The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Lexington washes across the walls of Cross Gate Gallery this month in streams of watercolor, forming images of Cheapside, the Lexington Opera House, Al’s Bar and many other familiar locations rendered in dreamy impressions from the brush of Sandra Oppegard.
“There was one lady in here who said, ‘You make Lexington look like Paris,’” Oppegard says, leading a casual tour of her exhibit, Landscapes and Townscapes. She quickly steers toward a painting and says, “I think she was referring to the old Metropol at dusk, because that has a kind of Parisian feel.”
In her image, the restaurant, which was in the building now occupied by The Village Idiot pub, is framed by lights and occupied by a reveling crowd.
Others have told her that she makes Lexington look fabulous.
“To me, it looks that way,” Oppegard says. “That’s the thing about someone coming in from another area: new eyes.”
Oppegard, 71, was born in Cincinnati and then began moving west, eventually settling in California. Her love of art coincided with a love of horses. She was encouraged through art classes in high school to go to art school and attended the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. From there, she went on to a 23-year career as a freelance illustrator based in Southern California with a list of clients that included Max Factor, Redken, Mattel Toys and Baskin-Robbins.
In 1974, she married Thoroughbred trainer Victor Ellis Oppegard. The couple moved to Montana in the 1980s and Lexington in 1999.
“I even got an assistant trainer’s license in California,” Oppegard says. “I got to saddle horses at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park. I learned things that were very handy to me getting commissions to paint horses and selling work because it’s very authentic. I really know what’s going on. You can tell if an artist knows horses or not.”
While working in California, Oppegard met Cross Gate Gallery owner Greg Ladd and he started buying her work. In 1994, she visited Lexington for the first time and says that’s when she and her husband first considered moving to the Bluegrass. An added draw was family that had moved to Northern Kentucky.
Ben Sollee is five years into his career as a recording artist, having built a national following through persistent touring and earning high-profile gigs such as Jimmy Kimmel Live and features on CNN. But it still isn’t hard for Sollee to get home to Lexington.
“If anything, it gets easier because I have more resources at my disposal,” Sollee says. “Whether it’s working with West Sixth Brewery for an arts space in that place, producing another Kentucky artists’ record or something else, the resources are more plentiful. The biggest resource that’s hard is just time.”
Sollee is speaking from his Lexington home Tuesday morning, where he has just landed for a little more week. During that time, he’ll perform in Louisville Friday and Saturday and at the Centre College Debate Festival in Danville surrounding Thursday’s vice presidential debate in the Norton Center for the Arts.
Sollee’s music makes social statements about issues important to him, but he says playing the Debate Festival is simply about playing music, not taking stands.
After Thursday, he will go back on the road for a tour in support of his new album, Half Made Man.
It’s a record that finds Sollee expanding the folk-cello vibe he has created for a bigger, more electric feel.
“A huge part of the sound and the feel of this record is the musicians that were involved and how they played and their characters themselves, whether its Carl’s (Broemel) electric guitar or Alana Rocklin’s amazing bass playing, and of course Jordan Ellis, another Kentuckian, has a very signature drumming style,” Sollee says. “Everybody just pitched in with their own character, and that’s what makes the sound, rather than a specific artistic idea.
“That’s really the best shot, to just make music with good musicians.”
Sollee says the largeness of the sound developed organically, due in part to having the musicians together. On previous records, he would have to layer tracks to develop a bigger sound.
“Here, it was so much easier to just say, ‘Let’s rock,’ and from our collective energy we got this big, big sound,” Sollee says.
To make Half Made Man, Sollee went to the well that many musicians have been dipping into to finance recordings, crowd sourcing.
For more than a year, members of the Lexington Art League have been excited about the prospect of a establishing a downtown venue in addition to its home base in Loudoun House, on the east end of Lexington.
That excitement spiked last week, when Art League leaders found out who their new neighbors are likely to be.
The Art League recently made public its plans to take over the third floor in the McAdams and Morford Building on the west corner of Main and Upper streets, catercorner from the old First National Building. On Tuesday, the league and everyone else learned that the First National Building will be converted into a 21c Museum Hotel. That effectively will create a contemporary art intersection in downtown Lexington, which currently does not have a major non-commercial visual arts venue.
Art League executive director Stephanie Harris says the decision to move into downtown was part of a five-year strategic plan whose final objective was “to establish a contemporary venue in the heart of downtown Lexington.”
A year and a half ago, Harris says, the Art League got to work on that objective and settled on the McAdams and Morford building.
“The fact that 21c is now going to be joining the downtown community really does change the dialogue completely,” Harris says. “It will be a huge catalyst for change of the cultural climate in our community, and I think it is exactly the thing our community has needed to take it to the next level.
“All of these arts organizations, visual arts organizations, have been doing really strong, really good work. But it was really time for us to get some information coming in from the outside. And what better resource than a first-class museum where we can now see things and have those resources right at our fingertips?”
The original 21c Hotel, in Louisville, has earned international acclaim for its innovative contemporary art museum and incorporation of art into all aspects of its design.
Far from seeing 21c as a competitor, Harris sees synergy, as does Mayor Jim Gray, a contemporary art aficionado and collector.
“This is one of those times when one-plus-one is more about calculus than math,” Gray said. “It adds to the promise of a more dynamic city creating jobs and economic opportunity.”
