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This artist made art a family affair for equine workers at Churchill Downs

By Devin Jordan | Arts Angle Vantage Reporter

Central High School, Class of 2024


Last spring, artist Sara Noori led workshops at the Backside Learning Center for equine workers of Churchill Downs and their families, many of whom are Spanish-speaking immigrants. She had groups that were from first grade all the way up to high school and one group was made up of mothers. They participated in different art projects: drawing, coloring, painting, mixed media, sculpting using Model Magic, and other activities.


“We were just doing something that holds space because they work so hard,” she said. “They work seven days a week, and just being able to get art supplies is so precious.”

Artist Sara Noori led several workshops for children, adults and families at the Backside Learning Center near Churchill Downs as part of the citywide HeARTS Initiataive. Photo by Devin Jordan.


The workshops were free as part of HeARTS, a city initiative funded through the Fund for the Arts that helps the youth by providing them with affordable art supplies. More than a dozen other teaching artists held other workshops at community centers and organizations. They led workshops where they worked on groups who created plays, murals and other creative activities to promote community connection and health.


The supplies that the Backside Learning Center participants received were important for the children of the families.


“It's like they're really excited when they get their own crayons or they get to work with Model Magic,” Noori said.


A child in one of several workshops artist Sara Noori led at Backside Learning Center. Photo Courtesy Backside Learning Center.


She also wanted them to be just as excited about the art.


While leading these workshops, Noori also found that she was becoming a part of their family dynamic.


“There is a group of people that you build emotional relationships with,” she said. “It's trust and respect and care.”


Noori graduated from the University of Louisville with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a focus on studio arts. After graduation, she moved to work in the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s education department. She returned to Louisville in 2020.


Her mother, Patrica Reece Noori, never discouraged her from being an artist.

Artist Sara Noori and a group from one of the art workshops she led for Backside Learning Center. Photo Courtesy Backside Learning Center.


“She's just been given these incredible opportunities that really allow her to show the people around her what a gifted artist she is, but also she has her outgoing personality that just really makes the people that she deals with feel so comfortable,” her mother said.


She wants to give others opportunities and encourage them.


Noori would like to work with the people at Backside Learning Center again.


“I really would love to continue to build just relationships so that we can continue to serve the community,” Noori said. “The more that we're connected, the safer we are, the happier we are.”



Devin Jordan, a Senior at Central High School, participated in Arts Angle Vantage’s summer 2023 Community Arts Reporting Lab at Beechmont Community Center. The workshop was part of the citywide HeARTS Initiative supported by the Fund for the Arts and Metro Louisville Parks and Recreation.

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