I’m asked that question quite often. At this point I consider myself a Kentuckian having lived here off an on, mostly on, for the last 24 years. I write poems ad nauseum about Kentucky. I talk about it constantly when I leave the state. I’m usually relieved to be back. But if Kentucky and I were in a relationship you could see on FB, our shared status would be: “It’s complicated.”
Part of that reason is that I hate feeling trapped without an escape hatch and living as an adult in the state that I was raised in can lead to occasional stabby sentiments. But on the upside, I’ve had wonderful opportunities to see my artistic career bloom here and I’ve had a front row seat to witness my hometown, Lexington, go from being sort of a ho-hum lackluster college town to a bustling little urban center with plenty of room for entrepreneurs and artists to play. There’s stuff to do here. For once, there are more than three recreational options to pursue on any given weekend (and often week night) at a spectrum of venues from dive bar to concert hall. Something for everyone.
One of the venues that’s probably perplexed Lexingtonians the most in the last few years has been the Lyric Theatre. On October 2, the Lyric celebrates five years (already!!) having its doors re-opened to the community. I will never forget walking onto that stage with Ben Sollee to read a poem for the occasion backed by his original cello composition. We were talking backstage animatedly about the momentous occasion. I remember saying, “There are so few times in a person’s life that they’re aware they’re in an actual moment of history. We’re in one of those moments now.” He said, “Well, I wasn’t nervous until you said that.” I got quiet and thought about the legacy of performers who’d taken the Lyric stage.
Next week, I’ll be joined by violinist, Rachael Yanerella (of Ancient Warfare) to reprise that poem. I’m one of an incredible line-up of artists and community members who are celebrating the fact that yes, although it’s changed hands a few times in the leadership department, this building and its staff represent a Lexington, a Kentucky, worthy of our continued patience, support, and yes, dare I say, love. Because to love something is to love it through the hard times right back into the good, right? And I would say that finally, the Lyric is coming through the other side of its growth spurt and ready to engage the community in ways we always hoped it would and many of us knew it would be capable of.
I’ve been working closely with Ashley Smith, the Lyric’s new Development Coordinator over the past few months dreaming up some programming for 2016 and I’m crazy about this young woman’s enthusiasm, her compassion, and her passion for her city and this space. I’ve worked with a lot of arts administrators in my day and let me tell you, they don’t make ‘em like this very often. If the Lyric continues to keep dedicated open-minded staff on board, people committed to working with artists and activists throughout the neighborhood and the region, all of us can only benefit from its presence. At a time when a mushroom cloud of creativity continues to spread over Lexington, the underrepresented voices and narratives we need to contribute deserve an effective platform and committed staff in their corner who ensure that programming is accessible, affordable, and inclusive. When I told Ashley I wanted to write something about this Friday night’s celebration, she had this to say:
“So, why the Lyric? Why should any one give a good god damn?” It is a sentiment that we face and encounter on daily basis from the outside, but on the inside as well. I will tell you why. We hold, harness, and represent the African American cultural experience in a way that no other facility in this city can say they do. The stark need for diversity and inclusion in the arts in this town is daunting. And we are tasked to answer this call and speak to celebrating diverse cultures that are often underrepresented and marginalized.
Currently, we are turning the page on a new chapter, a new day in the life of the Lyric. Washing away the aggravations of what shoulda, coulda, woulda, leave us with the chance to create, renew, and start a fresh. Our signature programming is offered free and open to the public with the aim to touch the lives of community members with the love of arts and culture. This summer we hosted 52 students in our creative arts education program that instills confidence and character. Our Summer Youth Program employed local artists who share their passion and craft with students ranging in ages 6-18. We presented this program with the help of Partners for Youth. Our Back to School Carnival hosted over 300 children and families as they enjoyed food, games, and creating memories together. Future programming will focus heavily on education and the being an influence in increasing the cultural proficiency of our city.
As we move forward, we know the road will not be an easy one to travel, but together with community support and ownership we can rise from the ashes and dust of how we have been viewed, gawked at, and overlooked for the past 5 years.
On this special night we invite you to join us in remembering The Lyric's iconic past in the East End and great Lexington community, honoring those who helped in its reopening and reveling in its achievements to date and to come.
VIP Legacy Tickets: $20.00 (6:00 p.m. arrival) Includes VIP red carpet entrance, entry to a pre-show catered reception beginning at 6:00 pm, Lyric gift bag, and 1 ticket to Lyric Jazz Show on Saturday, October 10
General Admission: $5.00 (7:00 p.m. arrival)
Student with ID: FREE (7:15 p.m. arrival)
Don't miss the sizzling pre-show provided by Special Session, Lexington's premier jazz band beginning at 7:15 p.m.
Help us celebrate in style. After 5 attire encouraged.
Put #5onitfor5 this Friday, October 2. For tickets, please call (859) 280-2218 or purchase online at www.lexingtonlyric.tix.com