2021 AIR Norman Spencer Celebrates Black Joy in Nature

By Jenny Zeller

Make sure to check out Black In Bluegrass, a solo exhibition by 2021 Bernheim Artist in Residence Norman Spencer, at Garner Narrative in NULU from Nov 19 – Dec 19, 2021.

We are excited to welcome 2021 Artist in Residence, Norman Spencer to Bernheim where he is currently experiencing the beauty of fall! Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, Norman is an artist/printmaker specializing in custom woodcuts and linocuts with subjects that address community, nature, and identity. His residency project is to create a series of linocuts that celebrates Black people enjoying the Bernheim wilderness, in order to increase representation and inspire Black people to explore the natural world. These images will contribute to a larger series showcasing Black joy at natural landmarks throughout the state and will be featured in an upcoming solo exhibition entitled Black In Bluegrass at Garner Narrative, located in downtown Louisville (NULU) from November 19 – December 19, 2021.

“I want to show Black people represented in the natural world in a positive light, to show ALL people that nature is an inclusive place for everyone. I hope that a project like this can positively influence people in my community to enjoy nature and see that this is a place for them too.” ~ Norman Spencer

Oftentimes the work is a self-reflection of the artist’s own experience with nature, as seen in this self portrait.


The focus of this finished series is to show the human interaction with nature in order to dispel negative generational narratives about Black people in the natural world. The inspiration for this project comes from Norman’s own love for nature, which was developed as an adult. The mission of the artist mirrors the ideals of our founder Isaac Wolfe Bernheim, who envisioned Bernheim as a place for everyone, regardless of race, creed or social status. When asked about his personal history with Bernheim, Norman responded with: “I have had a love for Bernheim since I was first introduced to the arboretum, and I always felt welcomed here. I want to share that feeling with others who look like me.”

The work being created through Norman’s residency experience is inspired by recent Bug-A-Palooza programming, the Forest Giants, and personal encounters with Bernheim guests of color in the arboretum and forest. Learn more about Norman, his creative practice and Bernheim experience this Saturday, October 9 from 12 – 1 p.m. via Zoom where participants will get the chance to view a live demonstration of a work in progress! Click on the link above or image below to register for this special program.


Norman has shown his work extensively throughout the region for the past 5 years including Light and Shadow, the inaugural show at Sheherazade Gallery, multiple showings at Revelry Gallery and in the Black Since I was Born exhibition at Roots 101 Museum in Louisville. Most recently, Norman participated in creating the largest mural in Louisville’s West End at the Kroger on 26th and Broadway through Healing Walls, a BIPOC lead mural group based in Louisville.


A look inside the artist’s studio. Left: Norman intricately carving lines into the linoleum. Right: Printed images documenting the artist’s experience at Falls of the Ohio hang from the rafters in the artist cabin at Bernheim.


For over four decades, the Artist in Residence program has attracted artists from around the world who seek to use Bernheim as their inspiration. Established in 1980, this internationally renowned program annually awards artists the opportunity to live and create site specific work inspired by their total immersion experience in the natural environment. Work created through the program allows our visitors to connect with nature in new and exciting ways.

Our Newsletter

Sign up for the Bernheim Buzz

Get the "buzz" of Bernheim activity weekly in your inbox by signing up below.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.