John Winters is standing in the small plot of asphalt between the back wall of the Kentucky Theatre and Water Street, and it doesn't seem as if the start of his festival is more than a week a way.
His phone is constantly buzzing. People are approaching to ask questions and consult on various aspects about the upcoming PRHBTN festival, which he co-founded three years ago and co-directs with his wife, Jessica Winters.
"We watched a couple of street-art movies together, namely Exit Through the Gift Shop, and she said, 'I want to have an art show,' and I said, 'Yeah, OK,'" Winters says. "But she was serious, and we had promoted concerts and done events, but had never thrown an art show, so we just went at it."
He freely describes the first year of the festival as a mess. But the second year, PRHBTN made a big mark by helping to provide financial assistance to bring the German street-art duo Herakut to Lexington to create two murals downtown, at Market and Short streets and at North Limestone and Sixth Street. Herakut was brought to Lexington by Transylvania University-based artists Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova.
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This year, he snagged an even bigger canvas. That is why he was dealing with a lot of details Tuesday afternoon as if next weekend's festival were already upon him.
PRHBTN's curtain-raising event this year is a mural by São Palo, Brazil, artist Eduardo Kobra on the back wall of the Kentucky Theatre.
Kobra is noted for colorful depictions of iconic images and people. The Kentucky's mural will show the pride of the Bluegrass State, native-born Abraham Lincoln, as he appears at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington — albeit with a much broader color palette.
Winters says Kobra's early arrival is due to scheduling, but he says it also helps stoke interest in the festival as it approaches.
Friday through next Sunday, Buster's Billiards and Backroom will be the home base for the festival, featuring work by local artists Dronex, Caper West, Drew Lance, Geoff Murphy, Graham Allen, Hello Mona, That Stencil Guy, Weepy and Morehead-based Stencil Killer, and a trio of international artists.
New York-based Gaia will create a mural at West Sixth Brewing, and Lisbon, Portugal, artist Odeith and British artist Phlegm will paint murals in the North Limestone area.
At Busters, there will be live painting, demonstrations, talks and exhibitions of work Saturday and Sunday, plus the finale for the Lexington Tattoo Project on Friday night and the Bourbon Barrel Project on Town Branch finale and a concert on Saturday night.
Winters says the theme of the festival, focusing on art and art forms that have often been regarded as outside the mainstream, comes from his Northeastern upbringing.
"Being in cities like Boston, New York and Chicago, I used to love as a kid riding on the subway or riding on the L and the train into Boston, and seeing the big letters and the tags," Winters says. "And we felt like here in Lexington, guys like Dronex and Left Hand Wave, who is now in Chicago, kind of have nowhere to display their work. This way, we could bring them into a place that's legal. We've always promoted: 'Say what you want.'"
It also offers a different type of art show. Usually the art is created beforehand. Many PRHBTN pieces will be made during the week.
"For us, it's more like a living, breathing thing," Winters says. "Something created two days ago can be in the show. Something created six hours ago can be in the show. Art will be created during the show. People go up to see how it's made, what it's trying to say, instead of going, 'It's pretty.'"
On the flip side, some pieces are more permanent than your typical art exhibit.
"Every building we put a mural on, we have a 10-year contract with the building owner that it can't be altered or destroyed for 10 years," Winters says. "I could put on a concert or a festival or carnival, and when it's done, the only thing that's left are tire tracks and trash.
"This is going to be here for 10 years. It's awesome. I've been staring at this wall for several hours, and I can't tell you how excited I am for it to have a lot more paint on it."
IF YOU GO
What: Festival focusing on "art forms that have been criminalized, marginalized and under-appreciated in the mainstream," according to the PRHBTN website. Includes artwork, music, demonstrations by international and local artists, and two auctions.
When: Mostly Nov. 15-17.
Where: Centered at Buster's Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St.
Learn more: PRHBTN.com, Bustersbb.com.
SCHEDULE AND HIGHLIGHTS
Murals: Eduardo Kobra is already working on a mural on the back of the Kentucky Theatre building, Water St. near the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard overpass. During the weekend, Gaia will be creating a mural at West Sixth Brewing, 501 West Sixth St. Odeith and Phlegm will be painting in the North Limestone neighborhood. Maps will be available at Busters.
Nov. 15: Video premiere and party for Lexington Tattoo Project, including music by March Madness Marching Band, Lexingtones ukulele group, and Ford Theater Reunion. 6 p.m. at Busters.
Nov. 16: Open gallery with talks and demonstrations, noon-5 p.m. Bourbon Barrel Project on Town Branch closing party and auction, 5 p.m. Concert with Paper Diamond, Wick-It the Instigator, Ellie Herring, Dropship and DJ Jamples. $15 advance, $18 at the door. 8 p.m. All at Busters.
Nov. 17: Open gallery with talks and demonstrations, noon-8 p.m. at Busters.