Five of Lexington’s most distinguished artists and arts supporters will be honored July 22 in the first edition of Lexington’s Arts Awards.
The awards come from Arts Connect, an organization that supports Lexington-area arts through programs such as the Mobile Gallery program; the annual plein air painting event, Paint the Town, which was set for June 26; and “Art Throb,” a local arts podcast and radio show on WLXU (93.9 FM) and WLXL (95.7 FM) hosted by Arts Connect founder and director Kate Savage.
“I got to thinking that it would be nice to recognize those in the community who make a contribution and have an impact on the quality of life here in town,” Savage said. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s the people involved in the arts.”
Arts Connect put out a call for nominations early this year, and Savage said they received a lot of submissions in each category. A committee pored over the submissions to choose the winners.
“When I called them, they were all blown away,” Savage said of the initial class of winners. “So I don’t think there’s a question of any of them having put umpteen of their close friends up to having them nominated.”
The five categories and winners are:
Arts Impact and Contribution Award – Visual Arts: LaVon Van Williams, Jr. Van Williams’ initial claim to fame was as a University of Kentucky basketball player in the late 1970s. In 2018, Herald-Leader sports columnist Mark Story called him the, “most interesting ex-UK basketball player,” because he went from the hardwood courts to a career carving unique sculptures and images from wood, as well as working in other mediums. Van Williams’ work has been exhibited and sold around the world.
Arts Impact and Contribution Award – Performing Arts: Jenny Fitzpatrick, Blackbird Dance Theatre. Fitzpatrick worked with a wide-variety of Lexington Theatres such as the Lexington Children’s Theatre and Kentucky Conservatory Theatre as an actor, dancer, director, and choreographer before founding Blackbird Dance Theatre in 2013. While emphasizing movement, the educational and performing company works in a variety of disciplines including visual art and music.
Arts Impact and Contribution Award – Literary Arts: Katerina Stoykova-Klemer. From writer to publisher to radio host, native Bulgarian Stoykova-Klemer has been a supporter of literary arts in the Lexington area and beyond for well over a decade. She immigrated to the United States in 1995 as a software engineer but soon became involved in writing poetry, including several books of her own; founded Accents Publishing, and hosts the literary talk show “Accents” on WRFL (88.1 FM) radio.
Arts Educator Award: Larry and Vivian Snipes, Lexington Children’s Theatre. The Snipes became Lexington Theatre’s mom and dad over 40 years taking the children’s theater from a modest company to a Lexington arts institution with a major downtown facility and full-time staff that has produced numerous original works and world premieres, many derived from Kentucky literary sources. Many active Lexington theater artists can trace their careers back to the Children’s Theatre. In 2020, Larry and Vivian retired from the theater, where they are now listed as producing director emeritus and artistic director emeritus, respectively.
Arts Benefactor Award: Jennifer Mossotti and Kathy Plomin, “Stand.” Both Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council Members Mossotti and Plomin have records of support for the arts in Lexington. The award comes in recognition of “Stand,” 20-foot bronze sculptures of five suffragists by Barbara Grygutis, designed to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment and address the dearth of sculptures honoring women in Lexington and the United States.
Savage said she was happy honorees include a mix of well-known and emerging artists.
“There were so many people in this town whose lights are under a bushel, not necessarily because they’ve chosen that, but because they’re not given this kind of recognition, where they’re pulled out of the lineup and had the light shined on them,” Savage said. “Hopefully that’s what these awards will do, and make people sit up and realize that the creative industry in this town is really alive and well.”
Lexington’s Arts Awards
When: 11:30 a.m. July 22
Where: Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, 300 E. Third St.
Tickets: $45 individual, $320 table of eight, artist discount available on request
UK grad on global stage
Since graduating from the University of Kentucky, Reginald Smith Jr. has earned numerous honors, including winning at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2015. Earlier this month, Smith was literally competing for a global title, representing the United States in the “BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.” While Smith did not take home the grand prize – that went to baritone Gihoon Kim of South Korea – it did put the Atlanta native in front of an enthusiastic, appreciative audience.
Local fans who want to hear Smith again have a chance real soon, as he will be singing the role of Dr. Bartolo in Gioachino Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” at the Cincinnati Opera at 8:30 p.m. July 24 and 29. Visit cincinnatiopera.org or call 513-241-2742.
Mount Sterling’s Bluegrass Summer Dinner Theatre presents ‘Oz’
Jordan Campbell, a Mount Sterling native who is enjoying a successful stage and screen career, is returning from Washington D.C. this summer to bring a little dinner theater to his hometown. Bluegrass Summer Dinner Theatre will present “Oz! A Celebration of the Classic Tale” July 23 to 25 and 30 to Aug. 1 at Rosewood Acres Farm in Mt. Sterling.
An Oz-themed dinner will be served at 6 p.m. and showtime is 7 each night. The theater is also presenting a family event, A Day in Oz with Dorothy and Friends, at 2 p.m. July 24 and 31. Visit bluegrassdinnertheatre.com for more information and tickets.
Rich Copley is a former arts writer and editor for the Herald-Leader who continues to enjoy Lexington’s arts and culture.