LexArts has been a constant source of supporting and promoting the arts in Lexington for the last 42 years. During that time, it has grown from a traditional nonprofit council to an organization with a greater purpose and reach. Public service projects and grant-making are enriching the central Kentucky arts community in imaginative ways.
Nan Plummer has been the President and CEO of LexArts since 2014.
LexArts Hop, formerly known as Gallery Hop, is celebrating its 26th year. When the event was created in 1994 it was part of the downtown development plan to keep people downtown after the workday. It’s been a tremendous success, growing to 42 venues which graciously open their doors to display art.
“Hop demonstrates that artists and patrons benefit in tandem. People especially enjoy art in social settings. And artists need audiences to appreciate and buy their work,” she said.
While LexArts Hop is a seasonal event, the LexArts Gallery features the work of Kentucky artists all year. “I especially encourage anyone who wonders if Kentucky art is only quilts and rural landscape painting to visit the LexArts Gallery. Artists in our state are creating things in all media, across the spectrum of human experience,” Plummer said.
Past exhibits have included interactive sculpture, conceptual work, prison art, and most recently, Paint the Town, a show featuring downtown Lexington streetscapes.
LexArts recognizes the value of exposing young people to the arts. The Youth Arts Council invites students from every Lexington high school to invent and execute their own creative projects. They are guided by the expertise of the LexArts staff and interns from the University of Kentucky.
A recent project produced by the teenagers was a festival of original short plays, written, produced, and performed by the young artists. Most summers the Youth Arts Council organizes Lexaroo, an outdoor concert of youth rock bands.
Beyond enrichment, students are learning leadership skills. “If you are a squad leader in marching band, you learn to keep three of your peers motivated, focused, in line, and in time. An actor learns how to improvise when someone misses an entrance, leading the way out of a problem. A painter, poet or pianist puts her work out there for everyone to see, leading with the courage to take a risk. Together or solo, kids in the arts learn skills and attitudes that will serve them and others throughout life,” Plummer explained.
Community outreach continues with collaborative works like the Book Benches Project. Functional benches were painted by local artists who were inspired by books written by Kentucky authors. The program is supported by LexArts, ArtsConnect and the Carnegie Center. The artful benches are placed across the city and will be auctioned off in November. Money raised will support all three organizations.
“Neighborhoods come together around art projects. Our local economy strengthens through employment, tax revenues and tourism that the arts generate,” she said.
A unique and noteworthy event that is returning is called Arty Parties. Hosts and hostesses open their homes or other special venues for uniquely themed and intimate events. Past Arty Parties have featured an art swap, an Iranian tea party, a poolside supper, cocktails on the porch and a gospel brunch. One of the upcoming parties planned is called Ink for the Arts which will feature the new Tattoo Flash exhibition. The party book for planning will be released in mid-August. It’s a fun way to support LexArts while enjoying the creativity of friends and neighbors.
Plummer and the board are looking forward with a vision to expand their service through more public art projects. Additionally, they are eager to play a leadership role in the future of the arts across Lexington.
“To me, the phrase, “quality of life” actually means quality of people. The arts make us more human, more connected, more resilient,” Plummer said.
As Plummer sees it, an investment in the arts, is an investment in the community. “The arts express social concerns and values. They teach kids leadership and improve academic performance. The arts in healthcare settings demonstrably improve health outcomes,” she said.
To learn more about LexArts visit their website at lexarts.org or stop by the gallery at ArtsPlace downtown on North Mill Street. Admission is free! •