Louisville Magazine

MAY 2019

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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82 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 5.19 Jeremy Semones and I meet on an early spring day at his shop du jour, this one at 12th and West Main streets in the Portland neighborhood. Semones can count a handful of progressively larger locations he has inhabited since founding his business, Core Design, in 2010, and this is by far the largest — big enough, it seems, to serve as the hangar for a commercial aircraft. In Louisville, Semones pioneered repurposing shipping containers — those 20- or 40-foot-long metal boxes stacked on cargo ships — for a variety of human- scale uses. Among his container projects: a one-car garage, a whimsical replica of a boombox and a three-container assemblage that serves as the entryway to the Copper & Kings brandy distillery. When I visit his Portland shop near downtown, however, it is strewn with hundreds of two-inch- diameter carbon-steel pipes carefully customized by Semones' team. ey'll fit them together in sections as the Louisville Knot, a $175,000 public sculpture and interactive art installation that will run the length of the underpass at Main and Ninth streets and visually connect the Central Business District with neighborhoods to the west. Metro Government funded $150,000 of the project, with an additional $25,000 contribution from the Rotary Club, according to public-art administrator Sarah Lindgren, who says the goal is to make the underpass more inviting and safer for pedestrians. Philadelphia-based Interface Studio Architects emerged among five finalists with a winning plan for a flowing, 150-foot-long, sculpture- quality piece lit from beneath, painted a bright orange. A principal at the firm calls it "large street furniture" expected to lure children to climb on it and ride its built- in swing. Adults can sit on level sections or celebrate a birthday around a feature designed to look like giant candles. ISA architect Brian Phillips anticipates food trucks parking in the area for events in an adjacent space. Each 16-foot section in production at Semones' shop is actually three separate pieces precisely welded together. Identical sections clamped together and welded to ground plates create the Knot's curves and "bench seats," while almost impossibly twisted pipes spell out the word "Louisville." Semones studies the jumble of unconnected and unpainted pipe on the concrete shop floor. All he can say of the Knot is: "It's living up to its name." He adds, "e prototype was simple — and then things changed." "And then things changed" is not a new phrase for Semones. As we climb into his Volkswagen CC for a tour of Core Design projects on display throughout town, he informs me that another space nearby where he stores shipping containers and does other work had been burglarized the evening before. Equipment he values at several thousand dollars was heisted and hauled through openings cut in the surrounding chain-link fence. Semones is trying to roll with this latest setback. e 46-year-old has a week's worth of reddish beard and similarly colored, closely cropped hair mostly hidden under an all-black ball cap. Tiny wheels of ebony stud his ears. A tattoo depicting a musical scale and notes peeks out from his right sleeve. His black cargo pants and hoodie exude Eminem-like street cred. For all of the spark that ignites him during creative moments, a weariness, even a bit of fatalism, seeps in and flattens his voice as he talks about the business side of things. He's feeling a bit overwhelmed. "I'm at that point where I can't turn the jobs over fast enough to make enough money to hire more people," he says as we approach the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage at 18th Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard. "You know what I mean? It's kind of a catch-22. "It's maddening. It really is. ere's a part of it that's challenging and I'm very adaptable. My backstory tells you a whole lot about that because, when I was growing up, I went state to state to state. I'm a chameleon of sorts. Sometimes it's a little rough, but it's good in a pinch, you know?" Depending on the project and the perspective of a particular client, Semones is described variously as a fabricator, as a craftsman or as an artist. Surely, he is all three. "I guess there's a part in me about making my mark," he says. "But I'm not a traditional artist." We're now in front of the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage at the bus stop that he helped build. Using his favorite metal — the same weathering steel that shipping containers and ships themselves are made from — he fashioned a striking exterior to the stop's natural wood interior, triangular on the street- facing front and rectilinear in the rear, with large planter boxes on top designed to be filled with colorful flowers. e showpiece bus stop, funded by a $50,000 grant from the Louisville Metro Housing Authority and headed up by architect Paul Sirek of the Louisville There's nothing delicate about Jeremy Semones' medium — weathering steel, as hard-nosed as his early life.

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