Fund for the Arts, PBS, KET, The Muhammad Ali Center, Louisville Metro Government, and JP Morgan Chase celebrate the resurgence of the Imagine Mural Festival.
Fund for the Arts and the Imagine Greater Louisville 2025 Steering Committee in partnership with PBS, KET, The Muhammad Ali Center, Louisville Metro Government, and JP Morgan Chase are celebrating the resurgence of the transformational Imagine Mural Festival, which had its inaugural year in 2019.
The new Imagine Mural Festival will bring together collaborative teams of interdisciplinary artists to create multimedia art installations in the downtown Louisville blocks adjacent to the Muhammad Ali Center. The murals will be unveiled at a weekend of festival celebrations on September 18 and 19.
The central theme of this year’s Imagine Mural Festival is We are the Home of the Greatest…, which celebrates the legacy of Muhammad Ali, the city from which he hailed, and the only place in the world that is charged with preserving and sharing his legacy with the world.
“After more than a year of isolation, we are excited to leverage the power of the arts to rebuild our community connections,” said Andre Kimo Stone Guess, President & CEO of Fund for the Arts.
“Not only will our multimedia mural installations be created by collaborative, interdisciplinary teams of artists, but the festival will provide community members with the opportunity to reconnect with one another through interactive activities while practicing appropriate health and safety precautions.”
The murals will be created by three groups of interdisciplinary artist teams. A total of eleven individual artists will be involved in creating the interdisciplinary murals across the three collaborative teams. The artist groups selected to participate in the 2021 festival are:
- Healing Walls Project
- Moth Hands
- Creatives of Color Collective
Three locations have been selected for the 2021 Imagine Mural Festival. Two of the multimedia murals will be installed on walls at the Repurposed Lot at 621 W. Main Street and the third mural will be located on the Riverfront Garage at 141 N. Sixth Street. The multimedia murals will include traditional mural art and other associated content in a variety of disciplines (including visual, literary, spoken word, poetry, music, and film) that will be accessible via QR codes. The murals will be installed in the weeks leading up to the culminating festival weekend on September 18 and 19.
The festival will kick off with a celebratory event on September 18 from noon to 6:00 p.m. in the Repurposed Lot at 621 W. Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202. The event will feature multiple interactive family-friendly activities and booths to encourage community engagement. Activities will include the creation of a collaborative bottlecap mural, a mini-mural jigsaw puzzle, stencil art, live performances from local artists, and screenings of preview content for PBS’s Muhammad Ali documentary series.
Speakers and live performances at the September 18 event will include Louisville television and radio personality and friend of Muhammad Ali, John Ramsey, Imagine Mural Festival artists, a musical performance by Robbie Bartlett, and excerpt readings from the book The Fights We Fought Have Brought Us Here, written by young writers from Muhammad Ali’s alma mater.
Celebrations will continue on September 19 with a concert and social gathering at the Muhammad Ali Center Plaza. The concert will feature two 45-minute sets from seven-time GRAMMY® Award-winning bassist Christian McBride. The first set will begin at 2:00 p.m. and the second will begin at 3:30 p.m.
“It’s an honor for me to return to the great city of Louisville to perform at the Imagine Mural Festival. For so many, the Kentucky Derby and Louisville Slugger (and for me, New Birth) have been an indelible part of our lives, but the most world-renowned Louisville gem is Muhammad Ali. It would be futile to try to describe his influence on the world and what he’s meant to me personally, as I’ve written a piece for him, but to perform in the midst of his shadow will be an honor,” said McBride.
All festival events will comply with COVID-19 health and safety guidelines as defined by the state of Kentucky. The events will take place outdoors, handwashing stations will be readily available, hand sanitizer will be available at all activity areas, and social distancing and masks will be encouraged for all vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
The festival will coincide with the national premiere of Muhammad Ali, a new documentary film directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon, which celebrates the life and legacy of Louisville’s own Muhammad Ali. The four-part series will air on PBS nationwide, and locally on KET, on September 19-22, 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET.
All murals and associated content will address the festival’s theme by amplifying and celebrating the six core principles that Ali lived and embraced throughout his life: Confidence, Conviction, Dedication, Respect, Giving, and Spirituality.
“This Festival is the perfect opportunity to celebrate Ali’s colorful and impactful legacy while also highlighting the greatness of his hometown,” said Jeanie Kahnke, Senior Director of Public Relations and External Affairs for the Muhammad Ali Center. “As an extension of the Festival, the Ali Center will welcome guests of all ages to our Main Lobby on Saturday, September 18, from noon to 5:00 p.m. for lots of free family-fun activities and take-home projects. Guests can also say hello to our six-foot-high Muhammad Ali Puppet, created and donated by Squallis Puppeteers. A $1-off adult admission price for our exhibits will be offered throughout the day.”
“There was only one Muhammad Ali, and he only had one hometown. We are excited to continue the celebration of the Greatest’s life and legacy through the Imagine Mural Festival and the Ken Burns’ documentary, which will look at how Louisville shaped Muhammad Ali and how he shook up the world,” said Mayor Greg Fischer.
“JPMorgan Chase is proud to sponsor and support the Imagine Mural Festival,” said Duffy Baker, Louisville Market Executive for Middle Market Banking and Specialized Industries at JPMorgan Chase. “We are grateful for the opportunity to give back to our community through this engaging event. Coming together to safely celebrate art and connectivity in Louisville is more important now than ever.”
To learn more about the 2021 Imagine Mural Festival, visit fundforthearts.org/muralfestival.