Seeing some extra blue

By Michael D. Bullard

In celebration of Geography Awareness Week, the University of Kentucky’s Department of Geography wants Lexington residents to see even more blue than usual.

Over the weekend, 20 UK geography students, faculty, Town Branch supporters and local artist Blake Earmes busted out their paint brushes and buckets of blue in the parking lot of Kentucky Utilities to paint a facsimile of Town Branch, the narrow stream upon which the city of Lexington was built.

When seen from above, the project presents the illusion of “Mapping Earth,” given that Town Branch lies directly beneath the 300 ft. life-size map between Water and Vine Streets. Though the map is a great visual of the historical stream, there is more to the project than what meets the eye.

Members of the Geography department say they don’t want to inform Lexington residents of the stream only; they want the stream to represent a bigger picture.

“A central idea of geography is to show how geography writes its own story and how it reflects on society,” UK geography graduate Hugh Deaner said.  “We shape nature but many forget that nature also shapes us.”

Deaner said geography also affected the locations of certain structures.

“Look at the buildings surrounding the parking lot. There is a reason why they were built where they now stand and why this was turned into a lot,” Deaner said, hands covered in blue paint.

Because Town Branch ran through the city beneath the heart of downtown Lexington, structures like KU were built around Town Branch, which now serves as a storm sewer.

This year, Geography Awareness Week created the life-size map of Town Branch to not only bring the hidden stream to the surface with blue paint, but also to bring awareness to the fact that geography plays a huge role in citizen’s lives.

The map of Town Branch will remain until KU repaves its parking lot this spring.