“Museums without walls” help tell stories of Kentucky communities

The City of Lexington's Public Arts Commission is implementing a Public Art Master Plan to continue to grow the city's vibrant arts scene.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Lexington’s Public Arts Commission is implementing a Public Art Master Plan to continue to grow Lexington’s art scene.

Public and street art, sometimes referred to as “a museum without walls,” makes a powerful impact on the community, according to LexArts Community Arts Director Nathan Zamarron.

“Public art really can help create an identity of a community. It’s a way we can celebrate who we are and help tell the story of this place,” said Zamarron.

That’s exactly what the Public Art Master Plan wants to embody through, among other things, allowing community input on art projects and working with area artists who have diverse art and cultural backgrounds.

“That is the perfect thing for not only this city, but any city or small town in the country. They should have some sort of program like this that’s devoted to artists to have a platform to put their work out there and show it,” said Lexington artist Pierce Birdsong.

Among the plan’s artist evaluation criteria, the plan requires artists to be of local residency, allowing area artists to truly tell the story of the place they live in.

“Visual art should act as a way to bring people together, and that’s what I think happens when you have a city that decides to plaster art all over the streets. It really denotes the type of cultural climate the city is in,” said Birdsong.

According to Kathy Werking, who owns Hopewell Creative Arts Gallery in Paris, street art and other public art displays have a positive impact on the communities around them.

“It provides beauty and color and innovation, sometimes messages that are meaningful. So it really helps the members of the community where the art is installed to have a sense of pride in place,” said Werking.

According to Somerset’s Director of Tourism, Leslie Ikerd, Somerset’s public arts initiatives began back in 2019, resulting in not only community enjoyment and a platform for area artists, but also a way to draw tourists, saying the town’s “I heart Somerset” mural has become a popular photo destination.

“It was kind of all those great things that we’re a part of downtown in just a mural. In the center of it is ‘I heart Somerset,’ and everyone who’s gone downtown has to get a picture there,” said Ikerd.

Lexington also plans to host workshops with the artists it partners with, bridging the gap between the artwork and the people who enjoy it.

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