Transy Course Blends Art, Community

by April York

What does community mean, and what exactly is community engagement? The annual interdisciplinary studies course Community Engagements Through the Arts, taught by professors Dr .Kurt Gohde and Dr. Kremena Todorova, examines these questions and more.

Community Engagements works with and in the neighborhood north of Transylvania and, through working with our neighbors, tries to make a meaningful impact on the community. By attending meetings of the Martin Luther King Jr. and North Limestone Neighborhood Associations, by collaborating with many members of the local community and by learning from a variety of Lexingtonians, the class attempts to deepen students’ understanding of how to define community and how to truly interact with the people in a community in a meaningful, respectful way that allows each individual to learn from one another.

“The class’s facilitation of engagement within the North Limestone community in particular helps to break the bonds of biases and stereotypes and encourages participants to see people and environments for what they truly are, rather than what others may make them out to be,” said junior Katie Brewer, one of the class participants. “I’m taking this class because I want to be able to grow as a person, as an artist and a storyteller and as a member of a larger community — and I want to learn how to help others to evolve in the same way.”

To help the students in the class reach their goals, Community Engagements will be collecting folklore stories from the North Limestone neighborhood and working on its main artistic project, which is to create three murals throughout the community that capture and showcase the beauty and character of the North Limestone area.
One mural will be on the side of the class’s weekly meeting spot, the Hop-Hop, located at the corner of North Limestone Street and Loudon Avenue. The building is home to owner Griffin Vanmeter’s company Bullhorn Marketing on the second floor, where the class meets, and is undergoing renovation on the ground floor.

The class members and students at Lexington Catholic High School are creating stencil patterns for this mural that are inspired by the architecture, landscape and people of the North Limestone community. The mural will also feature the favorite objects of neighborhood children, based off sketches they collected from a visit to the East Seventh Street Center on Saturday.

Another mural will be put up on the side of local business Sav’s Grill, at the corner of East Maxwell Street and South Limestone. The stencils for this mural will be created based on patterns from the fabrics of Guinea, West Africa, Sav’s birthplace.

The third mural will be put up in the drop-off area of Sayre School on North Limestone. Along with working with Lexington Catholic, Sayre students will help to create the mural for their school.

All three murals work to help people appreciate, rather than fear, the area north of Fourth Street.

“The challenge to effect positive change in a community while immersing oneself in the stories and culture surrounding that community allows the participants in the class to take an active role in their city and surroundings,” said Nick Alley, a local artist advising and collaborating with Community Engagements this year. “The ability and willingness to take that experience into the future will empower everyone involved to be proactive members of their communities for the rest of their lives.”

The Community Engagements class always welcomes the participation of others. Each Wednesday the class leaves the Shearer Art Building at 5:45 p.m. to walk to the Hop-Hop to learn, listen and meet with its numerous visitors and speakers. On March 23 and 30, the class will need assistance installing the murals.

Finally, Community Engagements will be having a reception at Sav’s Grill on April 6 from 5 to 7 p.m. to celebrate the completion of the murals. The class will also be hosting an open mic and public reading of its “This I Believe” essays on April 13 at the Hop-Hop. The Transylvania community is invited and encouraged to attend both events.


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