Harris says, “It’s the cluster theory and the idea of a cultural destination, so it’s not just one lone institution standing in the middle of the Cheapside Park area. It becomes, ‘What are the smaller galleries like in the area? What are the organizations that are just around the corner?’ Then people that come to stay in 21c have the opportunity to authentically engage with our visual arts community.”
Advance tickets are on sale for Kentucky Crafted: The Market, which returns to Lexington at the Lexington Center on March 1 to 4.
The annual art fair, presented by the Kentucky Arts Council, started at the Kentucky Horse Park in 1981. But since 1988, it has been in Louisville. In addition to items for sale from more than 200 vendors, the event boasts entertainment and food. Kentucky Crafted is split into two parts: On March 1 and 2, it will be open only to business owners who will sell products in retail outlets. On March 3 and 4, it will be open to the public.
The Courier-Journal reported that Kentucky Crafted attracts more than 600 wholesale buyers and 8,000 people on public days. Tickets are $8 online and $10 at the door for one day, $12 online and $15 at the door for two days. Children 15 and younger get in free. Kentucky Crafted is also seeking volunteers to work March 3 and 4. Learn more at the event website.
Emarosa has quietly maintained a home base in Lexington while building up an audience aroud the world.
The band’s latest and self-titled album charted as high as 69 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart, and it kept the guys on the road in Europe for most of the fall.
“This is the first time we’ll be playing songs from the new album in the United States,” Keyboardist Jordan Stewart said before practicing Wednesday night at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom.
Buster’s will be the site of a two-show stand by Emarosa Friday, including Buster’s first ever all-ages show at 6 p.m., followed by an 18-and-over set at 10:30.
In addition to being a sweet launch for the 40-plus city U.S. headlining tour, the guys in Emarosa hope that the all-ages show will start a trend in Lexington music venues.
“This whole music scene has a lot of fans that are younger than 18, and we really want to give everybody the opportunity to come out and listen to us,” guitarist Jonas Ladekjaer said backstage.
Bassist Will Sowers said, “There’s not a lot for kids under 18 to do period. There’s the movies and the mall, which is why you see kids at the mall all the time.”
Drummer Lukas Koszewski, who lived in Lexington since he was 8, recalled going to see bands in backyards and church basements when he was growing up and said, “If there was a band in your hometown that you liked, it would suck to not be able to see them because you weren’t old enough.”
Feb28Filed under: Balagula Theatre, Central Kentucky Arts News, Lexington Children's Theatre, Lexington Opera House, Theater, UK; Tagged as: Balagula Theatre, Betsy Baun, Guignol Theatre, Jeremy Kissling, Larry Snipes, lexington, Lexington Center, Lexington Children's Theatre, Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau, Lexington Opera House, Not I, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, Play, Roseanne Mingo, Ryan Case, Samuel Beckett, Southeastern Theatre Conference, University of Kentucky
Usually, as February turns into March, many Lexington theater practitioners are packing their bags to head south to the Southeastern Theatre Conference‘s annual convention.
But this year, they’re keeping their clothes in their closets, preparing to play gracious hosts as 4,000 theater folk descend on Lexington.
“Most years I spend all my days in auditions and callbacks,” says Larry Snipes, producing director of the Lexington Children’s Theatre. “This year, we’ll be busy managing a festival site.”
The Children’s Theatre will be in the heart of the action for the four-day event, which runs Wednesday through Saturday.
Roseanne Mingo, destination sales account executive with the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau says taking up six hotels and numerous venues, SETC is one of the larger conventions to come to town. She says she conservatively estimates its economic impact at $1.2 million.
For the most part, the convention will take place in the blocks along Broadway between High and Short streets. The University of Kentucky’s Guignol Theatre will also be a venue for the SETC high school theater festival, which will include Lexington’s Paul Laurence Dunbar High School as a participant.
A quartet of theater festivals – children’s, high school, college and community – is one of the major facets of the festival, which also includes massive auditions where theater companies from across the country hire actors, and more than 300 seminars and workshops.
“It is a busy, busy, busy three days,” Lexington Children’s Theatre education director Jeremy Kissling says.
SETC director Betsy Baun says Snipes and the LCT crew were keys to attracting the convention back to Lexington for the first time since 1978.
Since signing up for Facebook and Twitter last year, it’s been fascinating to watch how events can unfold across status updates, like this ice storm, which now appears to be giving Lexington the same treatment counties just south of here were getting earlier. How do I know? Lexington status updates like these:
. . . watching a gigantic pine tree tip towards her neighbor’s house. The neighbor is not concerned.
. . . neighbor a few streets away has lost power. Oh no!
. . . is trying not to feel wimpy about skipping the Alejandro Escovedo concert tonight.
. . . watching the lights flicker.
. . . If anyone knows my intern . . . tell her the LPO office is closed Wednesday! I can’t find her email.
. . . is listening to the first of the trees fall – this ain’t good.
. . . electricity just went out. Of course this happens on a good tv night!
. . . 32.4º! But still hearing limbs fall outside. And sirens.
and my favorite:
. . . started out with a block of ice and chisled it into a working automobile! OK, it was my car to begin with.
Sounds like we could have a long night, Lexington. I’ll be interested to read about it on Twitter and Facebook in the morning.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich