Confession, friends: I’m pretty ignorant when it comes to visual art.
I majored in piano performance in college, and music permeates my life so much more deeply than visual art that I am leaps and bounds more emotionally connected to music. I can’t tell much about emotions in visual art unless there is a face in front of me expressing the emotion.
So, if I’m not an “artsy” person--though my elephant pants would beg to differ—why did I go to the Lex Arts Hop?
Worse confession: The-free-food-and-drink-please-don’t-think-less-of-me.
I feel a lot of people are like me though, otherwise the venues wouldn’t be handing out noms and libations so freely. So I am ashamed of my Philistine leanings when it comes to art, but the food & drink worked! It got me out of my house to look at some really great pieces of art.
If you’ve never participated in LexArts Hop, you’re in for a real treat. I’m always amazed at how diverse and talented our artist communities are here, even though we’re not a terribly big city. This LexArts Hop Guide will make sure you have the best Hop experience you could ask for!
LexArts Hop is always on a Friday, so that can make driving and finding a parking place tricky. If you’re from out of town, consider parking near a trolley stop, and just use our nifty, free trolley service to take you to a Hop starting point. Otherwise if you are brave enough to drive downtown, free street parking starts at 5 PM!
And FYI, it wouldn’t hurt for you to check if there’s another event going on downtown. You can visit our tourism website or search for events at Rupp Arena. Other events mean event parking prices; many garages and parking lots can charge anywhere from $10-$20 for event parking.
Where to Start
I always recommend starting at the Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center. Not only do they have the best food spread (you know I’m looking out for you), they also have a beautiful space. If you’re not sure about art in general this gives you a nice balance of artwork. Exhibits often change Hop to Hop, but on the first floor you’re likely to get balance of abstract paintings, weird sculptures, and normal paintings of, like, a horse. You’re going to see lots of paintings of horses.
I recommend printing a map off from the LexArts Hop website and circling which locations you want to visit. But if you’re not a planner like me, you can grab a map at any of the participating locations. If you’re super easy-breezy and don’t need any plan, just wander around downtown and look for giant flags in front of buildings that say LexArts Hop.
Getting a good mix of venues is a great way to get a lot of different experiences! There are galleries and museums, which can be very different experiences between them. The Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center is spacious, though often popular. Smaller galleries like Upper Crust Gallery are cramped, stuffed with art, and are less popular. (You might feel a bit weird visiting a gallery if you don’t intend to buy anything though.)
Then there are artist studios. I recommend visiting at least one! It’s always a fun experience to see where the magic happens. And maybe, like when we visited Savane Silver, you’ll get a sweet demonstration. Demonstrations make all the difference. I know nothing about making jewelry, so when we visited Savane Silver, I was like, “ooh, pretty, shiny things,” without being terribly interested in the pieces. But after I saw the skill it takes to make those pieces, it was like I was seeing each piece with new eyes.
The supporting arts venues run from restaurants, to stores, to yoga studios. They are definitely interesting venues, but don’t expect a lot of explanation on the pieces of art.
There are few must-see places I always visit because they always have artwork I really connect with. (I’ve gotten more connected to visual art the more I Hop!) The first is the Downtown Public Library. This most recent exhibition was photograph of my favorite gubernatorial candidate Gatewood Galbraith.
Institute 193 is another gallery I adore. It’s tiny, non-profit, but the art they bring into the gallery always makes me feel something. And as I mentioned before, I have a hard time feeling emotion from visual art.
If you’re not from Lexington, I would also recommend visiting the Lyric Theatre’s exhibit, UK Art Museum’s exhibit, and 21c’s exhibit, but you can (and should) view the art exhibited there any time. I also recommend picking at least one location that is not in downtown Lexington. There are a significant number of venues like Arabesque World Dance, Global Lex, and the Parachute Factory that can’t easily be walked to.
So whether you are an art connoisseur, or you’re just interested in free food, LexArts Hop will be a great experience.
Don’t let the evening end at the LexArts Hop! Check out one of our, I can only assume, millions of restaurants we have! Any Ouita Michel restaurant is a good choice, as are Sav's, Minglewood, Alfalfa, practically any restaurant downtown!
(FYI: The rest of the Hops throughout the year are on March 16, May 18, July 20, September 21, and November 16. If you’re in Lexington for one of those dates, check it out!)