“I Bet We Can Build That”

Weber Group Past, Present, and Future

Portland Museum and the nationally recognized creative fabrication firm Weber Group have teamed up to establish Louisville’s first immersive arts experience, AHOY, for its West End children

The Weber brothers, Tom and Donny, were born in West Louisville’s Shawnee Park Neighborhood in the 1940’s.  They attended school in the neighborhood, including Flaget High School, with the quiet residential streets and alleys serving as their playground.  Recalling a distant memory of a local Christmas storefront display that had moving toys and lights, the two brothers declared “I bet we can build that.” That moment was the start of imagining, and then building, what could be.

The Weber Family

After graduating from University of Kentucky the brothers eventually founded Weber Group in 1983 as a Design-Build company to use those design and construction skills.  They found early success working with some of Louisville’s nonprofits bringing creative ideas to housing needs in the city.  The Group’s first major project was expanding and revitalizing Kentucky Kingdom, designing and installing everything from the rollercoasters to the breakrooms from 1992 to 1997. Since those early roots, their team and sights have grown, with Weber Group’s touch unimposingly yet unmistakably finding home across Louisville and the United States.

Louisvillians, even if they don’t know the Weber name, will recognize their hometown work from Churchill Downs to the Louisville Zoo. Nationally Weber has become renowned for their contributions to vacation-favorites Great Wolf Lodge, the Kennedy Space Center, the Outdoor Adventure Center in Detroit, Michigan, and other immersive spaces.

The Portland Museum and Weber Group first worked together in 1989 on its first significant addition to the Museum. Thirty years later, Portland Museum is reconnecting with Weber Group and bringing them back to Louisville’s West End, where it all once began. This talent and history make Weber Group a storybook match for Portland Museum’s AHOY project, and the two organizations have been working diligently together to bring it to life. They are both ready to let you peek inside their design process and into the future.

Premiere interior rendering of the AHOY House!
Take a peek into AHOY and the minds of its creators with this video from KERTIS Creative

          AHOY is Adventure House of You; the first of its kind and much more than a brick-and-mortar children’s museum. Inspired in-part by the unique execution style of Weber Group, Portland Museum is creating a motivating, enrapturing arts space dedicated to the children of Louisville’s West End. Against all socioeconomic odds, West End youth deserve the opportunity to dream, and to share their empowering dreams with peers across our city and beyond. As AHOY committee member/retired Home of the Innocents CEO Gordon Brown puts it, “AHOY is a state of mind that our young visitors will take home with them to affect the rest of their everyday lives.” Much like that holiday display touched Tom and Donny Weber, AHOY will for today’s children of the West End, and beyond, create young ambassadors who feel a renewed sense of pride in themselves and their home. Plus, again like Tom and Donny, they’ll have a fun time doing it.

Connecting Weber Group’s West End origins with their West End future through AHOY will be “I Bet We Can Build That:” Weber Group Past, Present, and Future, opening Sunday, May 22nd at Portland Museum. Weber Group is known for its abilities as a “one stop shop,” meaning that it impressively can handle everything from drafting designs to fabricating objects all in-house. Displayed on the walls of the Portland Museum will be a glimpse into that process, with sketches, molds, and architectural plans building up to fun large-scale props akin to those to be seen in AHOY. Oversized tentacles, miniature elephants, terracotta warriors, larger-than-life robots, adorable slugs, and more will populate Portland Museum’s gallery rooms! Such images and objects have origins spanning the country, but they will be here focused on their past and potential within Louisville’s West End. To be unveiled in style will be completed designs for AHOY as put together by Weber with direction from Portland Museum’s directors and AHOY Committee, featuring the minds behind Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Squallis Puppeteers, Louisville’s Urban Design Studio, and more. We at Portland Museum know what Weber is capable of, and through this exhibit want to share our excitement directly with you.

“I Bet We Can Build That:” Weber Group Past, Present, and Future is just the beginning for AHOY, and we are lucky to have the Weber Group by our side into the future. More than anything, AHOY is for the underserved peoples of Louisville, particularly their children. Weber will be working alongside local and community artists within AHOY, and our AHOY Committee will field ideas and feedback directly from a committee of West End kids (we like to call them our Catfish Club). The Weber Group started with two kids with a dream in their heads and fun in their hearts, and in celebrating those two kids and what they’ve accomplished, Portland Museum through AHOY aims to inspire many, many more like them.

William showing off some of the goods.