NICHOLASVILLE — At 28,400 people, the Jessamine County seat is the third-largest city in Lexington's contiguous counties. But save for the fame of native son John Michael Montgomery, Nicholasville has maintained a relatively low profile in Central Kentucky's arts scene. Constance Grayson aims to change that, starting Friday night.
That marks the grand opening of the Polvino Family Art Center in downtown Nicholasville, which Grayson, a local lawyer, hopes will be a centerpiece of an artistic revival in the city.
"People have been complaining as long as I can remember that they wish somebody would do something downtown," says Grayson, a founding member of the Creative Art League of Jessamine County. "And I have been telling them as long as they would sit and listen that we're doing something downtown on June 6, so come and put your money where your mouth is."
The Polvino center will open with a downtownwide event featuring art exhibits in several venues, music, other performances and a variety of restaurants and eateries, whether they are usually open or not.
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But at the heart of it all will be 1,900-square-foot center named for retired Eastern Kentucky University professor and volleyball coach Geraldine Polvino.
She made the major donation to renovate the building at 109 South Main Street, which Grayson acknowledges was "a disaster" when she and her nephew Robert L. Gullette III bought the property four doors down from their law office.
"The ceiling was falling down and the floor was totally uneven," Grayson says. "Probably the biggest challenge was to try to get the look we wanted with the teensy budget we have."
For instance, they wanted gallery benches on par with what is standard in many major museums, "but we quickly discovered that cool gallery benches run a couple grand a piece," Grayson says. So, they received a donation of old church pews, and volunteers in the Creative Art League painted them to mask their origins.
Grayson emphasizes that thus far, the center has been entirely privately funded, with her firm picking up the mortgage, insurance and other expenses of the building for the next six years.
A lot of volunteer effort has gone into getting the Polvino center ready for its debut with a show by Danville artist David Farmer.
Grayson says she strategically booked shows with artists from outside Jessamine County to show the community art from out of town, and draw artists and their audiences to downtown Nicholasville.
But Grayson, an artist herself, says there is strong art work being made in Nicholasville that should be seen as the city arts scene grows.
The center also is designed with a rear space geared toward workshops and classes, including school classes. Grayson says she hopes to attract theater to the space.
She also says she hopes to be in a position by early 2016 to hire a director for the center. Plans now call for the center to be open Thursday through Sunday afternoons with the help of volunteers, including herself.
"The only thing that limits us is our imaginations and our budget," Grayson says.