California to Chickasaw Park

The floodwall reappeared on our recent visit to West Louisville…but this time it wasn’t towering over our heads! Stites could put his chin on the top of the wall at Varble and 47th Street.

And with our chins on the wall facing west, we were treated to a beautiful view of the Ohio River.  We could see a barge moving up river, and we talked about how, in a few short miles, the barge will have to go through the McAlpine Locks, which we visited back in January.

This stretch of land is between ChickasawShawnee Parks, both of which are bordered by the Ohio on their western edges. (Shawnee Golf Course has amazing views of the river.)  Stites was impressed with the three playgrounds in Chickasaw Park. And the duck pond. I was impressed with the new-fangled “sports complex” in Shawnee Park. The older two just wanted to get home after a long day at school.

School, for our boys (Harcourt “graduated” from 5th grade last year), is Brandeis Elementary School in the Parkland neighborhood.

Brandeis, at 28th and Kentucky Streets, is a Jefferson County Public School math-science-technology magnet program. Tyler and I have been very pleased with the well-rounded education the excellent teachers at Brandeis have given all three of our children.  Brandeis encourages “outside the box thinking” (literally) – the teachers and students are currently building an outdoor classroom.  Last year, Artists-in-Residence Al and Penny Nelson came to teach their trade, stone carving, to fifth graders, helping them design and create a bench for the outdoor space. This year, every student in the school painted a picket for a fence around the classroom, which will include a small pond, butterfly garden and vegetables.  Meaningful, hands-on, experiential learning is a priority at Brandeis. (Which is what these neighborhood tours are all about!)

A few blocks away is the “old” Brandeis Elementary School building in the California neighborhood. Last Friday afternoon we joined about fifteen other women and children at the Brandeis Learning Center jewelry studio. It is open from 4-7pm every Friday, and is FREE, funded by ArtsReach a Kentucky Center for the Arts program and participant donations.  I thought my squirrelly children would last about 45 minutes. Turns out we were beading and twisting wire and designing earrings and bracelets and necklaces for two and a half hours!

Gwendolyn Kelly, the artist and motivator behind the workshop, patiently assisted all three of our kids with their creations.  Eli made some “bling bling” in the form of a sparkly KY CATS necklace, Stites designed a heavy-duty thick wire and 2″-diameter glass bead necklace (which he hung on my back pocket), and Harcourt took full advantage of the plethora of beads available, constructing three very original pairs of earrings and a bracelet.  Tyler even succumbed to the pressure and made a spiral pendant…which I’m hoping he’ll give to me (hint hint).  The women and children who are regular attendees at the jewelry studio were very gracious and helpful.  And creative!  One girl made an entire bracelet of multi-colored overlapping buttons. We hope to go back again soon!

On our way home, we drove by Muhammad Ali‘s childhood home at 3302 Grand Avenue.  It’s a non-descript home in the middle of a long block.  We had to drive by twice because we missed the house number the first time.  A little boy who became the “Greatest” lived there. It’s exciting to think about the great possibilities for the future of Louisville’s children.  Brandeis Elementary School and the Brandeis Learning Center are just two examples of places in our community where innovation is being nurtured. While many such programs exist in Metro Louisville, we can never have enough.  We all benefit from creating a climate that allows our children to discover their passions and then unleash their potential!


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