LexArts HOP explores connections and artistry in Lexington

Nate Lucas, Reporter

LexArt hosted its fifth bimonthly art HOP of 2022 on Sept. 16. The event hosted about 35 locations where hoppers are able to connect with local artists and view their work.

Due to the size of participating galleries and sites, a walk from the most eastern location to the furthest western location is an hour long. Most venues are concentrated in the middle of downtown Lexington to help visitors discover the most art they can during the three hour event.

Funded by the city of Lexington and the Kentucky Arts Council, this year marks LexArts’ 50th anniversary. It helps over 40 regional artists and organizations deliver their message through art in Kentucky.

LexArts is also a United Arts Fund where the money raised goes directly back to the community to continue engagement.

The ArtsPlace serves as a multifunctional building where artists take up studios in the basement, galleries are held on the first floor and professional dancers occupy the upstairs.

On the night of the HOP, President and CEO of LexArts Ame Sweetall was stationed at home base in the ArtsPlace with a bucket as water leaked from the ceiling. She explained that a younger dancer had accidentally left the sink upstairs on.

“It’s a 1904 building – originally a YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association),” Sweetall said. “So it’s got some old bones, but we love it.”

The HOP is one way to get people connected physically and financially to the heart of the city through art.

“LexArts, one of our true missions, and what I really feel in my heart, is that we are trying to make art the fabric of a community,” said Sweetall. “Arts is jobs. Arts is ticket sales… (Art) drives (a city) to be a place where someone wants to live.”

The LexArts Gallery is currently hosting ‘The Commonwealth of Kentucky’ by Kelly Brewer. The exhibit is composed of 70 Kentuckians, each painted by Brewer in portrait form. Right next to the painting, there is a QR code that can be scanned to listen to each person’s oral autobiography along with a small reading.

“I lost my mom to cancer in January of 2020,” Brewer said. “On the year anniversary of her death, my father gave me a journal of hers … She had written at the bottom of the page, ‘What are you doing with your privilege?’ And it really just hit me across the face because other than being a mother and a wife, my greatest privilege is that I get to be an artist.”

Brewer had already created the Jo B. Robertson Charitable Foundation in her mother’s name, when she decided to challenge herself as an artist. The original idea was to sell art to help raise money, but she said it grew into the exhibit organically.

“The reality of having someone come and sit for you and paint them from life is intimidating,” Brewer said. “So I started with my friends, and my very first one that I did was my daughter’s best friend.”

Brewer’s notion of everyone being connected rang true. Her project rapidly advanced after her subjects recommended other people they thought she should paint.

‘The Commonwealth of Kentucky’ will be on display at LexArts Gallery until Oct 1. The next LexArts HOP will be Nov. 18.