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The Suburbanite
  • Postcard from ... Louisville: Mingled messages

  • The Christmas symbols are visible on neighboring properties along the north side of Main Street in the city, separated only by Walnut Street. At the Juilliard Arts Center, contemporary Christmas scenes are recreated using mannequins dressed in such attire as Ohio State and Cleveland Browns clothing.

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  • Young boys prepare to throw snowballs as the baby Jesus sleeps in a manger nearby.
    Celebrations of the season mix the secular and the spiritual messages surrounding Christmas in Louisville.
    The Christmas symbols are visible on neighboring properties along the north side of Main Street in the city, separated only by Walnut Street. At the Juilliard Arts Center, contemporary Christmas scenes are recreated using mannequins dressed in such attire as Ohio State and Cleveland Browns clothing. East of Walnut, at the adjacent Paradise United Church of Christ, a decades-old nativity scene that is highlighted by spotlights hidden in faux rocks, recalls the religious reason that Christmas is celebrated each year.
    “We’ve probably been putting it up for 30 or 50 years,” said Dick Jones, a member of the church congregation and the organizer of a group of men who annually volunteer to erect the manger. “We take it down the week after New Year’s.”
    The manger, which was moved more toward Main Street this year for better visibility, sits beside the sign that identifies the church.
    “Lights for the sign are on a timer, and we were able to hook into that,” said Jones. “When the sign goes on, the nativity goes on. When the sign goes off, the scene goes off.”
    The age of that manger scene — it includes a couple shepherds and animals, as well as Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus — has created only a modicum of work for the volunteer crew.
    “We’ve rebuilt the back wall occasionally,” said Jones, “and had to reconstruct an arm. But, other than that, it’s pretty much the same nativity scene we put up years ago.”
    The mannequins outside the Juilliard Arts Center are relatively new creations. Lead artist for their construction was Kathy Pugh-Guidone, a Juilliard board member and Louisville Middle School art teacher. She was assisted by art students and Friends of Juilliard volunteers, who crafted the faces and bodies out of wood, foam, old newspapers and duct tape, then painted the features of some of the figures to resemble area residents.
    “They’re contemporary Christmas scenes,” said architect Rod Meadows, vice chairman of the Juilliard board. Meadows also is one of the local people represented in the scenes, standing near a tree being decorated by other mannequins.
    That tree is the community Christmas tree, highlighted during the recent Light Up Louisville celebration, Meadows said.
    “We wanted to re-ignite the history of the community Christmas Tree,” explained Meadows, “to give people in the community something cheerful to look at during the Christmas season.”
    In the holiday scenes, carolers sing in front of the Juilliard building. A boy stands next to an illuminated reindeer. Another boy stands behind a bench, holding a lamppost with one hand and a snowball in another. A pair of figures appear to hang foil decorations on the tree.
    Page 2 of 2 - Inside the building, Meadows noted, are mannequins that represent Augustus Juilliard, Vincent Van Gogh and Georgia O’Keefe.
    “Kathy did the first few figures a couple of years ago,” said Meadows, noting that those were creations of her mind. “Then she decided it might be even more fun to make them represent actual people.”