Sometime in April, 1,000 dolls will be placed along Limestone Street between the University of Kentucky and New Circle Road. Anyone finding one may keep it.
The 1,000 Dolls Project, organized by Transylvania University professors Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova, is this year's undertaking by the Community Engagement Through the Arts course, an effort by the university and its students to reach out to and interact with their North Lexington neighbors.
By placing the dolls along Limestone, the group is hoping to get the rest of Lexington to visit areas where they might not have been. The actual date the group will place the dolls is a secret, Todorova said.
The inspiration for the dolls came from the three-year public arts project of local artist Ed Franklin, who by day works at Sqecial Media. He cuts pieces of wood into figures and, with paint, transforms them into animals or people. He hides his signed works throughout North Lexington, especially around Christmas, and puts clues on Facebook and other social media that people use to find the pieces. Finders keepers.
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"They came to me and told me they loved the project and wanted to do it with their class," Franklin said of Gohde and Todorova. "I loved the sense of community and the workshops. It was like an old quilting bee."
The project began in January with free doll-making workshops at various locations, including the East Seventh Street Community Center/Kid's Café, Third Street Stuff and Mulberry & Lime. The final workshop will be 10 a.m. to noon Monday at Latitude Artist Community, 948 Manchester Street.
There also will be a community event with a potluck at The Kentucky Theatre on April 4 before the dolls are placed on the street. Bring a dish to share.
Some of the dolls are made of wood, some are sock monkeys and other animals, and others are made of clay.
Last year, students in the Community Engagement Through the Arts course painted temporary murals on buildings along Limestone.
"The students really liked working with the community and stayed in the community," Todorova said. "They asked, 'What can we do next year?'"
The 12 students, who meet weekly with about eight residents of North Lexington, have planned next year's project, which Todorova would only say is "Writing on the City."
When asked what would happen if someone took several dolls instead of one, Todorova said, "We don't think people will do that. We think they will respect this is a project for the whole community."
Unlike the dolls from Franklin's project, these won't be so hidden.
"I don't think we can hide 1,000 dolls," she said.
One student in the class decided to get special help with the project. Encouraged by Gohde to do whatever she wanted with the project, freshman Hanna Leatherman took the idea to Simmons Elementary School in Versailles where she was once a student and asked fourth- graders to make clothespin dolls.
"It was a 55-minute class," she said, "but they made 127 dolls. I just put as much materials in front of the class as possible. Some were bummed they weren't able to take their dolls home."
The students created a variety of dolls including princesses and superheroes, Leatherman said. She talked with the students about community art and about making something that would be exhibited. She learned one child's mother works in the North Lexington area.
Franklin, who has lived in the area for 16 years, hopes the project will be a myth buster.
"What they address in their class is that there is the whole type of myth that past Fourth Street is dangerous," he said. "I totally disagree with that. I used to go out for a walk at 3 a.m. because I couldn't sleep. I'm a big guy, but I never felt threatened or anything. I love that they addressed that."
Franklin has seen some of the dolls, and "they are incredible. I will put some out, too," he said.
"They are giving people something for free and not asking anything of them," he said. "The dolls are love letters to Lexington."