Like art in general, Gallery Hop is about the experience overall. The gallery atmosphere, the street scene, and the eating and drinking throughout are as vital to the enjoyment of the evening as the exhibitions themselves.
Should the dining prove unenjoyable, the night's visual banquet could turn into sour memories. Within the many city blocks that make up Lexington's Hop territory, there are luckily lots of restaurants and bars.
We sampled the offerings for Friday's Hop and have come up with an itinerary of great art that satisfies the mind and soul, and good food and drink that nourish the spirit. Be forewarned: It's a hike, but feel free to start or end the tour whenever you feel satisfied.
Let's begin way north at the Living Arts and Science Center's Gloria Singletary Gallery, 362 North Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. On display is Cutting Edge: Contemporary Fiber Art, featuring eight regional female artists who challenge the conventional "craft" notion of fiber art by using traditional methods and materials to create non-traditional, contemporary fine art.
Featuring everything from quilted works and weavings to painted silk, soft sculpture and wearable art, Cutting Edge also marks a new twist for LASC gallery shows: An interactive portion of the exhibit will allow visitors to touch, design and experiment with the processes and materials with which the exhibiting artists have created their works.
"It's an opportunity to look closely at these works, to see the real work involved," says interim gallery director Jim Brancaccio.
Break time: Good casual grazing can be had at Third Street Stuff, the colorful shop and café at North Limestone and Third Street that's arguably an exhibit in itself.
On Transylvania University's campus is our next destination, Morlan Galley. This art spot — in Mitchell Fine Arts Center, just between the Old Morrison building and Fourth Street — features North Limestone Gathers, an exhibition that teams students from the college and nearby Lexington Traditional Middle School to explore collected objects and stories from the North Limestone neighborhood.
While you're in an academic mood, stroll south through campus and Gratz Park to the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning's Laurie S. Bottoms Gallery, where there's a display of art by Lexington Catholic High School students.
Now head further south to Gallerie Soleil, on Short Street near Broadway, where the work of incarcerated artist Marvin Francis is featured.
This will position you to give up early, if you are so inclined, and finish things off with an "aperitif" of beer at The Chase Tap Room or a bourbon at The Horse and Barrel, both in the Victorian Square complex on Broadway between Main and Short streets.
You might be tired, but try to hang in there a while longer, because more awaits your inner aesthete and restaurant seeker.
Head to Main Street and Wren Court for a stop at Gallery B. Further discussion on the art/craft debate will ensue with the pyrographic/woodburning art of Atlanta artist Julie Bender. The self-taught Bender describes her work as "painting with fire." Images of horses, dogs and wildlife are scorched into wood or leather with small, precise strokes that create figures of near-photographic realism.
"I am sensitized by the inherent beauty and strength in all animals," the award-winning artist said. "As I paint with heat, I feel a certain parallel between the wild and natural spirit that embody my subjects, and the organic and distinctively unforgiving nature of my medium."
Now it's time for dinner. Main Street serves as a sort of north-south dividing line of cuisines and cost. North will be contemporary and more expensive. For example, almost beside Gallery B is Bellini's, where the bar serves food and has niches for conversation, and the staff checks the wine glasses for water stains.
But to head south provides a double opportunity: some culinary treats from the Indian subcontinent and the final art destination. (This is going to be quite a trek, so you might choose to hop on a bike or take a car, taxi or bus at this point.)
Just a scoot down to South Limestone and West High Street is Bombay Brazier, where the appetizers can create a meal, the curries are fine for vegetarians and carnivores alike, and the wine list is food-friendly. Farther south on Limestone, right before UK's campus, is Banana Leaf, home of affordable and authentic South Indian cuisine, with quiet tables, footlong dosas, bracingly cold beer and tropical lassis made of mango.
Now fortified, head across campus to Rose Street and Euclid Avenue, where The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky is showing a magnificent exhibit, Excavating Egypt: Great Discoveries From the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, University College London. Don't expect the museum's galleries to be at their usual underwhelming Hop capacity. Great art doesn't go unnoticed.
Individual effects like jewelry and cosmetics cases give the show its humanity, but the evolution of Egyptian representational art is emphasized. "Classic" statuary, with their characteristic frozen features and erect poses, are displayed next to Armana works, defined as a specific art period marked by the rule of Pharaoh Akhenaten (King Tut's dad) that included rounded bellies and protruding lips and chins. Those are next to Roman-influenced Ptolemaic works — the show includes a small metal head of Ptolemy XV Caesarion, better known as the love child of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. Even early Christian art is present with the inclusion of several Coptic works, including a carved headstone.
Alas, now you are at a crossroads: Keep talking with your friends — there will be plenty of remarkable artifacts to discuss — or do something else.
If you choose to keep the ideas flowing, you're lucky to have Coffea Island right across Euclid Avenue from the museum. Inside it's warm and global, perfect for kicking back on a couch or at a table with intensely caffeinated fair-trade coffees, a spicy hot chocolate or a healthy smoothie.
If you choose to do something else, well, you're on your own.