Garage Bar

700 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40202

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Garage Art: Ping Pong Tables

If you’ve ever been to a parade in Louisville, or are simply hanging out outside on Bardstown Road on a weekend, chances are you have probably seen the 21c Museum Hotel Red Pipped Limo or their mirrored Miata, Blind Spot – both of which were created by local painter and conceptual artist, Monica Mahoney.  When Chef Michael Paley and the creative minds behind 21c were looking to open Garage Bar in 2011 and wanted to infuse the decade’s old service station with conversation-sparking art they knew exactly where to look.

Ping pong, a deeply rooted pastime in Paley’s native Northeast (and really just plain fun for anyone), was a must for Garage Bar, but they needed something out of the ordinary and turned to Mahoney for answers.  Ms. Mahoney was asked to help create the ping pong tables that grace the beer garden as well as the indoor ham bar and the “ghost sign” inspired signage on the side of the building.

The tables themselves are a sum of some pretty interesting parts.  The tops, which at first glance appear to be frosted glass, are actually translucent cement.  Mahoney traveled to a factory in Mexico City that specializes in translucent cement to have the work done on the table tops and had to wait several months to complete them while they were stuck in customs.  Since the tables were a bit transparent, Mahoney was inspired to create a lighting element to sit underneath and illuminate them for nighttime playing.  With the help of Mike Mullins, owner of Mullins Machining in Goshen, KY, Mahoney created 9’x5’ steel light boxes to rest inside. Though, she says, “determining just the right amount of light to enable night pong has continued to be a challenge, especially since the second table is a different opacity.”

With the tabletop and lighting in place there was only one piece left to complete, the most important piece.  The base structure.  This is where the genius of an artist comes in.  Rather than creating a run-of-the-mill table base, Mahoney had the thought to use crushed cars.  An original challenge of not being able to use U.S. cars (which are pancaked) led her to Canada where the cars are cubed.  The next time you are playing a round bend down and take a look to see bits of door handle, license plates or fenders peering back at you.

You might even spot the artist herself. As Mahoney put it, “I live in the neighborhood and every time I pass or stop in and see people playing pong, smiling, laughing, hooting and hollering…it gives me tremendous joy.”

With special thanks to Marla Sweitzer for initial reporting