It's national Geography Awareness Week, but the piece of geography that some at the University of Kentucky want you to know about is buried along Vine Street beneath asphalt and concrete.
So geography students and faculty spent much of the weekend painting what they want you to see — a section of the Town Branch of South Elkhorn Creek — on top of the man-made surface.
The curvy, light blue rendering goes down the middle of the Kentucky Utilities customer parking lot. There also are a few whimsical yellow fish and green turtles in the mix.
Geography doctoral student Hugh Deaner, who led the project, said its purpose is to draw attention to fresh water, as well as geography, and to help Lexington residents rediscover what is sometimes called the lost creek.
"Town Branch — it has been lost from popular awareness. It's kind of disappeared from the public consciousness, but it's still there under the streets of Lexington," Deaner said.
When Lexington was established, he said, Town Branch essentially set the direction in which Lexington's main streets would run, and Town Branch itself was reserved as a commons in the center of town. Sometime after 1890, Town Branch was directed into an underground pipe.
Although Town Branch has been manipulated and covered over, "you can't get rid of a creek," Deaner said as he and several others worked on the project Sunday morning.
The painted version of the waterway is several feet wide and about 150 feet long. The paint used to create it is very environmentally benign, Deaner said. The painting should be visible until spring, when KU repaves the parking lot, he said.
"I'll bet, between all of us, we've had at least a dozen conversations with passersby," he said. "It's been an awesome opportunity to talk with people about Town Branch."
Among those helping Deaner on Sunday morning were fellow doctoral student Liana Vasseur and Blake Eames, a local artist who volunteered to assist with the design.
"It's more exciting than individual work," said Vasseur, who had not worked on such a large-scale project before.
Eames said that as a Lexington native, "downtown is important to me."
"I can't wait to see what it looks like from that view," she said, pointing to a catwalk jutting from the nearby Gray Construction building, where the painting crew planned to gather later in the day to get an overall view of their work.