Art of the $ale
bodes well for Madison, La Grange
Art Club finds success
on Main Street, giving local merchants,
economy boost in tourism
Helen E. McKinney
LA GRANGE, Ky. (September 2012) In an effort
to increase the visibility of the arts scene in La Grange, many galleries
and studios have opened along Main Street, also opening the door for
a boost in tourism. What the arts can bring to the city can establish
a foundation for future cultural enhancements that can revitalize the
area, local officials say.
Arts groups are key to a thriving city, and especially to smaller
communities, said Linda Goin, executive director of Discover Downtown
La Grange, the towns Main Street Program. At the same time, People
will not engage in the arts unless they want to become engaged.
To become engaged, they need venues.
Goin said the problem with the downtown La Grange area is a lack
of larger appropriate venues for music, theater and larger studios.
But there is no doubt that the arts can contribute to community-building
and economic development, with an emphasis on creating destinations
for tourism as well as providing foundations for community learning
Venues for experiencing the arts in one form or another have recently
expanded in the quaint railroad town. Several galleries and studios
have combined to create a gallery hop, an event often popular in larger
cities. The Art on the Tracks Studio Tour includes Utopia Studio, Gallery
104, the Art Gallery on Main, the Kinney Studio, the Campbell Studio
and Friends and Fiber.
This tour affords participants the chance to meet the artists, view
their work and enjoy light refreshments. It takes place on the fourth
Saturday of every month from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. This tour coincides with
an antique car show, Cruisin with the Quads. These cars represent
an artform all of their own.
Anytime you have a collection of like businesses in one area,
they become a larger attraction collectively than they were individually,
said Kim Buckler, executive director of Oldham County Tourism &
Visitors Bureau. Instead of creating competition, it creates more
There have always been arts in the county, said Angie Campbell,
artist and owner of The Campbell Studio in La Grange. Looking back on
the 15 years she has been established in her studio space, Campbell
said, The arts are more visible now than in the past.
With the addition of more galleries and studios comes the opportunity
for more outlets in which local arts can sell their works. Large exhibiting
shows, such as the annual Arts on the Green in June, are another way
to reach serious art consumers.
Arts on the Green has grown from 15 participants to 120 vendors since
it began 13 years ago, said Kathy Dowling, executive director for The
Arts Association of Oldham County and its Gallery 104. This is proof
of interest in the arts and it is the largest attended event in
the county that I am aware of; it has even gained regional awareness,
Dowling even gets out-of-state calls from people wanting to make sure
the show will be held. It fills the hotels and restaurants. Stores
are open on the Sunday of the event and do a great business. We had
300 visitors in the gallery last year during Arts on the Green.
Buckler said, Arts on the Green is the oldest and longest running
event we have in the county that does appeal to tourists from outside
the community. She said the arts association does a lot
for La Grange in that they host many ongoing, creative events and special
showings through Gallery 104.
Gallery 104 has been open for five years in La Grange and displays the
work of the associations artists. Dowling has been there for the
last three years, and in that time she has seen a growth in the arts
We have 30 artists here at Gallery 104, she said. In addition
to art classes and contests, a popular event taking place every month
is the Artist of the Month exhibit. The featured artist tends
to sell their work better, especially if we have a reception,
said Dowling. I get the word out as best as I can.
Word does spread because as a result of a former Artist of the Month
exhibit, the gallery had its largest sale. We sold a Lee Wade
painting for $5,000, she said.
The high quality of the juried artwork is what sets Gallery 104 apart
from local gift shops. Were very much a gift shop town,
said Dowling. It took a long time to sell a painting off of the
wall. We now sell a couple a month. Our sales have doubled since last
Several of the artists are juried into Kentucky Crafted: The Market,
a prestigious Kentucky Arts Council program. Kentucky Crafted
is very difficult to get into.
The best of the best Kentucky artisans are at that show,
said Buckler. She attended Kentucky Crafted this year and said, La
Grange was well represented.
