Music News & Reviews

Concerts in the Park

It started in visual arts.

Last year, the North Limestone Neighborhood Association was involved in a mural project spearheaded by LexArts, and it resulted in an image on the side of Al's Bar celebrating the neighborhood's musical heritage.

"The mural showed this great culture, and we said, 'We want to continue that,'" Marty Clifford, president of the North Limestone association, said Tuesday morning.

He was sitting on a major catalyst for reviving the neighborhood's music traditions: a newly built stage in Duncan Park that will have its grand opening this month with a series of Friday-night concerts, starting tonight with a performance by Mowtown and blues artist Tee Dee.

The stage was built by volunteers and supported by a coalition of area groups, including the North Limestone and Martin Luther King Boulevard neighborhood associations, the Lions Club, Lexington's Division of Parks and Recreation, LexArts and several arts organizations, including the Lexington Children's Theatre and Lexington Ballet.

Clifford said the stage cost $5,000 in materials, and that the bands playing this month will be paid.

"We could have gotten people to play for free, but a big part of this is we want to show that we value artists, and they should be paid for their work," Clifford said.

In addition to building on the neighborhood's musical heritage, Clifford said he hopes to be able to bring some area events to his neighborhood.

"I saw Once on This Island at SummerFest, and that would have been incredible here," Clifford said.

"I read a statistic that said this neighborhood has fewer cars per person than any other neighborhood in Lexington," he said. "So a lot of people here can't get to the Arboretum or Jacobson Park, or other places where events take place."

So he's hoping to persuade programs such as SummerFest or Ballet Under the Stars to bring their programs or parts of their programs to the park's stage.

LexArts' community arts director, Nathan Zamarron, first started working with the North Limestone association on the Al's Bar mural. At the time, he said, he had no idea the visual image would inspire a venue for live performances for neighborhood families.

Now, "I have high expectations for this stage," Zamarron says. "Great things will happen here."

For Clifford, it will be great if the stage can make the neighborhood look more like that mural.

"Music was a great way to bring people together and cross racial barriers long before laws and ordinances told them to do that," he said. "It's a great way to build community."