Come Together Right Now
Like many mid-size towns in America, Lexington is both blessed and plagued by its environment and culture. On the up side, our little 'hood is relatively safe, calm and predictably peaceful. On the down side, Lexington is safe, calm and predictably boring - culturally speaking. In a city where certain aspects of our culture thrive (e.g. hoops and horses), the arts community is often ignored and underemphasized. However, when hindered or silenced for too long, those with a creative inkling step forward.
Enter Lexington Action Arts Collective.
Formed in February 2001, LAAC developed more out of necessity than anything else. Spearheaded by former Yat's manager and local music aficionado Ross Compton, the Action Arts Collective has sponsored several events with the initial goal of raising funds and awareness for a community arts center. More specifically, their mission statement reads, "The LAAC is a collective-run, non-commercial/non-profit entity that aims to build community and encourage artists by fostering an environment of creative expression, shared learning, and social awareness." While the current efforts of the collective lay squarely on landing a permanent home, LAAC's long-term potential is immeasurable.
In a recent interview with Compton, much was said about the state of the arts in Lexington and the need for an outlet for all walks of creative expression.
Commenting on the need for Lexington to inject some homegrown substance into the community, Compton says, "It's culture that rises up from the people instead of trickling down from mass media outlets, which, sadly, is where much of our national culture comes from these days. We want to demystify arts programming, to show people that if they're not seeing what they want in the community, they can change it."
The LAAC has set its sights on a very real problem in Lexington, and we just may have the opportunity to watch this eclectic group untie some pesky, old knots.
Way back in the 1990s, Lexington had multiple venues where new and aesthetically different bands could show their stuff. Gone are outlets like the Wrocklage, JDI, Area 51, and most recently, Yat's, and then Helios. While live music clubs in town still support local music, the options have certainly dwindled. Toss in the need for visual artists, poets, and filmmakers to express and interact and you have the perfect mix of creativity, situational frustration, and ultimately, action. The LAAC officially kicked off its campaign with Event 001 at Mecca in April, and judging by the response, things are looking good.
By uniting people with various forms of creative expression, be it dance, film, visual art, spoken word, or music, the Collective has touched upon a very real issue with many Lexingtonians: there is a great need for an accessible, comfortable cultural arts center, fueled largely by so many creative spirits fleeing to more progressive, artist-friendly cities and communities.
Compton says, "We're taking it upon ourselves to make these things happen. We're trying to take ownership of our community, trying to become an active part of it, to assume the responsibility of making it a better place."
At their May meeting, some LAAC members' concerns included Lexington's apparent aversion to assembling and the stigma of local music/art being unworthy of widespread attention.
Let's clear a few things up: Assembly is okay. Local doesn't mean sub-par. And with a stable force like LAAC in the arts community, Lexington can experience the talent it possesses. True, there are very real obstacles preventing meaningful assembly in a creative atmosphere. Almost all live music venues in town impose age restrictions due to drinking laws, and a certain amount of conditioning has influenced many to deem any non-alcoholic event a waste of time. However, with solid networking and proactive, real changes can occur.
While Lexington's visual artists, musicians, dancers and poets have long interacted within their respective circles, there hasn't been an overwhelming amount of mixing.
And in a mid-size town, isolation, however unintentional it may be, can cripple an arts scene. This is not to say that Lexington is creatively stifled (there is, after all, a wealth of talent in this town), but the potential force of a unified arts scene is quite stimulating. Just ask an LAAC member. Don't know one? That's okay.
Go to the next meeting on June 12th at the High Street House. Don't expect any hazing or bizarre rituals - the most unusual thing may be the mix of folks in the room. And that's the beauty of the LAAC; like those Invisible Ink puzzle books, anyone aged 8-88 is invited and encouraged to participate. A truly fluid group, no one person is really in charge; rather, it's a communal effort to unite and uplift the arts community of Lexington. With the gracious support of WRFL, Mecca and other organizations, changes are already beginning. You can be a part of these changes. Event 002, the Collective's next gathering, takes place on Friday, June 8th at Mecca, located at 209 N. Limestone. Song, dance, spoken word, a local record label flea market, and more await.
For more information on the LAAC or Event 002, contact the LAAC c/o Ross Compton at 657 Maxwelton Ct., Apt. 3, Lexington, KY 40508, on the Web at www.action-arts.org, or by e-mail at email@example.com.