The living is no longer easy in the summertime for the arts in the Bluegrass

The arts scene was anything but sleepy this summer. SummerFest’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar was just one of several theater offerings.
The arts scene was anything but sleepy this summer. SummerFest’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar was just one of several theater offerings. spompeii@herald-leader.com

During a June interview for a preview of Studio Players’ summer musical production of “Clue – The Musical,” director Bob Singleton pointed out that there were a number of new actors to the theater, or working with him the first time, in the show.

I asked if that was because there were so many shows going on at the same time, and he said he thought that was part of the reason.

But it felt like a strange question, for June. Summertime used to be my season of diversions when I first arrived at the Herald-Leader as the arts writer.

It was a season when I wrote feature stories about baseball, golf, people who celebrated their birthdays on the Fourth of July — things that weren’t arts, because for the most part, the arts took a holiday late May to early September. Yes, there was the Lexington Shakespeare Festival, Ballet Under the Stars and a few other events. But overall, the school-year-oriented arts scene went on vacation, come May.

That was 18 years ago.

Now, it can be hard to discern the summer from the rest of year, particularly based only on the level of activity.

The time Bob and I were talking, there were productions underway by Studio Players, On the Verge, SummerFest, ActOut, Lexington Children’s Theatre, and The Lexington Theatre Company was about to get its “Mary Poppins” production started. And that’s just theater.

Other genres have become more active in the summertime as well. Visual arts has events such as a midsummer Gallery Hop and active galleries at the University of Kentucky Art Museum, Lexington Art League and private galleries.

Music leans more pop than classical, until Picnic with the Pops gets the Lexington Philharmonic back together and the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington ushers out the summer season. If the newly minted conductors’ festival at Centre College in Danville gains traction, it could add to the activity. And the increasingly active festival culture has fostered events such as Louisville’s Forecastle Festival, Lexington’s Red, White & Boom and burgeoning MoonTower Music Festival, as well as the longstanding Festival of the Bluegrass, which keep music fans hopping.

And we could go on. Suffice to say, you cannot call summer a season when the arts take a vacation anymore. And that’s a good thing.

Yes, there certainly needs to be time when people in the arts, as well as any field, can knock off for a while and relax and refresh, and there still are plenty of artists who do just that in the summer. There are others who venture into other venues and organizations to do something a little different — for a few summers, it was fun to watch some of the core Lexington Theatre actors go over to the Lexington Shakespeare Festival and take on shows for adults.

And there still is that flavor that, in many quarters, things are done differently in the summer than they are the rest of the year. The Art League in recent years has had its in-residence program, where an artist is working in the gallery throughout the summer to create a new exhibit, giving viewers and artists a different sort of experience.

But the presence of the arts is important, and that’s what we get now with a calendar where you can have weeks in June and July that are as crazy busy as weeks in September (they’re coming) and March.

As fall approaches, there is still a palpable anticipation for the regular arts season to start. But it’s not like we’ve been sitting around drinking mint juleps and watching baseball all summer.

Rich Copley: 859-231-3217, @LexGoKY