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Bourbon barrels canvas for new LexArts public art project

By Rich Copley, Copious Notes

LexArts is inviting area artists to riff on another regional icon this fall: bourbon barrels.

The Bourbon Barrel Project on Town Branch will place authentic bourbon barrels embellished by area artists through downtown Lexington to highlight the waterway that flows under Vine Street and Midland Avenue. The display will take place this fall and coincides with the Kentucky Bourbon Festival and the Bourbon Chase, a 200-mile race along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Oct. 18 and 19. LexArts has been selected as a beneficiary of the Bourbon Chase and will pay the $1,500 entry fee for allotted teams that raise $6,000 or more for the arts.


LexArts has put out a call to artists seeking submissions of proposals for barrel designs. Like in the Horse Mania projects, design proposals will be presented to potential sponsors, who will choose designs they want to support. Selected artists will received a $1,200 honorarium to create their barrel. The deadline for submissions is June 17.

This will be the fourth public art project of this type presented by LexArts, formerly the Lexington Arts and Cultural Council, following the Horse Mania projects of 2000 and 2010 and Dynamic Doors in 2003. Another project, Wildcat Madness in 2001, was presented by the University of Kentucky Basketball Museum.

The Bourbon Barrell Project is being managed in partnership with Alltech’s Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company. Alltech opened the Town Branch Distillery last fall, where it produces Town Branch Bourbon and Pearse Lyons Reserve.


Thursday May 30th 8pm at Natasha’s Bistro & Bar – Lexington

Come to Support Town Branch Trail!
Join us for a special evening of music and celebration supporting projects inspired by Town Branch, both as a scenic trail and as the beautiful new centerpiece of downtown Lexington.

  • Van Meter Pettit will discuss the Town Branch Trail, an eight-mile scenic route for bikes, runners, and pedestrians, past limestone springs, early distilleries, pioneer houses, ancient oaks, and the graceful landscapes of our home countryside. 
  • Jeff Fugate of the Downtown Development Authority will discuss exciting new designs for Town Branch Commons, which will open the watercourse to create central areas of natural beauty through the very heart of Lexington.
  • Music by Oldsmobile, featuring some of Lexington’s finest- Jim Gleason, Rex Hart, Ricky Baldwin, Missy Johnston, Marilyn Robie, and the outstanding songs of Tom Green. 

Gather with us as we support Town Branch of the Elkhorn. Together we celebrate our progress, we look into our future, and we learn how we can each take part.

Town Branch Trail

Town Branch Trail

Events for Town Branch Commons Design Competition


Discussion of “Landscapes of Confrontation”
Bradford McKee, editor, Landscape Architecture magazine
7 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 30
Gluck Equine Research Center auditorium, 1400 Nicholasville Road
Hosted by UK Landscape Architecture

Bradford McKee will lead a discussion on “Landscapes of Confrontation” covering how to deals with site contamination. McKee is the current editor of Landscape Architecture Magazine and a member of the Town Branch Commons Design Competition Jury.

​Lafayette Seminar in Public Issues
11:30 a.m., Thursday Jan. 31
Hilary J. Boone Center, 500 Rose St.
Hosted by the Gaines Center for the Humanities

Speakers are local architect Van Meter Pettit and planner Stan Harvey. Sponsored annually by the Gaines Center for the Humanities at UK, this lecture will be an opportunity for Lexington community members, elected officials, and faculty and students to offer insights on the history of the Town Branch and examine large-scale projects from other cities and how they have been implemented. The Lafayette Seminar is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Lunch is free and the event is open to the public. Seating is limited, reservations required. To reserve a seat, please email or call (859) 257-1537.

Design Adds Value to the Commons
Five Landscape Architects Discuss the Importance of Good Design for Downtown Development
4 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 31,
Lexington Children’s Theatre, 418 W. Short St.
Hosted by the UK College of Design

Each of the five design firms shortlisted for the competition will speak to how the implementation of large-scale public projects can increase a city’s value, citing past commissions as examples. The discussion will be moderated by Michael Speaks, Dean, UK College of Design
and will feature Aaron Betsky, Director, Cincinnati Art Museum, and Bradford McKee, Editor, Landscape Architecture magazine. This event is free and open to the public.

