The next time you’re in downtown Lexington at night, you’ll find the place beginning to seem a little brighter with many vacant storefronts now illuminated and colorful.
It may not signal a revival of downtown commerce, not yet at least, but Jim Frazier, Chairman of the Downtown Lexington Management District (DLMD), believes the installation of illuminated art in formerly darkened windows will make the city’s core a more attractive and interesting place to be in the evening. He sees it as an important first step on the way to a more interesting, safe and accommodating central core.
“We’ve committed to a first wave of public art,” Frazier said, discussing a new installation by Lexington artist Marjorie Guyon in the main street-facing windows of Festival Market.
The DLMD has three focuses: safety, beautification, and marketing. Frazier, who chairs a 15-member board of local business owners, residents, and other downtown stakeholders, said the ultimate goal of the property tax funded organization is to encourage new interest in the area and ultimately increase property values.
A first major step began last September with the appearance on the streets of “ambassadors,” a crew of about eight part-time staff decked out in purple shirts and khaki pants. They’re now on duty day and night picking up cigarette butts, cleaning up litter, helping visitors find their way and dealing with panhandlers.
The next step brought Frazier in contact with Guyon who maintains a downtown studio. Her instructions: “to highlight unrented space in the interest of attracting new business and to help create a vibrant city; to showcase local businesses and create an opportunity for them to present what they do in a public space – shifting the spirit of a space by bringing unexpected beauty to the darkness.”
For this project, Guyon partnered with Betty Spain, proprietor of Bella Rose on the corner of Maxwell and Upper. “When I was putting together the idea for the installation, the presence of human form felt necessary. Bella Rose is known for their dresses and the designers she carries. I thought her collection would be a perfect complement to the artwork.”
“The idea,” Guyon explained, “was to bring beauty and light to a dark and empty space along one of Lexington’s major thoroughfares. With large scale dye sublimation prints on aluminum and dresses from Bella Rose, we’ve created an environment that is not only safe to walk by but illuminates the street creating an opportunity to stop and have an experience.”
Frazier confirmed that the DLMD is looking for additional spaces that could use a brightening touch.