Book bench project celebrates richness of Lexington art


This book bench, based on the book Bertyl: I Just Want to Belong by Sandra Dobozi, is located in Thoroughbred Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff.

Kellsie Kennedy

Returning to Lexington after summer vacation, many UK students may have noticed the gradual arrival of 37 benches in the shape of open books.

Each book bench began blank, like a newly purchased notebook. They were allocated to the Lexington artists who submitted winning ideas for the benches’ decoration, and each bench serves as a representation of a Kentucky author’s publication.

Installation is scheduled to continue until late fall. These benches are the result of a team effort between Arts Connect, LexArt and The Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning.

UK English professor Gurney Norman has his work represented on one of the benches.

“Lexington is home to many artists, working in every art form. Think of the painters, filmmakers, theater people, dancers, sculptors, writers, poets, musicians. Central Kentucky is rich in its artistic traditions, and it is a city which nourishes all the arts. It has an especially rich literary tradition,” Norman said.

Norman said the bench project has allowed the city to celebrate the “richness” and allow the community to appreciate it.

“I think they look really cool and add to Lexington’s uniqueness…” said Emily Ingram, a natural resource and environmental science senior. “It’s nice to see Lexington proud of their own.”

Lexington especially has seen an increase in programs and events which broadcast support and education about Kentucky as a whole. When faced with demeaning stereotypes, Kentucky has raised support for its state with the sale of Kentucky for Kentucky and Shop Local Kentucky products, for example.

Popularity for these products have only grown as more and more people sport t-shirts emblazed with “Y’all” and baseball hats embroidered with the abbreviation “Lex.” The Lexington Book Benches serve as another initiative to improve the mindset Kentucky has for itself while also fighting against the stereotypes that say the state is an artless and uneducated place.

The benches seem to particularly bring a positive impact to UK’s English majors. The college occasionally offers courses which specialize in teaching its students the work of Kentucky authors. Having the opportunity to also study under some of Kentucky’s most prodigious writers seems to have made many UK English majors particularly defensive of Kentucky literature.

English junior Alec Foust said he thinks the benches are “awesome.”

“It seems like the only people you ever hear talk about Kentucky literature are people who care deeply about literature in general, which is a shame because lots of people don’t realize just how rich the commonwealth is artistically…” Foust said. “I really don’t see a downside to the project. Even if few individuals go out of their way to read books by Kentuckians, at least the city is doing something to recognize the authors and their accomplishments.”