Like most cities its size, Lexington has theater companies, orchestras, dance troupes and galleries. But many groups are doing more than entertaining us.
These are organizations you must check out to see that the Bluegrass is home to a vibrant cultural scene nurturing and celebrating indigenous talent and creating exciting new work.
■ The Chamber Music Festival of Lexington. Its late August event was directed by Lexington native Nathan Cole, who is now the first associate concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The group also annually commissions a new work from a nationally known composer. It is rife with Bluegrass flavor, with its main concerts taking place in the sales pavilion at the Fasig-Tipton Thoroughbred auction firm. Visit: Chambermusiclex.com
■ Balagula Theatre. This troupe started with the idea that a theater could be based in a restaurant, Natasha's Bistro and Bar. It has grown into one of Lexington's most challenging and acclaimed companies, offering a lineup of existential and absurdist works by authors such as Samuel Beckett and Arthur Kopit for its first full season in 2009-10. Visit: Balagula.com
■ Institute 193. Nestled among the shops on North Limestone is a little art oasis with big ideas. Phillip March Jones' space has helped bring underappreciated talents such as Charles Williams to Lexington's attention and attracted cutting-edge artists from around the country to the Bluegrass, while also fostering unique mixed-media partnerships. Visit: Institute193.org
■ Loyal Jones Appalachian Center at Berea College. Indigenous Appalachian music, art and literature often get short shrift from national intelligentsia, but a visit to the Appalachian Center could change a lot of minds. At the center, Appalachian culture is studied, appreciated, meticulously chronicled and often presented at events such as the Celebration of Traditional Music, which is scheduled this year for Oct. 13-16. Visit: Berea.edu/appalachiancenter
■ Contemporary Dance Collective. It is only two productions old, but headed by Lexington Art League director Stephanie Harris, also an accomplished dancer, the company has presented new, multidimensional works in unique ways. Visit: Contemporarydancecollective.com
■ Boomslang. Yes, we are a college town, and there are plenty of places to see rock shows. But Boomslang, scheduled this year for Sept. 23-25, spikes the concept with a wide variety of performers paired with literature, fashion, film and more. Visit: Boomslangfest.com
■ Lexington Children's Theatre. The only fully professional theater in Lexington, LCT creates new works that gain national recognition and often teach us about the culture around us, in addition to creating great shows for kids. Visit: Lctonstage.org
More Central Kentucky bucket lists: