This year's PRHBTN Festival came with a bit of a prelude.
In the weeks leading up to the fourth edition of the fall street-art festival, artists came into town leaving their and the festival's mark on the LexPark parking garage at Short Street, a building down the block at 139 West Short Street, and several other places in Lexington.
It will give PRHBTN fans a tour to take before arriving at the main festival, Friday through Sunday at Buster's Billiards and Backroom. The event includes a big party headlined by drum and bass artist Mayhem. And there will be art-making going on, with a mystery artist beginning work on a mural to cover one wall of the Old Pepper Distillery warehouse on Manchester Street.
Jessica Winters, who co-founded and directs PRHBTN with her husband, John Winters, says the Pepper mural will be the largest mural in Lexington, topping the Eduardo Kobra mural of Abraham Lincoln that was the centerpiece of last year's event.
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The colorful depiction of Lincoln as he sits at the Lincoln Memorial was painted on the back of the Kentucky Theatre and has made it into commercial advertisements and promotional materials for Lexington.
Winters says that's pretty good for a three-year-old event that champions a fringe art form.
"The public fell in love with it," Winters says of the Lincoln mural. "And that has been a big part of us being able to bring other artists here."
Winterses would have liked to have had the same energy of several artists working on big murals around Lexington, as happened at last year's festival, the timing didn't work this year.
When the Pepper mural is done, PRHBTN will be responsible for 11 murals in the downtown Lexington area — 13, if you include the two Herakut murals that were initiated by Transylvania University artists Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova with support from PRHBTN.
This year's prelude artists included the New York-based twin brother duo How and Nosm, animal-image specialist Roa, and Cambodia-born and Los Angeles-raised Andrew Hem.
The Pepper warehouse artist is the first to ask that his or her identity not be revealed until the mural is completed, although Winters said business owners in the distillery district were told about the project, and most were supportive. Winters said it's common for street artists to not want their identities revealed. The real identity of Banksy, probably the most famous street artist working today, is unknown.
Artists who will be known are exhibiting this weekend at Buster's Billiards and Backroom, including those working on a U-Haul truck owned by Griffin Van Meter, owner of Bullhorn Creative and an organizer of the North Limestone Community Development Corporation.
Winters says that as PRHBTN has evolved, it has done what she and her husband wanted to do: raise awareness and excitement about street art in Lexington. She cites gallery shows at the University of Kentucky and Transylvania University as evidence interest has grown in street art, as well as more murals going up that PRHBTN has had nothing to do with.
"The goal was to build a local and regional street art community," Winters says. "And we have seen that at work in opportunities for local and regional artists and more work being done."