Scientifically, fall is a time when nature begins to die off. But in the arts, it's a time of renewal: There's a new season of performances, concerts, exhibits and plays to fill your calendar. And particularly in Central Kentucky, the 2010-11 arts season is a new beginning.
This might be hard to comprehend right now, but a month from today, the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games will be over.
Four years of plans will have been executed, the Games will have been played, concerts will have been performed and hotel rooms will have been vacated (and back to their normal rates).
And we, the residents of Central Kentucky, will be here, with the better part of this and many subsequent arts seasons ahead of us.
Although the Games will be gone, Central Kentucky arts leaders expect the WEG cultural experience to have a lasting impact in the Bluegrass.
"The wheels are in motion to continue this with or without the Games," says Steven A. Hoffman, the new director of the Norton Center for the Arts in Danville, which will present some of the biggest programs during the Games, including the Vienna Philharmonic (Sept. 27) and Tony Bennett (Oct. 4). "The Games were a driving force," Hoffman says.
Jim Clark, president and chief executive of LexArts, says, "I'd hate for us to act like this was a one-time event and now we'll move on to something else. There have been a lot of ideas generated that we can build on."
The cultural legacy of WEG could manifest itself in a number of ways.
Connections have been made among artists, presenters, venues and other organizations that could continue after the Games.
The potential of exposure during the Games has altered artists' and arts groups' perceptions of themselves. And the sheer volume of events in Central Kentucky over the next couple of weeks (to see just how many, peruse the calendars in this section) has caught the attention of talent agents from outside the area.
And before they have even happened, some of the events that have been planned for the World Equestrian Games are being discussed as potential annual affairs.
The event getting the most discussion in those terms is the Spotlight Lexington Festival, which will be at outdoor venues around downtown Lexington and will feature a mix of national acts including country star Blake Shelton (Sept. 24) and jazz artist Trombone Shorty (Sept. 26), plus the Lexington Philharmonic (Oct. 3) and hometown kid made good Laura Bell Bundy (Oct. 1 and 4).
"Spotlight Lexington is a brilliant idea," says Michael Grice, director of the Singletary Center for the Arts at the University of Kentucky. "It's regional and local, and it feels like your family is performing up there."
Spotlight is presented by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government. Mayor Jim Newberry is a proponent of continuing it. He says that Lexington does not have a signature fall event akin to the big Fourth of July celebration in the summer, "and fall is one of the most beautiful times of year in Central Kentucky."
Clark says that before and during the Games, many lessons will be learned and ideas generated for Spotlight, and it would be a shame to waste them.
Less definite, but in the conversation, is how the Alltech Fortnight Festival might continue.
The Fortnight Festival was presented in 2008 and '09 as a precursor to the Games, featuring national acts at venues across the state. During WEG, its concerts include Gary Allan at Morehead State University (Sept. 26), Marvin Hamlisch with the UK Symphony Orchestra at the Singletary Center (Oct. 2), and Miranda Lambert in Murray (Oct. 8).
Fortnight Festival director Thomas Stephens says the festival could continue, possibly as an ancillary event to a legacy equestrian event at the Kentucky Horse Park.
The Singletary and Norton centers haven't exactly had trouble attracting A-list talent in the past. This season, you could argue that the Singletary's biggest star is violinist Itzhak Perlman, whose March 5 performance with the UK Symphony has nothing to do with WEG.
But Alltech's support certainly helps, particularly if you are putting on a festival.
"When you talk about bringing in that many national acts in such a short period of time, corporate support is critical," the Norton Center's Hoffman says.
Grice says Fortnight has been noticed outside of the region.
"All the various artist agencies on the East Coast know about Kentucky now, and they're calling and asking if this will continue," Grice says.
What should be easier to continue are relationships that have been built as the cultural components of the World Equestrian Games have come together, including the Kentucky Experience Pavilion that will be open at the Horse Park.
"We have identified artists we were previously unaware of," says Lori Meadows, executive director of the Kentucky Arts Council, which booked the Kentucky Experience. "Now, when we get a situation like someone planning an event who wants a bluegrass band, we can say, 'We have one to recommend to you.'"
Grice says, "With Fortnight, I am constantly copied on e-mails going around the state, and I can say I have a real good idea of what's happening in Ashland and Paducah and Owensboro, and I didn't have that before. In the arts, you can often feel lonely because you are so focused on your own thing."
Meadows can also see the opportunity to raise the profile of Kentucky arts around the world as international visitors come in and possibly buy art, take it home and consider buying more, or who enjoy Bluegrass State performances and plan return trips to sample more.
"It's gotten groups and artists to look at how we present our creative culture to the world," Clark says. "How do we represent creative artists that call Lexington home? How can we do that better?
"This has gotten a lot of people thinking."