Bourbon barrel art project hits the streets of downtown Lexington

jcheves@herald-leader.comSeptember 15, 2013 

  • IF YOU GO

    The Bourbon Barrel Project on Town Branch

    When: The 41 barrels are on display through Nov. 10 in downtown Lexington. They have been installed to follow the path of Town Branch, the stream that flows under downtown along Vine Street.

    Auction: Proceeds from the Nov. 16 auction of the barrels will go to support public art initiatives and other programs supported by LexArts.

    Online: Bourbonbarrels.org.

Take a look around.

Downtown Lexington is a lot more colorful.

The city's latest public art exhibit, The Bourbon Barrel Project on Town Branch, hit the streets Sunday night. The 41 barrels celebrate the Bluegrass region's distilleries and the unique geography — such as water and limestone — that made them successful.

"Based on the preview (over the weekend), I think people will be pretty amazed by the artistry," Jim Clark, president and CEO of LexArts, said Sunday evening as workmen prepared to load the barrels onto two flatbed trucks after a weekend preview at Mason Structure on Angliana Avenue, then place them in their appointed spots.

The barrels are Lexington's fourth public art exhibit since the original Horse Mania in 2000, which was immensely popular. Fifty decorated horses remain on display around Lexington from that exhibit and a 2010 follow-up.

"This is different from Horse Mania," Clark said. "The themes are more unified. It's the landscape and the history of bourbon and how our landscape is the reason why we have the bourbon industry here."

More than half of the barrels have been bolted to concrete slabs along the subterranean path of Town Branch, which more or less follows Vine Street from Lexington Center to South Limestone. The rest are scattered around or near downtown.

With about half of the barrels, sponsors paid $5,000 to get them made and to own them after the display ends in mid-November. With the other half, sponsors paid $2,500 to get them made and offered for auction. Proceeds will go to LexArts' public art fund.

The first barrel to be installed Sunday was High Ridge Spring Water by artist Mariana McDonald. It shows a creek pouring through rocks in the foreground and a rolling, open field in the background.

Workmen placed it just outside Phoenix Park at South Limestone and Water streets. The activity drew the attention of one of several men who were loitering in the park.

"Hey," one of them said, trotting over to gaze wistfully at the empty barrel. "Is that really bourbon? Where's that coming from?"


If you go

The Bourbon Barrel Project on Town Branch

When: The 41 barrels are on display through Nov. 10 in downtown Lexington. They have been installed to follow the path of Town Branch, the stream that flows under downtown along Vine Street.

Auction: Proceeds from the Nov. 16 auction of the barrels will go to support public art initiatives and other programs supported by LexArts.

Online: Bourbonbarrels.org.

John Cheves: (859) 231-3266. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.

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