Shannon Stelzer:

Little warm and fuzzy memories:

Gallapalooza: gluing glass with Bart and Glen and painting the horses at U of L with Greg

Art in the garden: I hosted a series of events at my moms house in conjunction with St. James Art fair. All LAVA members pulled together and hung art work along fences and in the actual trees. We did this for three years.
Stephen Block: this delightful old man with a million crazy stories and a giant art collection. I met him through Aron and Halliie who were giving him a tour of the studio. He loved the mosaic work on my statues and commissioned me to do a funerary statue to go over his mother’s ashes. He constantly changed his mind on what he wanted but really I think he just enjoyed my company. And he had a crush on my mom.

Christmas’s were always really fun. I enjoyed getting presents for everyone and decorating the Red Room like any strange family would.

The pool was an EPIC addition to LAVA House. Many, many nights were spent relaxing to the sound of the trains going by, but also lots of tension about having the pool in the first place. In the end, it all brought us together and kept us cool.

Building the loft: Emily and I built our own loft out of cinder blocks and wood and on it we put a luxurious bed and all of our smoking materials. The loft became a valuable hiding spot when there was a lot of tension in the air.


 Shannon E. Stelzer

1. I heard about the LAVA House in late 2002. I was a student at the University of Louisville, pursuing my BFA in Fine Art. I had just started this program, and was taking “Intro to Sculpture” under the direction of professor Todd Burns, who I later worked with extensively in the ceramics department. Coming from an intense background of dance, theater, set design, and theatrical production, I was ready to express myself through visual arts.

Our last assignment was a 3 dimensional sculpture that included a light element. Excited about the fact that my project would combine  relate to my theater and production experience, I decided that I would make a light box that shined through figure of a woman that I would plaster cast. Being that Todd failed to provide size or weight limitations, I chose to use the whole body of my older sister Kimberly Hughs, now Kimberly Clark, as the model for the cast, and I would mount the mold onto an 8’x4’ sheet of plexi-glass that was affixed to a shallow wooden light box, which I would also construct.

Studio space for a beginning art student was limited, and so were available work hours; making this project very cumbersome. However, despite some criticism, I loved working “BIG.” I felt my teachers were restricting my creativity to more “sensible” concepts, and I new I had to find a way to explore this side of myself, uninhibited.

Making this project, I got to spend a lot of personal time with my sister, which I believe is the reason that I was so successful in capturing her essence in the final project. She was going through a divorce and finding herself again. I was just finding myself, and had finally healed from a bitter break up three years previous. I developed a relationship with my sister’s closest girlfriends, Emily Ritter, and Hallie Jones, aka Tango Uniform. Kim was most excited about me meeting Hallie, because she was an artist too, who was passionate and driven, and reportedly had this studio space that I would love, where other artists hung out and made work, too. I might be able to rent space. She said I would really love the eclectic environment and that I would probably meet a cute boy. And that’s pretty much what happened.

I met with Hallie Jones with the intention of her simply designing my business cards, incorporating the image of my sculpture on the front. Hallie told me all about the LAVA House and encouraged me to meet with her for a tour. A few days later, around ten or so, on a cold winter night, I went LAVA for the first time. I was astounded when I first laid eyes on the infinite ceilings and junk packed inspiration everywhere. It was raw and exhilarated. It was also about 15 degrees. Bart and Chad were standing beside a fire breathing propane heater and looked at me strangely, but friendly. I received a tour from Hallie and Bart and then I was invited to sit in on their meeting. I was impressed with the level of enthusiasm that brought this group together. And everyone that I met was completely unique and bizarre. It felt like home immediately and I jumped in, head first, like a freight train. LAVA consumed me for the next three years.

