Visual Arts

Mural project starts with cityscape

Waseem Touma likened his new Vine Street mural to a subway car.

Standing across the street from it on Monday, he said he knows his work looks like graffiti, and though he does not endorse graffiti, he said, "I do love it when subways and freight cars go by in a flash of colors."

Touma hopes Lexington commuters will have a similar experience zipping past his mural at the Vine Street side of the YMCA downtown.

"I want people to go home and say, 'I saw this crazy thing on the wall, and I don't know what it was, but I liked it,'" Touma says.

The mural, as it was seen, was a black and white sketch that Touma will fill in with bold colors in coming weeks.

The unveiling of his mural at a news conference signaled the beginning of a fall that might give commuters a number of experiences like that in Lexington.

Touma's mural, which represents the Y's focus on mind, body and spirit, is part of LexArts' Downtown Mural Project, which is part of the legacy of another project that had drivers and pedestrians slowing down to take a look: HorseMania.

"Thanks to all the high-bidders at the HorseMania auction," LexArts President and CEO Jim Clark said at the news conference.

HorseMania was a public art project in the summer and fall of 2000 that put 79 fiberglass horses decorated by Central Kentucky artists on Lexington streets. After public display, they were sold in an auction at Keeneland that took in a total of $757,600, including $53,000 for the top horse. Funds from the project were geared in part to future public art initiatives.

Touma's mural is one of four that will be completed this fall around Lexington, in conjunction with businesses and neighborhood associations.

Another mural will be unveiled Saturday on the Limestone side of Al's Bar, and another two are planned for a building at Southland Drive and Rosemont Garden and at the LexTran Fuel and Wash Station on Loudon Avenue. Lexington artist Michael Burrell created the Al's Bar mural and is also painting the one on Southland Drive.

Nashville-based Number Walls, co-owned by Lexington native Mike Luckett, will create the LexTran piece, which will include a color-by-numbers portion that the public can participate in.

At the news conference, Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry said projects such as the murals "transform our landscape and express community values."

Each artist consulted with neighboring residents and businesses to get a sense of what to create. The Al's Bar mural will address the musical heritage of its location, at Limestone and Sixth Street, and the LexTran mural will depict the history of transportation there, LexArts community arts manager Nathan Zamarron said.

This fall, Zamarron said, several public art projects are coming together that will also produce an outdoor sculpture display downtown that kicks off Nov. 1. The Balancing Act will be 20 temporary sculptures displayed in places such as the Lexington Financial Center.

"These are the product of long-term projects coming to fruition for the community," Zamarron says. "Even more things will come from this as the energy continues to build."