Fayette County

How Lexington turned a dull city building into a dynamic billboard and public art

Halloween images were projected onto the east side of the Phoenix building in downtown Lexington this month after the city installed equipment in Phoenix Park. In the foreground, Jason Ervin, 36, who lives in the Park Plaza apartments, let his dog Joey run around in the dog park.
Halloween images were projected onto the east side of the Phoenix building in downtown Lexington this month after the city installed equipment in Phoenix Park. In the foreground, Jason Ervin, 36, who lives in the Park Plaza apartments, let his dog Joey run around in the dog park.

The city of Lexington has turned a drab wall of one of its downtown buildings into a dynamic billboard.

Last month, the city’s park department installed a projector in Phoenix Park that casts moving images onto the rear wall of the seven-story Phoenix building, which faces the small park and Main Street.

VisitLex, the city’s tourism bureau, chipped in to pay for most of the $10,000 projector.

On Thursday night, the projector previewed this weekend’s Halloween festivities, including Sunday’s annual Thriller parade, and other city events.

The concept has earned rave reviews from many people — including Lexington council members — who say using the building as a public screen is a unique and innovative way to use city infrastructure to get the word out about city events.

“We think it is a fun, unique project that adds vibrancy to downtown,” said Mary Quinn Ramer, the president of VisitLex.

Currently, private businesses don’t advertise on the screen. It’s only for city events.

“At the moment, we plan to focus on content that is seasonal,” Ramer said. “ We do not currently have plans to sell advertisements.”

Monica Conrad, the director of parks and recreation, told the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council on Tuesday that the projector was the brainchild of Penny Ebel, a deputy director at parks and rec. The parks department had previously had a different projector in the park, but it broke.

“We hope in the future to show art,” Conrad said.

There have been some hiccups, parks staff said. The projector can get overheated and will stop after a few hours. Parks employees are installing new fans this week to address the problem, parks employees said.

“It really made me feel good to see something up there other than a blank canvas,” Councilman Bill Farmer Jr. said Tuesday. “It’s always been a great canvas, and it’s always been underutilized.”

Councilwoman Susan Lamb agreed. Other cities have used projectors in innovative ways to bring people downtown.

Lamb said she recently attended Blink Cincinnati, a four-day art installation in mid-October that used projectors and other technology for temporary public art installations on buildings over 20 city blocks.

“It drew a half-million people to downtown,” Lamb said. “Let’s bring that event to Lexington.”

Beth Musgrave: 859-231-3205, @HLCityhall

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