The city of Lexington will soon be getting a new symbol of civic pride.
A white flag with a blue horse in the center will be the new community flag for Kentucky’s second-largest city.
“We see this as a flag for the entire community,” said Urban County Councilwoman Amanda Bledsoe. “We call it a city pride flag.”
The blue horse has been used by VisitLex, the city’s tourism group, to market Lexington outside of the Bluegrass region.
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The blue horse marketing effort that has been very successful, said Mary Quinn Ramer, the president of VisitLex. The city of Lexington is also using the blue horse on many of its stationary, vehicles and signs in an effort to bring the branding of Lexington under one symbol.
“It’s a recognized symbol outside of Lexington,” Ramer said.
The push for a new city flag began after two different groups — middle school students at Lexington Christian Academy and a group of Lexington firefighters — had each come up new flag designs.
Both groups had seen the same TED Talks online video by Roman Mars, who hosts a podcast called “99 % Invisible.” City flags are poorly-designed, Mars said. Lexington’s city flag is shown briefly in the video as an example of what not to do.
The current flag is the city’s seal in the center of a white flag. It’s what those who study flags call an SOB — “seal on a bed sheet.”
Coleman Marshall’s eighth-grade history students at Lexington Christian Academy came up with potential flag designs as part of a class project. Those designs were presented at an Urban County Council meeting in late December.
Inspired by the same TED Talks video, a group of Lexington firefighters at Fire Station 5 on Woodland Avenue also redesigned the flag. Those designs were forwarded to Bledsoe, who introduced the LCA students at the December council meeting.
Bledsoe then met with Lexington’s Chief Administrative Officer Sally Hamilton, Ramer and others to discuss the possibility of changing the current flag.
But there was a hiccup.
The city’s seal must be on official documents and symbols, including the flag.
“To change it, we would have to revise the charter and that’s not easy to do,” said Councilman Kevin Stinnett.
Bledsoe said people can’t fly the flag with the official city seal on it — only the government can.
Instead, the white flag with the blue horse will be known as a “community spirit” flag. The flag with the city’s official seal will still fly on official city buildings.
Using the VistLex blue horse will also make Lexington’s branding consistent, Hamilton said. VisitLex adopted the blue horse symbol in 2009, after an international graphic design firm developed a logo using a recolored image of the stallion Lexington from a painting by equine artist Edward Troye.
“We hope that we will have the first shipment of flags in by Thursday,” Ramer said. “They will be available for sale at VisitLex.”
The first recipient of Lexington’s new flag?
Lexington Christian Academy. The flag will be unveiled at a special ceremony on Thursday morning, Bledsoe said.
Marshall and Kerry Cayse, an LCA art teacher who worked with Marshall on the LCA flag redesign project, said they are thrilled student work led the city to re-think how something as simple as a flag could ignite civic pride.
“I am blown away that our small idea last fall could have led to this,” Cayse said. “The students have seen first-hand that if they see a need for change and act on it, their voices can actually be heard. What an incredible lesson to learn at the age of 13!”
Marshall’s students have seen the new flag. They studied the principles of good flag design during their class.
The North American Vexillological Association, an association dedicated to flag design, lists five key principles of good flag design: Keep it simple, use meaningful symbols, use two to three basic colors, no letters or seals and distinctive or be related, such as relating a city flag to a state flag.
LCA student Maddie Coomer said the new flag follows all the rules.
“It’s a simple design that is easy to remember and the horse is a good symbol for Lexington,” Coomer said.
Her classmate Erik Burroughs agreed.
“ It’s cool,” Burroughs said. “The blue horse is a good symbol.”