Before LAVA, I was a completely different kind of artist. My first creative love was dance. I started at 12 at the Youth Performing Arts School in Louisville, KY. I spent my high school years touring with professional companies in Louisville and Nashville, as well tutorships at the American Dance Festival, Raliegh, NC, and the New ARTs Dance Festival, Ft. Meyers, FL.where I studied under masters such as David Parsons, Twyla Tharp, and Bella Lewitsky, among others. My passion was mixed media theatrics and choreography, so to broaden my spectrum I went to Florida State University to study Theater. School being too expensive and far away, I moved back to my home town of Louisville to be close to my mom and attend Uof L.  

I received an internship with Actor’s Theater, where I worked as a paint charge and assisted in set design. This lasted from 2000-2002, when I was hired on to the staff. I began pursuing a BFA degree in mixed media art in order to refine and learn technical skills in multiple mediums. I thrive in cooperative creative environments such as the theater and dance companies, and am naturally compelled to conceptualize, produce, and direct. LAVA provided an outlet and resources to develop and practice my skills in these areas, that might not otherwise have been possible and certainly not as diverse, during a critical point of my development.  

I was with LAVA house from December 2002- to December 2005.

 I caste everything from hands, legs, torsos, and whole bodies. I even had Bart cast my body. I experimented with lighting, carpentry, color mixing, and paint techniques. Working part time at the theater, I had access to an abundance of left over materials and an infinite amount of wisdom and resources to define and execute my visions. Having access to a 24 hour space big enough to house the randomness of all of my stuff, as well as the patience to put up with my work habits, was fundamental in my development as an artist. Quite often I would commandeer unoccupied spaces around me as well, in order to accommodate my elaborate projects. This was somehow accepted at LAVA, because the artwork always came first and the ACT of making art was encouraged and respected.
In addition to various smaller pieces for art shows, I created three medium sized plaster cast/light boxes, and the “Tree of Life”, which was a 13’-6’ welded steel tree covered with a cast of model Danielle Tisdale’s body. The roots were cast from the models of three young dancers from Terpsichore Dance Theater where I taught dance and produced works. The rest of the tree was covered in hand painted fabric, for which I also made costumes for the dancers. In collaboration with Video artists and future business partner Dan Henderson, the dancers were filmed in Cherokee Park doing directed improvisation around an actual tree. The final project resulted in a performance piece where the  scultpture, with the video projected across, served as a backdrop for two live dancers that would interact with the dancers in the video. This piece was performed at the ELAN event, in conjuction with the Louisville AIDS, in the main foyer of Actors Theater Louisville and was for auction. There were two scheduled performances. In between performances, viewers could walk around the sculpture like it was any other piece of gallery work. Also in the show were The Kim sculpture and an oil pastel on wood.
Because of the level of my involvement and my relationship with Bart, as well as friendships and alliances with Hallie, Aron, Thalen, Chad, Marissa, Scott, Joe, and several of my other friends that embraced the project with me, such as Willy Tash, Emily Ritter and  Brenna Geary, I had a lot of productivity around the warehouse. I helped spruce the place up, including painting over the graffiti in the bathroom, which was cool but made you want to vomit every time you had to go.

 I got really into welding and grinding. I worked a bit for Dave Caudill when he began renting space. That’s when I lost my diamond ring somewhere in the backyard. I pulled away from my relationship wit Bart and began focusing on other productive relationships with members of the group, including Greg Martin who had recently joined the organization. I put more of my efforts into school and shared the titles of President and Vice President of the Student Art League. Together, we helped produce shows all over the city. This was the beginning of my interest in artist development, art marketing, and curating.
Not all of the relationships that I built were successful. I did some collaborative video with Chad Horde, which turned out really cool, but I found his overall demeanor to be creepy, needy, and annoying. I also had an outstanding battle with Dan Merrick that would antagonize him for years by introducing his commonly used nickname “Cockring”. Future Kristen was an overbearing, crazy, trouble-maker that bothered everyone. On top of it all were consistent tension and tumultuous arguments with Bart… Then we would make up… Then we would fight again…

