Art in Russell.

“The Bourgard College of Music and Art holds an important place in the history of the struggle for equal rights in Louisville by offering the African American community a place to pursue an arts education for almost a century,” said Mayor Fischer. “The school served as a safe place for African American children to learn and explore creatively. Thank you to the National Park Service for this grant and the opportunity to bring this building back for community use.”

The college closed in 2017, and the city acquired the building at 2503 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd. in 2020. The Bourgard College of Music and Art building is one of a few sites remaining in Louisville associated with the struggle for equal rights. Because of urban renewal in the 1960s and 1970s, many historic African American neighborhoods were reshaped through the demolition of homes and businesses.

Louisville Metro will return the currently vacant building to use as a valuable community asset with a preference for uses that continue its original intent of creating art and music spaces for children. The project is being supported in full by a History of Equal Rights grant from the Historic Preservation Fund administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior.

“As we begin the celebration of Pride Month, we reflect on the diverse and complex history of all Americans who fought for the equal rights of their people,” said NPS Deputy Director Shawn Benge. “The new History of Equal Rights grants program supports our state, Tribal, local, and nonprofit partners in the physical preservation of historic sites related to the struggle for equal rights.”

Councilwoman Donna Purvis, District 5, said she is very excited to hear that this grant was awarded to restore this beautiful structure in District 5. 

"I have been very involved with neighbors and the Office of Community Development having discussions and getting feedback on the future use of the property.  I hope that the use will benefit the community and honor the memories of the Bourgard College by using it to showcase those who desire to have a future in the arts," Councilwoman Purvis said.

The grant will fund repairs to exterior masonry, the roof, chimney, gutters and downspouts, as well as the repair or replacement of interior walls and ceilings that have sustained water damage. Additionally, Louisville Metro will hire a preservation consultant to conduct further research on Bourgard College for an updated National Register of Historic Places nomination and to research the broader context of the struggle for equal rights in Louisville.

First used as a private residence, Caroline Bourgard purchased the building in 1927 and moved the Bourgard College of Music & Art there. Well-known across the state, Bourgard felt strongly that music should be available to every student and saw the discrepancies in the educational opportunities for African Americans. Bourgard College was the first art school in Louisville for African American children and helped produce many of Louisville’s most popular African American musicians.

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