Art is winning in Lexington and Nicholasville

Lexington's First National Bank (aka Fayette National Bank) Building
and Future 21c Museum and Hotel (Photo: Author)
In early June, the city council approved final terms on the 21c Museum and Hotel which will occupy that city’s oldest skyscraper, the Fayette National Bank Building. Since the approval, construction has been moving along in the historic structure.

Originating in Louisville, 21c already has locations in Louisville, Cincinnati, and in Bentonville, Arkansas. The fourth location will be in Durham, North Carolina, and Lexington will be the brand’s fifth. Construction has already begun to rehabilitate the Lexington landmark for its future purpose.

A 21c hotel, however, is far more than a place to rest one’s head.

The modern, award-winning hotels are well-regarded for the art museums at each location which are free and open to the public.

During the council debate on the matter, Lexington’s elected leaders heard from some constituents who don’t approve of the art that will be on display. Too risque. Too provocative. Too sexual, they argue.

But the project was still approved. Lexington’s leaders approved of the downtown development that would bring jobs, a proven hotel, and a collection of art (albeit controversial at times) to its Main Street.

But what is art?

It is defined as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”

Emotional power? Surely those objecting to 21c’s art have a strong emotional response to seeing it (or perhaps just hearing of it). It so moved them that they sought to take an active step in democracy by speaking to their elected leaders.

Have you been dramatically moved by a piece of art?

Perhaps it was a painting or a song or a sculpture or a book. Irrespective of form, art can carry us to new heights, can overcome our emotions and can make us dream new dreams.

It is a good thing that art won on Lexington’s Main Street.

Nicholasville's First Gallery Walk in June 2014 (Photo: Author)
And it is a great thing that art won on Nicholasville’s Main Street in early June, as well.

At the close of business on June 6, the Polvino Family Art Center opened its doors. And with it came throngs of people for Nicholasville’s first gallery walk.

Twelve spots along Main Street saw artists showcasing their work and people filling sidewalks. Four restaurants along Main Street — Euro’s, the Nicholasville Cafe, Brewer’s, and Simi’s — each were open for evening dining.

It was so exciting to see all of the people walking along our downtown streets on a beautiful evening while patronizing our locally owned businesses.

When our Main Street’s streetscape was torn up several years ago for a beautification process, our community suffered. But I believe that through the years and through that pain, we are emerging as a better community.

I tip my hat to Constance Grayson and all of those involved in having the vision and the drive to turn that vision into a reality. The Creative Art League of Jessamine County has grown so much over the past few years and it has so much more potential!

I am excited about future gallery walks and the energy and beauty that they bring to Main Street, Nicholasville.

The next Gallery Walk along Nicholasville's historic Main Street will be on August 8 from 5:00 to 8:00.

A version of this column originally appeared in the Jessamine Journal on June 11, 2014. It should not be republished without permission.