Lexington, Kentucky’s Art Infusion

Galleries abound.
You can also meet a famous horse.

By Renée S. Gordon

Lexington is a wonderful place to experience Kentucky’s melding of southern hospitality, luxury and charm with cutting-edge sports, arts, dining and shopping.

The city has distinguished itself as a premier location for cutting-edge art and architecture. Art self-guided walking tour brochures with maps and information are available, and you can schedule guided tours if that’s your preference. Thanks to the size of the city, the route can be accomplished in one day. As a bonus, along the way are outstanding pieces of public art and architecture that connect the numerous venues.

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” — Picasso

21c Museum Hotel provides 88 deluxe guestrooms and nearly 8,000-sq. ft. of gallery space showcasing both permanent and rotating exhibits. Owner/Founders, Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown purchased the 1913 National Bank Building, Lexington’s first skyscraper, and filled both the public and private spaces with contemporary, and provocative works of art. The most iconic object is the penguin that serves as a symbol for each of their hotels: only the color varies by hotel and Lexington’s is blue. If you can’t get enough of it, request a penguin for your room.

spectralline-courtesy-21c-lexingtonTwo of the most arresting art installations are on the ground floor. “Spectralline,” in the entrance foyer, consists of multi-toned glass shapes suspended from the ceiling. “Tomorrow’s Weather” is a series of various sized globes that adorn a portion of the Lockbox Restaurant ceiling. The globes, replicating molecules, change color and predict the weather for the next day. They are hooked into the National Weather Service. Free docent-led tours of hotel’s art collection are 45-minutes.

Phoenix Memorial Park, along the route, is the site of the “Eternal Flames” that commemorate the policemen and firemen who lost their lives in the line of duty. Nearby “The Green Camel,” a bronze Bedouin atop a camel, denotes Lexington’s Zero Milestone and establishes the center point of the city. The park was named for the Phoenix Hotel that once stood there.

LEXARTS Gallery Hops are free, regularly scheduled and include more than 45 galleries, museums, artists’ studios, exhibitions and other art-related venues. Hops run from 5 to 8 p.m. Official guides and a mobile app with an interactive map are available.

headley-collectionshell-grottoHeadley-Whitney Museum of Art was established in 1968. George Headley was a renowned jewelry designer and artist who created jewelry for stars such as Joan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks during the Golden Age of Hollywood. The 13-acre farm dates from 1926 but under Headley’s ownership an architect designed his library, which houses his 1,500-volume collection of art books and Jewel Room showcasing his private collection of rare jewelry and artworks incorporating gold and precious stones. An adjacent three-car garage was converted into an exhibition space for his extensive shell collection. Shells are displayed in a setting reminiscent of a grotto, decorated with coral flooring and shell covered walls and furnishings.

Several galleries on the downtown art tour exhibit equine art and artists. New Editions Gallery and Framing represents 24 artists, including several award-winning equine artists whose works depict the art of horseracing at every stage of the process. Originals and limited edition prints are available.


While in horse country, don’t miss the chance for an equine experience. American Pharoah won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. In October 2015 he also won the Breeder’s Cup Classic and added to his honors the distinction of being the first thoroughbred to win the Grand Slam. During his entire racing career he was owned by Ahmed Zayat and trained by Bob Baffert. He was retired and sent to Ashford Stud Farm on November 2, 2015 where he commands a $200,000 stud fee. In addition to stud duties American Pharoah greets visitors, in his own inimitable way, at 3 p.m. Monday to Friday. Tickets for photo ops and tours of the facility must be booked in advance and availability notifications are by email. Visits are contingent upon the health and personal schedule of the horse.

More Information…

Visit Lexington

Kentucky Tourism

– Photo Credits: 21c images courtesy 21c Lexington KY; remainder by Renée S. Gordon

Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.

Renee GordonRenée S. Gordon has written a weekly travel column for the Philadelphia Sun for the past 14 years and has published travel articles in numerous publications. Her columns focus on cultural, historic and heritage tourism and she specializes in sites and attractions related to African American and African Diaspora history. Renée serves as a consultant for educational trips and history-related tourist destinations. She considers herself a “missionary journalist” and as such she continues to promote heritage and sustainable tourism. She has been honored with several awards including the 2013 Recipient of African Diaspora World Tourism and Flame Keeper in Media Award for Travel Writing.

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