Take two old parking meter heads, two 8-foot-long metal fences, a few gears and chains, bright paints and a healthy scoop of artistic talent and — voilà! Those ingredients make up the latest creation from Change for Art, a unique program to fund the arts in Lexington.
The program's fourth and latest public-art project was unveiled Sunday night at its new home, Buster's Billiards & Backroom, a popular music venue on Manchester Street in the Distillery District.
The idea behind Change for Art is to create public art with retired parking meters donated by the Lexington Parking Authority, said the program's founder, Robbie Morgan. People put their coins into the meter heads, and the money collected is used to provide financial support for area artists and art projects, she said.
Morgan said the first artistic piece in the program was set up last September at the Lexington Legends' ballpark on North Broadway.
She hopes the fifth will go up before the end of the year, possibly at The Kentucky Theatre or in the Cheapside area. All are in high-traffic areas, she said.
The first meter, at the ballpark, has brought in about $150.
"That's not much money, but we hope there will be many, many more pieces of the public art throughout the city and the public learns how to use them," she said, "plus the program is allowing us to write for grants and is making art more accessible to the public."
Artist Keith Spears of Lexington was at Buster's to take the wraps off his metallic sculpture before Buster's played host to concerts by the Psychedelic Furs and Tom Tom Club as part of the weekend's Boomslang festival. An appreciative crowd of about 50 applauded when Spears unveiled his work.
The first person to "contribute" was Amani Kajtazovic, 9, of Lexington, who came prepared with a box full of coins. Amani a budding artist who is working on a painting of New York City, has been to all four public ceremonies for Change for Art. She said she met Morgan, the program's founder, last year, and Morgan invited her to the ceremonies.
Clark Case, who runs Buster's, said the sculpture "fits so well with this place. Our focus is on local arts."
Federico Pizzuro, a Lexington painter, attended the unveiling and said, "There definitely should be more public art. I hope this program gets more public awareness and attention."
Spears, whose day job is unloading trucks at Lowe's, said creating the Change for Art piece — which is black, yellow and red, with flames — took about 80 hours.
Its design, he said, was inspired by the type of rock 'n' roll that Buster's brings in.
"I'm known as a quiet person," said Spears, 41. "However, my sculptures and the inherent processes tend to be rather loud."
Spears' creation was sponsored by Hot Sauces Records in Los Angeles. The label's owner, Elle Ven, lives part-time in Lexington and part-time in California.
At Buster's on Sunday night, she called Change for Art "a perfect example of why I love the Lexington art scene.
"It's a really cool alternative art project," Ven said. "No donation to it is too small. The coins add up. I got to sponsor this one for $500. It was a great investment."
Artists in Lexington "are amazing, and there is a very open network of policy makers who are committed to the betterment of public art," she said.
Another benefit from the project, said Spears, is it helps homegrown artists stay at home: "I think this program will help sway our creative people to take more permanent roots and stay in Lexington."