Designs on Display
February 4-22 (February 15 Gallery Hop Included)
City Gallery, Downtown Arts Center, 141 East Main Street

The designs each firm has created will be on display at the Downtown Arts Center from February 4-22 and will be displayed during the Gallery Hop on the 15th.

Consultant unveils ideas for reinventing Rupp Arena and surrounding area

Arena just a small part of ideas for all of downtown

By Beverly Fortune —

At a public meeting Wednesday, a consultant unveiled ambitious preliminary ideas for reinventing Rupp Arena and the surrounding area in downtown Lexington.

Architect and urban planner Gary Bates, hired by the city’s Arena, Arts & Entertainment Task Force, proposed a route tying the University of Kentucky campus more closely to downtown, and a continuous commons area — a central park connecting public spaces from Cox Street to the East End.

Bates told the audience in the Lexington Children’s Theatre auditorium on West Short Street that the ideas are only a beginning. He said his urban-design team wanted community input before making final recommendations to the task force at the end of January about the future of Rupp Arena, the Lexington Center and a proposed arts-and-entertainment area.

The 47-member Arena, Arts & Entertainment Task Force was appointed by Mayor Jim Gray in March. The group is being financed with $350,000 in private donations. Bates is one of three founders of SpaceGroup, a 12-year-old architecture and urban planning firm in Oslo, Norway.

Ideas that Bates proposed Wednesday night included:

• A commons area running through the public spaces of downtown, specifically along Vine Street, that would include green space, trees and sitting areas. It would have water features to mimic Lexington’s Town Branch creek, which now is encased in a tunnel buried a century ago underneath Vine Street. There would still be room for traffic on Vine.

• A Cat Walk, basically a procession route from the UK campus to Rupp Arena that would go fromEuclid Avenue down South Limestone to Maxwell Street; then west on Maxwell to the High Street parking lot in front of the Lexington Center. The Cat Walk would cut through the parking lot to the arena.

The route would have its own identity, Bates said, possibly with its own lighting and graphics, such as blue paint or giant cat pawprints on the street. This would tie the campus more closely to the arena, a request of the UK athletics department.

• A new purpose for the sprawling High Street parking lot in front of the Lexington Center. The area could include a Fayette County public school for the arts, an outdoor amphitheatre and sports fields that could be used for parking when needed.

• Preserving and finding a new use for the historic First Baptist Church on West Main Street.

• Looking at new ways to use Victorian Square.

• Developing the proposed Distillery District, on the west side of the Lexington Center, with arts venues, music clubs and restaurants.

• “Reskinning” the exterior of Rupp Arena with a translucent covering and changing the interior to expand lower-arena seating, add backs to upper-arena seats, and boost the fan experience with technology, such as an electronic ribbon around the arena and a drop-down scoreboard above the center of the floor.

• Building a new Lexington convention center, perhaps to the west of Rupp Arena into the Cox Street parking lot, and having it resemble a movie studio lot with several buildings linked by glass covered walkways.

• Moving the retail shops now inside the Lexington Center to street level along West Main Street. When there are no events in the Lexington Center, there is no business for the stores, he said.

• Developing a new transportation hub near the Corman Railroad yard to include a Lexington Transit Authority downtown transfer station, a bike path and a depot for a new passenger rail line.

Reactions from people who heard the ideas were mixed.

Lexington architect Jeffrey Stivers said he heard “a lot of really good ideas. I think people are approaching these ideas with an open mind and are having a healthy discussion. That is very positive.”

But Mike Stutland, owner of Artique in the Lexington Center, questioned the feasibility of the vision.

“I love big dreams, but I’m a realist,” Stutland said. “What I see has bigger costs for executing these ideas than our state has resources or a desire to do.”

Construction on the last expansion of the Lexington Center in the early 2000s hurt his business, Stutland said. “I want to see realistic ways these ideas — like moving retail to street level — can be accomplished without putting me out of business.”

Mayor Jim Gray said a committee of the Arena, Arts & Entertainment Task Force has started working on financing. “First we have to determine the scope of the project and get estimates of cost. Then you go into the question of funding,” he said.

Reach Beverly Fortune at (859) 231-3251 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3251.

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