**the LAVA Archive is a work in progress, have a look around and then please, come back later**

Site background and brief history of LAVA ...

This site contains thousands of artifact images, documents of the life of the Louisville

Assembly of Vanguard Art or LAVA art collective. Founded in July of 2001 by Aron Conaway

and Bart Herre, the group evolved to include a dozen artists in studios at the LAVA House,

where they were hosts to dozens of art and music shows. This experimental arts community

actively created until a fire destroyed the warehouse in early 2008. The photographs and

objects presented here, digitally, are now physically present in the University of Louisville's

Art Library Archives, open to visitation and available for viewing during open hours. Both

this digital LAVA archive and the library's LAVA archive are the products of Conaway's masters

degree thesis, completed in the late summer, 2008. Because there is little evidence or information

available regarding alternative art spaces having kept extensive records and openly displaying

them in this mannor, this online presentation is unique and is possibly one of the firsts to be

created and donated for academic research and safekeeping. Please, have a look around.

< CLICK HERE to view >
By Aron Conaway, B.F.A., M.A. University of Louisville, 2001, 2008
A Thesis Submitted to
the Faculty of the Graduate School of
the University of Louisville in Partial Fulfillment of
the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts


    This thesis documents the construction of the LAVA Archive, dedicated to recording the life and legacy of the Louisville Assembly of Vanguard Art, LAVA, and its home, the LAVA House. As an example of an experimental alternative artspace, this artists’ community was a major part of Louisville’s underground counterculture up until its demise in a fire in winter of 2008. Here it is subject to multi-layered examination in the context of comparing past and current art making practices with LAVA’s attempt to identify a new purpose for art in the new millennium. For six and a half years, the LAVA organization was an art collective that pushed into undefined territory, provided its members with an open format for experimentation across mediums, and promoted sociopolitical goals of social justice and equality.

             This thesis and its attendant archive document LAVA’s history, its operations and activities, and gathers its remaining artifacts--photos, video, websites, notes--all of which stand as evidence and support its story. The section called “About the LAVA Archive” discusses the collecting and archiving practices used and explains why the archive structure was chosen.

             The work of documenting our culture, especially a collective creative underground legacy such as LAVA's, is vital to ensuring that a complete record of our times is available.  To accomplish this conservationist task, this thesis addresses:

  1. LAVA activities in context of art making practices in contemporary art world.
  2. LAVA’s story and significance.
  3. The process of building the LAVA archive, from collecting to compiling important papers, photographs, video footage and other ephemera.
  4. The research into the appropriate archival approaches, methods and standards needed to systematize these records and make them publicly available for research.
  5. The structure established for organizing, inventorying and documenting the LAVA archive materials.

            Since my own personal investment in this thesis project is complex, I want to make my multiple roles clear. I am, at once, a co-founder of and participant in LAVA, the organizer of this archive and the author of this document. The experience of wearing each of these hats as I completed this project has provided me insight into the process of documenting lives and relationships, events and happenings, and the difficult task of selecting objects and documentation worthy of inclusion into an archive, and finally working out an order that makes sense to those who will use the archive in the future.

           The final products of this thesis are this document and the LAVA/LAVA House archive which will be donated to the Margaret M. Bridwell Art Library at the University of Louisville. I hope that my efforts in recording LAVA’s life over the years and my bringing of this documentation to the University for observation, research, and enjoyment will inspire others to meticulously document other projects that too often disappear without a trace.