Also the  beginning of the end. We were working with clay. We had a kiln in the back and scheduled meetings where we would work together to create a product line of clay tiles that we could sell to raise money. Emily Ritter and I were also leading a mural project with clay tiles made by kids from St. Joe’s orphanage. Everyone was helping to fire them. Bart liked to bring his girlfriend “crazy Ashley” to these meetings whose attitude I despised, and this would infuriate me. I thought I was expressing myself appropriately by taking my aggression out on the clay, but she caught on and didn’t take it that way. I pitted me against her a couple of times himself, anyway, though and from then on it was all bad. I was working on my senior thesis and it was the year of the mosaic and found objects. She eventually threatened me and Hallie, the Bart kicked me out, then he said I could stay, then he kicked me out, then I decided I wanted to go anyway. Hallie, Aron, and Greg united with me in the fact that too much drama and lack of security were inhibiting the principle concepts of LAVA, and there was talk of going in together on our own space. I was booted from the concept because the other members didn’t believe I was capable of handling such an endeavor. I found out that I was left out of the project via an article in the Courrier Journal. Feeling very betrayed, I was ready to prove them wrong and explore my own ideas. With my creative partner Willie Tash, I found an eclectic gallery/studio/bungalo on Frankfort Avenue. We  called it the Greenhouse Arts Project.   
5) Inside the magic walls of the Green House, housed an eclectic gallery/studio/bungalow space where creative minds could incubate, experiment, and cultivate new visions.
As well as hosting inspired monthly gallery shows for 2 years, complete with live local music and streaming independent video, artists' works were distributed into the community to characterize the walls of some of Louisville's most popular local restaurants: Maido, The Monkey Wrench, 60 West Martini Bar, and Crave Cafe and Catering. Our artistic and social collaborations included events with Chez Moi Gallery, Flamenco Louisville, Thrown Together, University of Louisville,Lebowski Fest, Forcastle, Peak Summit Festival, Barret Zone Third Thursdays, Frankfort Avenue Trolley Hop, Parkinson's Support Center of Kentuckiana, Center for Women and Families, and Kentucky CASA.


6) On June 11, 2008, after a satisfying period of quiet reflect en lue of epic destruction and sadness within the Louisville artistic community, Greenhouse Arts Project began to harvest the fruits of some much needed labor. We  recently acquired an office/retail/media-center, right next door to Karma Cafe, across from the Speedway on Grinstead and Bardstown Rd.located at:

Greenhouse Arts Project
1124 Bardstown Rd.
Louisville, KY 40204

We believe that the surrounding artistic community is the underlining reason that Louisville is a creative hub for progressive thinkers and visionaries. Our network will serve as an exhibiting, promoting, and marketing tool, as well as an agency, consultation, and event planning service. Our mission is for local business to support local art, and vise-versa. This project is lead by artists, innovators, and entrepreneurs that have a voice, a dream, a spirit, and a need to communicate. Please help us to make our network and portfolio as rich and authentically cool as possible.

Right now, we're in the best part. The "get-your-hands-dirty" part. There is a lot of work internally to do before our official GRAND RE-OPENING...which will open in the coming months. 

I plan on developing this business concept as well as pursuing other professional positions within the artistic community. Eventually, I would like to pursue my MFA in Art Politics from Tische University, and expand my work with emerging artists to an international level. I want to make a difference in the way artists and their images are treated and rewarded and want to make outstanding art and the creative process accessible to everyone. I want to design communities that thrive on the creativity around them and use it to sustain themselves.

4) I may have never known this direction that my life has taken were it not for the LAVA house. Every decision I make these days, both professionally and personally is somehow influenced by the lessons I have learned, the relationships that I made, and the experiences that I have had in the last five years. LAVA represents for me a time of vibrant, young, passionate, reactive, and ambitious sincerity for creating a better world that was drivin by a common quest to define ourselves. It was all fire from beginning to end, and it was worth every second.