Art classes for adults and children are another way the arts association
tries to reach out to the community to expand the arts. A well attended
three-day workshop is one taught by watercolor instructor, Gail McDaniel.
McDaniel travels from her home in Nashville, Tenn., to conduct the workshop,
which usually has 13 students. She is a sister to arts association member
Pam Tallman, and people usually sign up six months in advance
for the class, said Dowling. The workshop will be held Nov. 8-10.
Options and variety are what brings people to a town, Buckler
said. We have all types of artists in La Grange. Its fascinating
to me to see the different types of mediums our artists use.
Im proud of the efforts that people have made in La Grange
toward the arts, by setting up workshops, meetings, dances, poetry readings
and classes, said Goin. She does have a problem with reaching
families to spread the word. Unless residents read the paper or follow
the activities listed on Discover Downtown La Granges Facebook
page, theyre missing out on offerings.
Theyre missing out on a great community thats slowly
but surely building here in the town, said Goin.
Another local venue is La Grange Arts & Crafts, which conducts classes
and sells art and craft supplies. Goin said that her own La Venture
Station has reached out to crafters and artisans to build an Oldham
County Etsy Team. This will incorporate Oldham County artists
who can sell online and still bring those sales back home as a shop
She said La Grange has an excellent frame shop on Main Street to complement
the artwork sold in the galleries. Local artisans set up booths at the
La Grange Farmers Market on Saturday mornings to showcase their work.
Soiree offers ballroom dancing classes and a community dance every Sunday
evening at a cost of only $5 per person. A second dance studio, Studio
4 Dance, teaches dance to younger people.
Karen Eldridge, owner of Karens Book Barn & Java Stop, said
it is important not to leave the literary arts out of the overall arts
scene. Her book store plays host to one, sometimes two, book readings
and signings a month. Over the previous year, this area has grown
for me, she said.
In an effort to keep up with the changing times, she has started a campaign
to save the printed word. With the availability of electronic
devices, she days its important to still pick up a book to read,
listen to a storyteller or enjoy music from a live performance.
You need to actually hear the music. There is an art to music,
said Eldridge. Her business plays host to a musical program every Saturday
She said a second coffeehouse in town, La Grange Coffee Roasters, holds
a bluegrass jam on Monday nights that has grown so big that a second
bluegrass jam is being held at the local La Grange Community Center.
Eldridge is also on the board of Discover Downtown La Grange and is
very involved in what happens on Main Street. As a result of a workshop
held by tourism consultant Roger Brooks, Eldridge said that having the
arts move back into an area establishes a foundation that others
Campbell said there are some good programs within the high school
for students interested in the arts. She hopes to start teaching
classes for high schoolers soon.
Karen Leightty, who opened Utopia Studio in May 2012, said she wants
to provide an opportunity for children and adults to learn oil and acrylic
painting and be able to take photography workshops. Leightty is a professional
oil painter and photographer.
Originally from Louisville, Leightty spent 17 years in Florida. She
then decided, I wanted to come back and get in the small town
feel. She targeted downtown La Grange because it reminds
me of what Kentucky is all about.
Leightty is still assembling her gallery space and sells work by a few
other artists in addition to her own artwork and jewelry. I love
what I do. I always carry a camera with me. I knew this is what I would
do the rest of my life. Its in my blood.
To help Leightty and other artists like her succeed at their profession,
it is absolutely necessary to have a government behind the arts,
even if that support is not financial, said Goin. To have city
or county employees and elected officials speak up for or participate
in art-related events, can lend credibility to those efforts.
Last year, La Grange failed in its efforts to achieve a cultural district
designation from the state. La Grange Mayor Bill Lammlein was able to
declare the historic district a cultural district in 2011.
By becoming designated as a cultural district, art groups might
have a better chance at achieving funds through grants, said Goin.
But that opportunity has not presented itself, since there are
few art grants available to rural areas or small towns.
La Grange will have to depend on the ingenuity of its artists to merge
ahead in a cultural sense and keep the city thriving economically and
form a tourism standpoint.
Back to September 2012