When Lexington Mayor Jim Gray moved his offices to the first floor of the Government Center, he took the art gallery with him.
The building's 12th floor used to house the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government's top office, and during former Mayor Jim Newberry's term in office, it featured exhibits of art presented by the Lexington Art League.
When he was inaugurated in January, Gray moved his offices to the first floor to be more accessible to the public. He says Art League executive director Stephanie Pevec suggested moving the gallery to the mezzanine, just above the first floor.
"It's an easily accessible, nice, convenient place for the public," Gray said.
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He is an avid art collector and supporter and says having art as part of the government offices was important to him. But he leaves selecting exhibits up to the Art League.
"I know better than to be a curator myself," Gray says. "I know how little I know and how much others know, and I know the Art League does a great job."
The Mezzanine Gallery currently features works by Morehead State University art professors Elizabeth and Gary Mesa-Gaido, textile and photographic artists, respectively. The gallery will be open as part of Gallery Hop on Friday night, along with Nation of Nations, a work by Lexington artist Marjorie Guyon that is in its last week of exhibition on the first floor of the Government Center.
"I'm calling it a democracy project," Guyon said at a March event introducing the work, which has been shown in New York and will move to the University of Kentucky William T. Young Library. "I'm using this because they're so visually attractive. They grab you."
They are 10 panels with 6-foot-8 figures — think Greek statues — in various poses, words from patriotic songs such as My Country 'Tis of Thee and America the Beautiful, and the phrase "have mercy on us" in Cherokee, Chinese, English, Arabic, Hindi, Hebrew, Swahili, Latin, Russian and Haitian Creole. They were written by Lexington residents who speak those languages to demonstrate the diversity of the community.
To Guyon, a centerpiece of the project is a box with the question, "How can we form a more perfect union?" There are pieces of paper next to the box for people to write suggestions.
"What Marjorie has done is another episode, another high point in her career," Gray said at the opening event. "It has an extraordinary theme that resonates with everyone today."
Gray said he hopes that all the art in the Government Center will resonate with citizens.
"I'd love to have even more," said Gray, who said he hopes to be at Friday's Hop. "Right now, we have to deal with substantive issues of the budget, but over time, I'd like the chance to bring even more art into the building."