The lively arts community in the Bluegrass offers an endless selection of dance, theater, and musical opportunities ranging from barbershop quartets to African and modern dance; there is even a performing guitar society. The Lexington Ballet Company promotes interest in classical ballet for both the public and school audiences. The Actors Guild of Lexington presents dynamic contemporary theater during its 10-play season. In addition, the beautifully renovated Lexington Opera House is the site of a season of Broadway productions provided by professional touring companies. The Bluegrass Theatre Guild in Frankfort produces a variety of Broadway and off-Broadway shows throughout the year. Versailles is home to the Woodford County Theatre which produces four quality plays each year.
Overall, the Bluegrass is home to several cultural arts programs including Lunch with the Arts, Big Band and Jazz Series, Summer Sunday Sessions, the Woodland Art Fair, the Shakespeare Festival, Ballet under the Stars, the Woodland Jubilee Festival, the Midway Fall Festival, the High Bridge Homecoming Festival in Nicholasville, the Wilmore Arts & Crafts Festival, the Spoonbread Festival in Berea, the Great American Pottery Festival, the Paris Pumpkin Festival, the Festival of the Horse in Scott County, and the Folklife Festival in Frankfort. Each of these programs is free and open to all ages.
Lexington also hosts many cultural festivals celebrating its diversity. Since 1989, the Roots & Heritage Festival has grown into a month long cultural event and has earned recognition as one of the Top Twenty Events in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society. Festival Latino de Lexington, sponsored by Lexington Parks and Recreation and area businesses, includes two days of live music, youth activities, cultural presentations, international booths, and authentic cuisine. Lexington also hosts a Pride Festival every year and has passed fairness ordinances.
Lexington offers a variety of ways for its citizens to engage in the community and culture. The Living Arts and Science Center merges art and science, offerings hands on exhibits, classes, performances, and community programs that enrich Lexington and offer exciting volunteer opportunities.
PRHBTN, a local community movement, has brought street art to Lexington, enriching the urban culture of downtown. PRHBTN brings together national, state, and regional artists to create public murals on walls and buildings in Lexington with the support of local organizations.
Lexington boasts a professional orchestra, the Lexington Philharmonic. To make classical music available to everyone, the Philharmonic also conducts free Young People’s Concerts, which reach over 14,000 young central Kentuckians, as well as a tour in the summer, which includes “Picnic with the Pops,” an event that has become a Lexington tradition. The Peanut Butter & Jelly Series is a great way to introduce your youngest kids to classical music while combining hands-on learning with demonstrations.
For children, the Bluegrass is a vibrant center of artistic and cultural activity. Founded in 1938, Lexington Children’s Theatre is a fully professional, non-profit organization dedicated to the intellectual and cultural enrichment of young people. It is one of the oldest, continuously operating theatres creating live performances for young people in the country. Joining the Lexington Children’s Theater is the Explorium. The Explorium, located in downtown Lexington, encourages the young to learn by touching, experimenting, and exploring.
The Otis A. Singletary Center for the Arts at the University of Kentucky annually presents a wide range of nationally and internationally recognized performers. Faculty music groups, artists, and a theater department add to the variety of artistic opportunities for local and visiting audiences. The Leeds Center for the Arts located in Winchester offers cultural and community events including plays, musicals, concerts, classes, seminars, and children’s programming. On March 1, 2002, the Embry-Lowenthal Building was reopened as the newly renovated Downtown Arts Center. The Main Street Arts Center is owned by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government and managed by the Lexington Arts and Cultural Council (LACC). Besides exhibition and meeting space, the Downtown Arts Center is home to a Performance Theater, which is a 250-seat contemporary “Black Box” theater with flexible seating.
Among the city’s fascinating places is the Headley-Whitney Museum, which houses an eclectic collection of rare bibelots and jewel-encrusted boxes, Oriental porcelain, and tapestries. The University of Kentucky Art Museum has a diverse permanent collection and has been the site of many special national shows, including the Armand Hammer Collection. At Transylvania University, the Morlan Gallery hosts a range of traveling exhibitions. The Kentucky Military History Museum in Frankfort houses an impressive collection of military memorabilia. The Hopewell Museum is dedicated to preserving & fostering an appreciation for culture, history, art & architecture with a special emphasis on the unique features of Bourbon County. The Bluegrass Heritage Museum in Winchester educates visitors about the region’s people & culture.
Lexingtonians look proudly on two unique historic facilities that serve as headquarters for major arts organizations. Lexarts operates ArtsPlace, a community arts center. Located in a renovated, 1904 YWCA building, it houses arts organizations, a gallery and a theater, as well as providing many free concerts and exhibitions to the public. The 400 members of the Lexington Art League are headquartered in the magnificent 19th-century Loudon House.