Churchill Downs Partners with Fund for the Arts and Jennifer Lawrence Foundation for Opening Night’s Awards in the Arts

Originally published in the Spring 2016 issue of Churchill Downs Magazine

LOUISVILLE, KY., (March 18, 2016– One place that almost everyone in the world knows about Louisville is Churchill Downs. What most people do not know, however, is that Louisville is fortunate to have one of the most dynamic and thriving arts scenes in the country, and that is thanks, in no small part, to the Fund for the Arts.

Louisville’s own Jennifer Lawrence grew up in this community and received a strong foundation from some of the opportunities afforded to her and others like her by the Fund.

Now, Jennifer is utilizing her success to give back. To learn about their respective organizations and an exciting, upcoming collaboration, we took the time to speak with Lauren DePaso, director of community relations at Churchill Downs Incorporated; JP Davis, vice president of the Fund for the Arts; and Meredith Lawrence, Jennifer’s sister-in-law, who is essential to the day-to-day at the Jennifer Lawrence Foundation.

Does CDI have a specific mission statement that pertains to the arts? If so, what is it?

Lauren DePaso: Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI), following a long tradition of Churchill Downs’ corporate social responsibility, has been a committed charitable partner for decades and has had significant impact on the many communities in which the company operates.

Nurturing our neighbors through engaged, consistent and positive community relations is an effort CDI cares deeply about. Through CDI’s corporate giving, millions of financial and in-kind contributions are annually directed toward nonprofit entities that assist our industry-related initiatives, support public health and welfare programs as well as provide meaningful opportunities in the areas of art and education. And our giving doesn’t stop there. Our company is proud of the tens of thousands of volunteer hours dedicated team members put forth each year.

For those who may not know, what is Fund for the Arts, and how has it grown over the years?

JP Davis: Fund for the Arts is a regional nonprofit with the mission to maximize the arts to drive economic development, education, health and quality of life in our community. The Fund conducts one of the oldest united arts campaigns and supports world-class institutions, community organizations and arts in education. The Fund for the Arts also hosts, an online crowd-funding platform for any 501(c)3 organization in Kentucky and Southern Indiana to post arts and culture projects, and the nationally recognized NeXt program dedicated to preparing the next generation of emerging professionals for volunteer leadership roles within the arts community.

What is the Jennifer Lawrence Foundation, and how did it begin?

Meredith Lawrence: The Jennifer Lawrence Foundation is a component fund of the Community Foundation of Louisville. We started raising money for local charities almost five years ago. Jennifer wanted to give back to her hometown, and her compassion for children, especially children in need, is what led to the creation of her foundation.

The Jennifer Lawrence Foundation assists and empowers charitable organizations that fulfill children’s vital needs and drive arts awareness and participation. The foundation leverages independent philanthropy initiatives, community events and popular culture memorabilia donations and auctions to positively impact the lives of young people, artists and the organizations that serve them.

The foundation assists a variety of nonprofit organizations in fulfilling their missions, including:

Uspiritus, which services abused and neglected youth.

St. Mary’s Center, which services teens and adults with intellectual disabilities.

West End Boys School, a free and private college preparatory school for at-risk boys.

Boys and Girls Clubs, which assists all young people in fulfilling their potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.

Make-A-Wish Foundation, which serves a unique and vital role helping strengthen and empower children battling life-threatening medical conditions.

Be The Match, an organization providing critically needed marrow transplants from donors for patients in need.

What are the fundraising goals for the Fund this year?

JPD: Our goal is to raise $8.3 million.  We are working on a master plan for the arts to imagine and plan for the future of the arts in our region.  We just launched Louisville Arts Link, a mobile application to better promote the arts, further increasing access and engagement. We continue to be fully committed to creating deeper arts experiences throughout our region and building on the momentum of our success in the past.

Our website is

When is the opening day party, and what can guests expect at the event?

JPD: On April 30, there will be night racing, and on opening night of Derby Week, guests can expect arts experiences from the moment they walk in the gate until late in the evening around all corners of the track.  We received 50 art submissions to participate, and Mo McKnight Howe of Revelry Gallery has been kind enough to curate the arts experience at the track on our behalf. In addition, the inaugural Awards in the Arts will be given between races in the Winner’s Circle.

ML: The JLF is thrilled to have partnered with the Fund for the Arts and Churchill Downs, two prominent fixtures in the Louisville community. We want to give our guests a truly unique experience while raising money for a great cause!  In the newly renovated stakes room, our VIP cocktail party will be full of incredible surprises. We really want this party to reflect Jennifer, so working directly with her decorator and designer, as well as Jennifer herself, we are able to give this event her feel and vibe! We are also including some of her favorite dishes and drinks.

We are so thankful for the many businesses and organizations that have been so generous and supportive in putting this night together.

It’s going to be a great night!

Is the event ticketed? If so, how can guests obtain tickets?

JPD: We are on a waiting list for the VIP Stakes Room experience, and folks should contact Abby Shue at Fund for the Arts. Tickets are also available via the Churchill Downs website.  Tickets are available for general admission but also for seated/reserved seating.

What are the Awards in the Arts? How does the selection process work?

JPD: Louisville’s Awards in the Arts was established to celebrate the extraordinary arts community in the Greater Louisville region and the arts’ tremendous contribution to our unique cultural landscape and quality of place. But most of all, Louisville’s Awards in the Arts was established to celebrate the artists themselves and their talent and passion to create, produce and present transformative  and inspiring works of arts in and for our community.

Any individual, business or organization could nominate individuals or organizations they believe exemplify the values lauded by the award, and we were beyond thrilled to receive over 120 nominations. It was possible to submit multiple nominations, and those nominated were able to be considered for multiple categories.

A selection committee, made up of artists, arts administrators and volunteer leaders in the arts reviewed the nominations, selected the award recipients and notified them by April 1. The  Awards in the Arts will be presented at an event at Churchill Downs on April 30. Award recipients and a guest will be provided tickets to the event. Videos featuring the award recipients may be shown throughout the night, and awards may be presented in the Paddock and the Winner’s Circle.

For more information, please visit

How does it feel to be honoring the Louisville arts community with this enterprise?

JPD: We realize by combining three iconic organizations (Churchill Downs, Jennifer Lawrence Foundation, Fund for the Arts) we have the capacity to work together to create significant impact in our community.  The arts serve a vitally important role in our city, and we aim to raise funds to further the mission of Fund for the Arts.  We realize the importance of engaging a new generation of arts lovers and patrons. I also want to say thanks to Churchill Downs and Jennifer Lawrence and her family for stepping up to help us take arts to a new level and increase efforts to engage a new generation of arts supporters.  Their leadership is so important, and we are grateful.  Plus, it has really been fun working with Lauren DePaso and the team at Churchill Downs and Meredith Lawrence, Karen Lawrence and the Lawrence family.  We’ve maintained a strong unit and truly worked as a team.

ML: The arts scene in Louisville is incredible and something we should all be very proud of. The Jennifer Lawrence Foundation is so excited to be involved with this event and to be able to raise awareness and funds to continue supporting the arts and the Fund for the Arts’ mission in this great city!

About Churchill Downs Incorporated

Churchill Downs Incorporated is an industry-leading racing, online wagering and gaming entertainment company anchored by our iconic flagship event – The Kentucky Derby. We own and operate Derby City Gaming, a historical racing machine facility in Louisville, Kentucky. We also own and operate the largest online horse racing wagering platform in the U.S.,, and we operate sports betting and iGaming through our BetAmerica platform in multiple states. We are also a leader in brick-and-mortar casino gaming with approximately 11,000 slot machines and video lottery terminals and 200 table games in eight states. Additional information about CDI can be found online at

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