Tom Eblen: Owners hope to fill community void with Lexington Art Academy

Dr. Cindy Derer, a Lexington dentist for three decades, doesn't consider herself an artist. For her, art is a hobby and a way to relax.

"I think most dentists have a little bit of artist in them," she said. "Sculpting is what I do for a living, but they all have to end up looking like a tooth. I wanted to do something that didn't look like a tooth, or fit in a mold."

Over the years, Derer took evening art classes through the Fayette County Public Schools and what is now Bluegrass Community and Technical College — "I closed down both of those programs," she said — and from the Lexington Art League and the Living Arts and Science Center.

She studied with sculptor Thomas Baker, whose day job is Web site development, but he often didn't have a good place to have classes. So they got an idea: Why not start an art school for people like them?

Derer and Baker rented a small suite beside her dental office at Alumni Drive and New Circle Road and, in April, opened the Lexington Art Academy.

The first group of 25 students finished classes last week. During the term, local artists taught classes in figure sculpture, universal drawing, portrait drawing, introduction to oil painting and beginning rug-hooking.

"It has been a lot of fun," said Michael Burrell, who taught the portrait-drawing class and whose own recent artwork includes the music-themed outdoor mural on the side of Al's Bar at the corner of East Sixth and North Limestone streets. "The students are doing better than I thought."

The next session of evening classes begins June 20 and throughout July and August. They include universal drawing, portrait sculpture, experimenting with watercolors and pastels, beginning rug-hooking, color composition, drawing foundation for painting, tapestry, and introduction to batik, an Asian art form of fabric dying.

The two-hour classes meet for between four and eight weeks and cost $80 to $280, plus some materials fees. for more information, go to

The first group of academy students had a wide range of day jobs, including dentist, doctor, decorator, housewife and photographer. The classes are intended for adults, but some older teenagers are accepted.

"A lot of people tell me, 'You know, I'm just not artistic,' and I say, 'How do you know?' " Derer said. "I suggest people who are interested in art try several things until they find something that's fun and not frustrating."

Eventually, Baker said, the academy could grow into a regular art school. Derer's goals are more modest. Profitability? "In my wildest dreams," she said. "I will be delighted if I break even at some point in my lifetime."

For Derer, it's all about fun. "I like it that it's just something entirely different from work and doesn't count for anything but recreation," she said. "I find the process very relaxing. Two hours go by in the blink of an eye."

Tax-cut anniversary

June 7 marked the 10th anniversary of the huge federal income tax cuts that President Barack Obama and Congress must soon decide whether to cancel or extend.

What a difference a decade makes: President George W. Bush proposed the tax cuts after he inherited a budget surplus. Three months after the cuts became law, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 led to the war in Afghanistan, followed in 2003 by the invasion of Iraq. Then the housing bubble burst, and the United States plunged into the worst economic slump since the Great Depression. With record deficits and serious national needs, can we still afford those tax cuts?

To mark the anniversary, Citizens for Tax Justice and Kentucky Youth Advocates released an analysis showing that if the tax cuts are made permanent, the richest 5 percent of Kentuckians will benefit 10 times more than the bottom 60 percent.

"In many ways, these tax cuts are little more than a stimulus package for the wealthiest of Kentuckians," Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said in a news release. "In these tough economic times, we need an approach where Kentucky's hard-working families are given the same breaks as multimillionaires."

To read the analysis, go to