Visual Arts

Francisco's Farm a potent mix of high art, local interest

Those in arts administration — ­directors, board members, managers and such — ­frequently enforce in the art world a fondness for buzzwords, the latest being community. Community and the arts are the perfect team — as long as the team is real. To embrace the plethora of meanings of the word ­community takes a great commitment to extrapolate the notion of art beyond its high-horse aura, ­making it attractive to a broad range of ­interests (and pocketbooks).

Fortunately for Central Kentucky, there is one group that not only follows through with its stance for community-oriented arts, but provides the region’s premier example of how to make a diverse community inseparable from the arts.

The Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival, a ­project of Midway Renaissance, might be in only its fourth year, but it has ­consistently gained in its award-winning reputation for providing fine artistic selection and ­entertaining community-oriented exhibits and activities.

“The festival started with the social and cultural committee of Midway Renaissance,” event coordinator Marcie Christensen says. “It was the goal from the beginning to involve people both near and far in a celebration of the arts.”

This year that goal proves to be an understatement. With the involvement of roughly 150 national fair artists and more than a dozen regional organizations and sponsors, the Francisco Farm Arts Festival plans to have not only something for everyone, but to ensconce it in the embrace of Woodford County and surrounding communities.

The festival has always included, among the juried fair artists, a “true” art exhibit held indoors. This year there are two ­exhibits, one inside and one in the tented area. Both highlight local artists, and both invite visitors to appreciate and become part of the creativity that surrounds Central Kentucky.

Inside Midway College’s Anne Hart Raymond Center is The Artistic Wealth of Woodford County, an exhibit of many types of artists — visual artists, writers, chefs and musicians — who call the county home. The appeal of mixing artists of all stripes lies in the mélange of creative talent, allowing lovers of Versailles-based international artist Guy Kemper’s colored streaks of stained glass to find comparisons in the artistry of plating, or presenting, a locally prepared food or the flowing nature of regional poetry.

Outside, a selection of work by students from the University of Kentucky’s art ­program will be shown. Along with the experience of exhibiting, the students will gain an ­invaluable lesson from their interaction with fair attendees.

“These students are not only learning about making art,” Christensen says. “They’re also learning about art marketing — the business side of art.”

This recognition of active contributions of festival attendees to the local community extends beyond the reach of the event’s grounds. Perhaps you’d rather not carry around your festival purchases in plastic bags. Reusable canvas bags, printed with local artist Carol Bowles’ festival poster design, are available at this year’s fair.

Hungry after a long day’s festival ­enjoyment? Francisco Farm organizers have teamed with Slow Food Bluegrass to present a locally grown artisan dinner by Brown-Foreman’s executive chef, Mark Williams, as a separately charged event at downtown Midway’s Thoroughbred Theatre.

Inside and outside the fair’s grounds, the number of partnered activities that mix artist with community are almost overwhelming: children’s activities organized by UK art education students, presentations by local print shops and commercial galleries, a Citizens Create public art project, and an endless variety of music. The result of this organized frenzy? No one will leave this festival without feeling a closer connection with Midway and Central Kentucky and a newly fueled desire for the visual arts.

Older fairs, heads up. The new kid on the block has raised the bar to become the must-attend fair of the season.

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