There are many things that make a city great. Museums, green spaces, unique restaurants and boutiques, and interesting architecture are just a few of them. One of the things that makes a city come alive for me is public art that everyone can enjoy without spending a dime. Parks with sculpture gardens where people can sit and read a book or have lunch, light installations on the sides of skyscrapers, and murals on otherwise plain buildings can add an energy that cannot be described to an urban landscape. In the past ten years, downtown Lexington has undergone a renaissance and developed an energy that draws visitors and locals alike to its sidewalks and streets. Among my favorite additions are the many pieces of public art popping up to brighten our days.
Perhaps the most well known piece of public art in downtown these days is Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra‘s colorful rendition of President Lincoln located on the back wall of the Kentucky Theatre and visible from Vine Street. Mr. Lincoln was painted in 2013 as part of the PRHBTN project. When I went by to take a picture of it for this article, it made me laugh out loud to see that I wasn’t the first person to think of stopping by for a quick pic that afternoon, or even the second, or third. I love that Lexington has public art worthy of being a tourist destination, even on a cold January day! Just across the street, you can see “Mind Body Soul” by Kansas City artist Waseem Touma along the High Street side of the YMCA building that gives commuters a bit of jazzy color as they drive down Vine towards Richmond Road.
A more recent addition to the PRHBTN Project has gotten a fair amount of press. “My Name is MO” by French street artist MTO spans 75 feet x 270 feet on the side of the Old Pepper Distillery at 1200 Manchester Street. It depicts a caged street artist wearing a gas mask in red, black, and white with two hands flashing “MO” a form of sign language. Whether you’re in the “love it” or “hate it” camp, it’s definitely worth the quick drive from downtown to take a look. On your way, stop by the parking lot next to The Grand Reserve to see the Distillery District mural by Dronex, Inc.
Another well known mural is on the side of Belle’s Cocktail House on Market Street. Lily and the Silly Monkeys has sparked lots of conversation since it was added to the downtown art scene in 2012 as part of LexArts’ Lexington Mural Project. Painted by German artists Jasmin Siddiqui and Falk Lehman (jointly known as Herekut), it depicts a woodland sprite with an interesting look on her face next to another child dressed as a monkey with a real monkey on her back. Herekut also added color to Lexington’s north side by painting a large mural of a woman on the side of Arcadium on North Limestone. Just across the street, artist Michael Burrell’s 2008 mural titled “A Tradition of Music from North Limestone Street” appears on the side of Al’s Bar.
Traveling back toward downtown, four murals add interest to buildings on Short Street between Broadway and Midland. Starting from Broadway, the first mural is on the right painted on the back side of the Victorian Square parking garage next to Table Three Ten. Covering the entire wall in pink, black, and white is “Last Departure” by New York based twin brothers and artists How and Nosm. On the next block, you’ll see a mural of a tropical night scene looking over the patio of Cheapside Bar & Grille. Continuing down Short, you’ll see a large mural of several people and an alien titled “The Night Watchers” by Andrew Hem on the left next to Shorty’s Market and Tap Room. A few blocks further down Short, a whimsical mural appears on the right across from Central Christian Church that depicts a Wonderlandian view of things to do in Fayette County.
On the sculpture and structural art front, visit Main Street between Quality and Limestone to view five interesting pieces. The first is a set of sculptures of horses racing around Thoroughbred Park by Gwen Reardon. At first glance, it may seem that the horses are running in the opposite direction of most American races, but in the summer, the fountains spouting in the background act as a crowd and show the viewer that the horses are positioned as if the viewer were standing in the infield of a racetrack. More striking equine art stands in front of the Chase building at the corner of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Main in the form of The Flying Horse of Gansu, a gift to Lexington from the city of Xi’an and Shaanxi province in China. Just ahead on the left is art best viewed at night. To enhance the facade of the LFUCG parking garage, varying panels of metal were added to the front that light up in bright colors each evening. Continuing a few yards down on the right, look up and you can see “Concordia,” which is twelve hollow barrels stacked above the roof of the Downtown Art Center. I’ve made a point to look at this work by DeWitt Godfrey both during the day and at night, and it’s an interesting view at both times. Just a few steps farther and you’ll come to the Fayette District Courthouse Plaza, which features an enormous rectangular rain fountain the summer and a large iron horse year-round.
The next time you walk or drive through downtown Lexington, take a few moments to appreciate all of the beauty that these and many other artists have brought to our city. Hopefully, this trend will continue and more works will be added in 2015!
© Copyright 2015 Amelia Adams