Home » Prominent and public arts scene enlivens Central Kentucky living

Prominent and public arts scene enlivens Central Kentucky living

‘Look at Lexington as a canvas’

By Kathie Stamps

Casa de la Cultura is a group that promotes the Latino culture to the region’s younger generation with programs, workshops, classes and festivals including an annual Festival Dia de las Madres.

Lexington attracts tourists and relocating businesses for many reasons, one being that it is literally attractive.

There has never been a shortage of artists in Central Kentucky. Local communities boast galleries and artist co-ops, local theaters allow children to get involved and dancers, musicians and sculptors alike all find homes in the region’s inviting communities. Individuals, organized groups, corporations and the city government itself have an intrinsic appreciation of the arts.

The Corridors Commission has installed landscaped art in the form of attractive plantings on Main Street and Oliver Lewis Way, in the median of Newtown Pike at I-75 and on Man O’ War at Versailles Road. Lexington-Fayette Urban County Councilmember Bill Farmer chairs the Corridors Commission, which is tasked with managing the look and feel of Lexington’s gateways to the city. He is proposing a Percent for Art program for Lexington to set aside 1 percent of the cost of capital improvement projects for public art.

“There’s a thirst for that from the public and the council,” Farmer said of big art projects.

Approximately 350 U.S. cities, from Indianapolis to Seattle, have public art programs. The process for Lexington will involve council approval of the Percent for Art resolution, input from the public, the drafting and subsequent revising of a Public Art Master Plan for the city and the establishment of a Public Art Acquisition Fund. The fund would enable works of art to be commissioned and provide for the installation and maintenance of public art on property owned or operated by the Urban County Government.

If passed, the fund will “look at Lexington as a canvas,” Farmer said, “to bring things that are tactile, more powerful and stand out to the public.”

“There’s this unspoken need for art all the time – music, public art, everything – and Lexington has some of the best talent in the country,” said Donald Mason, executive director of the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center.

Built in 1948, the Lyric Theatre closed in 1963. It was renovated and reopened in 2010 to bring in musical performers and films to its 520-seat theater. The Lyric also offers youth-centric educational programs, a monthly Feed the Soul luncheon series, a dance event called Fun Fridays, art pieces throughout the entire building and rotating exhibits in the second-floor gallery. Venue rental is the main source of revenue for the center.

Mason would like to see a restaurant or two open in the downtown neighborhood near the center. “The East End is a diamond-in-the-rough area from a commerce perspective,” he said.

Although the 2018 Fund for the Arts campaign for LexArts fell short of its $1.2 million goal, corporate giving was up 4 percent and individual donations were up 19 percent from last year. For fiscal year 2019 that began July 1, 2018, LexArts is providing funds for six General Operating Support partners: Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning; Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras; Lexington Art League; Lexington Children’s Theatre; Lexington Philharmonic; and the Living Arts and Science Center. A dozen programs and 15 projects are receiving community arts development grants from LexArts. Dozens of seasonal ARTy pARTies hosted by individuals or couples take place at their homes or small venues as LexArts fundraisers. ARTy pARTies in the fall of 2017 raised $55,000.

As founder and owner of Arts Connect, Kate Savage typically works on several artistic projects at once. She runs a mobile gallery for rotating original artwork in corporate spaces, produces seasonal luncheon programs and cultural trips to other states, and coordinates the annual Paint the Town outdoor event for artists every June; 61 pieces of downtown Lexington were painted in 2018.

Savage is also the brainchild behind the Book Benches project – bus stop seating that looks like large, open books – as she saw a similar project in her native country of England four years ago.

“I thought that was a cool idea and would transfer easily to Lexington,” she said. “I approached LexArts and the Carnegie Center. They like to collaborate, and they were both enthusiastic.”

Artists painted 38 benches by paying tribute to 38 books by Kentucky authors. The benches will be on display throughout Lexington until October, with an auction scheduled for Nov. 17.

In Paris, Hopewell Museum has become the center of art and culture, history and historic preservation in Bourbon County. Founded in 1994 in a Beaux-Arts building from 1908, the museum is funded by private donations, grants and memberships. Community offerings include public lectures, a monthly Free Family Fun Day, spring and fall art walks in participation with downtown businesses of Paris, the annual Cookies With Santa party, juried art shows and at least three historical and artistic exhibits each year.

Woodford County, meanwhile, is growing fast and the local theater there is staying busy.

“Investing in the arts, especially theater, is investing in human and civic potential,” said Trish Clark, executive and artistic director of Woodford Theatre in Versailles. “Participating in a theatrical production develops the very qualities that define good citizens: commitment and discipline, a spirit of cooperation and creative problem-solving skills.”

Established in 1987 as the Woodford County Theatrical Arts Association, Woodford Theatre saw patrons from 56 Kentucky counties during its 2016-17 season. More than 2,500 students from ages 8 to 18 participate annually in the theater’s Summer Academy, Woodford Theatre Young Artists program and the Girl Project Next Generation, among other programs and outreach services.

“The arts celebrate all that is good in us, and shine a light on that which needs repair,” Clark said. “Simply put, the arts change lives.”


161 North Mill Street

Lexington, KY 40507

(859) 255-2951


LexArts works for the development of a strong and vibrant arts community as a means of enhancing the quality of life in central Kentucky. Through its annual Fund for the Arts, LexArts raises millions of dollars in support of local arts, and, in turn, underwrites operating expenses of Partner Organizations, awards Community Arts Development grants and offers affordable rehearsal and office space for arts organizations.

Festival Scene


St. Patrick’s Parade & Festival


International Kite and Culture Festival, Georgetown

Lexington Kite Fest


Art in the Park, Versailles

Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass at Shaker Village

Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival, Midway

Mayfest Arts Fair


Beer Cheese Festival, Winchester

Festival of the Bluegrass

Great American Brass Band Festival, Danville

Lexington Pride Festival

Paint the Town


BreyerFest, Kentucky Horse Park

Fourth of July Festival

SummerFest at Woodland Park


Berea Celtic Festival

Crave Food + Music Festival

Daniel Boone Pioneer Festival, Winchester

Red, White & Boom Music Festival
(now at Rupp Arena)

Shaker Village Craft Fair, Harrodsburg


Christ the King Oktoberfest

Festival Latino de Lexington

Festival of the Horse,
Downtown Georgetown

Kentucky State BBQ Festival, Danville

Roots and Heritage Festival


Court Days, Mt. Sterling


Kentucky Book Fair, Kentucky Horse Park

African American Forum


Berea Arts Council (Berea)


Blackbird Dance Theatre


Bluegrass Youth Ballet


Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning


Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras


Central Music Academy


Eastern Kentucky University Center for the Arts (Richmond)


Grand Theater (Frankfort)


Headley-Whitney Museum


Innovation Arts Academy


Institute 193


Kentucky Arts Council (Frankfort)


Kentucky Ballet Theatre


Kentucky Repertory Dance Theatre


Leeds Center for the Arts (Winchester)


Lexington Art League


Lexington Ballet


Lexington Chamber Chorale


Lexington Children’s Theatre


Lexington Community Radio


Lexington Opera Society


Lexington Philharmonic


Lexington Public Library


Lexington Singers


Living Arts & Science Center


Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center


Norton Center for the Arts (Danville)


Red Barn Radio


Richmond Area Arts Council


Singletary Center for the Arts


Studio Players


University of Kentucky Art Museum


Woodford Theater (Versailles)


Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour