Art in the Bluegrass: Art with a Purpose

Story by Jen Roytz, Photos courtesy of LexArts


No single piece of art was ever created without purpose and intent. So often the beauty lies not in a piece itself, but how it makes us feel and think about a subject. 

From the iconic bronze statues of horses scattered throughout the city and murals on the sides of buildings to sculptures that incorporate elements like water, movement and repurposed materials, one of Lexington’s best features is the wide array of thought-provoking artistic installations spread throughout the city.

Such is the case with “Unlearn Fear + Hate”, an impressive 23 feet wide sculpture that sits above the Courthouse district. According to the artists Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova, “Inspired by a need to address growing racial tensions in the United States, the project has promoted public dialog through temporary and permanent activations of the words ‘Unlearn Fear + Hate,’ from a commissioned poem by Frank X Walker, Kentucky's first African American Poet Laureate. It is an invitation for everyone to join the work of diminishing the fears we live with by acknowledging our shared humanity.” Gohde and Todorova have since received two awards for this artwork-the Lexington Forum Spirit Award and the first Georgia Davis Powers Award, established by the Kentucky Council for the Social Studies.

Just down the road from the impressive “Unlearn Fear + Hate”, an equally impressive “Surface Reflections” resides.  Located across from the Old Courthouse and Cheapside Park on Main Street in the passageway between the Financial Center and its parking garage, this unique hybrid sound sculpture installation by Bill Fontana is a tribute to Town Branch, Lexington’s first water source. Thanks to speakers strategically planted throughout the area, the relaxing sounds of a gently flowing stream fill the years of passers-by, and as the iconic Courthouse bell chimes each hour its tones are digitally mixed with the sounds of the Town Branch water.

Another unique piece of art that offers a nod to its Kentucky roots is “Taking Flight,” a tribute piece to the wide variety of bird species that call the Bluegrass home and to the settlers who first came upon them as they made a life for themselves in Kentucky. Located at McConnell Springs, widely known as the birthplace of Lexington, Erika Strecker created this metal sculpture in an effort to evoke the hope and promise of a new beginning as a flock of birds take to the sky.

 If you’ve ever visited the Downtown Art Center, you may have noticed it is made up of two distinctly different buildings, sandwiched together but widely varying in height and style. Sitting atop its roof and against an exterior wall is “Concordia,” a sculpture created by internationally recognized artist DeWitt Godfrey to honor the diversity within a community and the common bond it creates. The piece is comprised of various sized cylindrical pieces, stacked and fitted together as a buttress between the two buildings to create a single, structurally sound unit, similarly to how a community of individuals from widely varying backgrounds, cultures and lifestyles can come together, balancing various pressures and stresses as a unified system.

The city center isn’t the only place to find meaningful artistic instillations. Just a fifteen-minute drive from Downtown Lexington is the beautiful greenspace of Jacobson Park. Offering open fields, wooded areas and a large reservoir, the park is a favorite spot for adults and children alike. Located near the reservoir is “Livestream,” an eco-art installation that consists of a series of brightly colored pipes, intertwined amongst one another. The soundscape combines art, science and technology in an effort to shine a light on one of our most critical resources – groundwater. The piece gathers data on groundwater from throughout Kentucky and transmits the data as sound based on one’s proximity to the pipes.

To learn more about these and other meaningful art pieces in and around Lexington, visit