John and Jessica Winters' PRHBTN street art festival is now in its fifth edition, and in that time, the event has changed the landscape of Lexington, filling blank walls with inventive, colorful murals.
"I work in the Fifth-Third building," says Jessica, an attorney. "And from my window, I can see three murals we have either commissioned or been part of commissioning. After this year's festival, I will be able to see five."
Murals commissioned by PRHBTN have inspired a wide variety of reactions, from the wide acclaim for the Eduardo Kobra mural of Abraham Lincoln painted on the back of the Kentucky Theatre in 2013, to some of the displeasure that greeted a dark image on Manchester Street by MTO last year.
"We've learned a lot about the dialogue pieces can start and about interacting with the community," John Winters says of the many murals the festival has commissioned.
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In addition to bringing in a handful of internationally acclaimed mural artists each fall, PRHBTN also presents a street art event and concert, which has evolved as the community has evolved. Because the concert's regular venue Buster's has closed (and the new venue in that location, Manchester Music Hall, has yet to open), the show has been moved to Cosmic Charlie's Oct. 9, and it will focus on local electronic artists and DJs. And local street artists will be the focus of the Oct. 10 festival in the distillery district, concentrated at the Pepper Distillery campus on Manchester Street.
Leading up to those events next weekend, artists will be at work painting murals around downtown Lexington, starting with MrDheo and Pariz One, who are already at work on a piece on the side of Chase Brewing Company on Jefferson Street. Over the weekend, returning artist Odeith will start a project at Institute 193 on North Limestone.
One of the main developments for the festival is that the Winters no longer have to solicit venues. Businesses and other establishments come to them hoping to be matched with an artist.
"We had 10 possible venues this year," Jessica Winters says. "We always share the possibilities with the artists and let them choose where they want to paint."
The Winters evaluate how good a match the location and artist are to make sure that the images will be appropriate to the location. Jessica Winters says that was always PRHBTN's policy and not a reaction to the MTO controversy.
"We still believe that was an appropriate image for that location," Jessica Winters says of the Manchester Street mural that angered some people in the area.
One of the most gratifying aspects of the festival is the couple has become a go-to source for people who want to find an artist to paint a mural for them. One of the big projects will be in the spring, when a local artist will be commissioned to paint a mural at the Main + Rose condominiums.