This is not your typical charity fundraiser in Lexington, which may be why it has become so popular. Guests attend an afternoon party in an amazing house and mingle with some of Kentucky’s best-known writers, artists and musicians.
“It was a crazy scheme when we started it,” said artist Bob Morgan, a founder of Moveable Feast, the 20-year-old Lexington non-profit that provides meals for people living with HIV/AIDS. “I thought people who didn’t have close access to artists might enjoy spending an afternoon with some.”
Last year, three “Sunday Salons in September” raised more than $14,000. For this fifth year of salons, four are planned, one on each Sunday of the month from 2:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. in some of Lexington’s most interesting historic homes.
The series begins Sept. 9 at the circa 1879 Dudley House,which was built in the garden of the Hunt-Morgan House in Gratz Park by millionaire John Wesley Hunt’s granddaughter. Marie Hunt Dudley had grown up in Loudoun House and brought its huge mirrors to her new home.
Lexington painter Lina Tharsing, who Oxford American named as one of the “new super-stars of Southern art,” will show and discuss her work. Wanda Fries, an Appalachian author of two novels and books of short stories and poetry, will read and the group PaperMoon will perform swing,ragtime and jazz music.
The palatial Victorian mansion was beautifully restored by former owner Diana Ross. Hosts Elizabeth Broyles and Larry Sword, who are lawyers, have owned the house for the past year. Their art collection includes paintings by Henry Faulkner and Patrick Adams.
The headliner for the second salon Sept. 16 is Rebecca Gayle Howell, an award-winning poet and the James Still Writer-in-Residence at the Hindman Settlement School. She will appear with Brett Ratliff, an acclaimed traditional Appalachian picker and singer.
That salon is hosted by Gay Reading and John Martin, owners of Greentree Tearoom, in their art- and antique-filled circa 1927 home on West Second Street.
The third salon Sept. 23 features Nikky Finney, a National Book Award-winning poet from South Carolina who lived, wrote and taught in Lexington for many years. Music will be provided by singer-songwriter Will Solomon.
That salon is in a circa 1870 commercial building and attached house on Old Georgetown Street that was creatively restored by Jim McKeighen, a real estate agent and scholar of historic downtown properties.
The rambling home, which in the past housed a speakeasy and the drug store of pioneering black pharmacist Harriett Marble, had been cut up into four apartments when McKeighen started work on it in 2007.
Once restored, McKeighen filled the house with his extensive art collection and furniture that includes Kentucky antiques and things he bought at auction from MGM Studios in his native Los Angeles. He said he has seen several of the former props in old movies.
McKeighen bought a junkyard next door and transformed it into an elegant garden. “We’re hoping for great weather so Nikky can read in the garden,” he said.
The final salon Sept. 30 will be at Tracee Whitley’s circa 1900 colonial revival home on Fayette Park. Artist Martin Gonzalez will show and discuss his work. Music will be by The Ladyfingers, a Whitesburg band that combines traditional mountain music with rock and punk.
Tickets are $80 each, or $270 for all four salons, and can be purchased at Moveable Feast’s website: Feastlex.org.
Moveable Feast was formed in 1998 after Lexington artist Charles Williams, who had AIDS, died of starvation. Since then, the organization has delivered more than 515,000 meals. About 150 meals are delivered each weekday, and 40 percent of the recipients are women and their dependent children, Morgan said.
“A lot of our people live on other people’s couches sometimes, and we have to keep up with where they are,” he said. “If someone calls by noon, we can usually get them a meal that night.”
Except for executive director Terry Mullins and two helpers, Moveable Feast is a mostly volunteer effort that provides meals for $5 or less each thanks to assistance from God’s Pantry, Kroger and Whole Foods.
“That means a ticket to one of the salons will feed 16people,” Morgan said. “A lot of people don’t believe we have people in our community who are desperate for food, but we do.”