Arts & Culture

UK Artists' 'Imagine Nation' on Display in Downtown Lexington

photo of 3 Guerilla Art students with "Imagine Nation" mural
The new Lexington mural "Imagine Nation" is the brainchild of art students in UK's Guerilla Arts course. Photo by Lee Ann Paynter.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 21, 2021) — In November 2020, students in the University of Kentucky School of Art and Visual Studies’ Guerilla Art class led by Lee Ann Paynter installed an original mural near UK’s downtown campus on Emmaline Lane, just west of 236 Bolivar Street, which houses the School of Art and Visual Studies (SA/VS) and the Bolivar Art Gallery.

“We knew we wanted to do a mural project and discussed it early on in the semester. We scouted some locations that were offered to us, and continued looking. Aaron Abbott (a Lexington digital design media senior) noticed this wall on Emmaline Lane on his way to school one day, and realized it was a great location for our mural and he actually knows the owner! It was really Aaron's connection to Mr. Queen that got us this great location,” said Lee Ann Paynter, lecturer in digital media foundations and photography.

"The huge wall was a daunting task for us, even as a group."

Students submitted design ideas to the class in mid-September of 2020, and the top three top designs (by Aaron Abbott, Emma Wagner and Laura Warren) were shared with the building owner, Jeff B. Queen, in early October, who made the final decision to go with the design by Emma Wagner, an art studio sophomore from Louisville, Kentucky.

Wagner designed the overall mural along with Thomas Arney, a theatre senior from Radcliff, Kentucky, and Michael Lozovoy, a digital media design senior from Lexington, and installation of the nearly 200-foot long mural began in early October. Students in the class were able to create individual components of the mural in the form of “personal character designs” which integrate with the chrome balloons that spell out the words “IMAGINE NATION.”

“Students worked sometimes during class time, and also were scheduled on their own time outside of class. The huge wall was a daunting task for us, even as a group,” continued Paynter. Mindful of COVID-19 restrictions, an outdoor mural project presented a perfect opportunity for distance learning. “But one good thing about that large space was the ability to spread out and use social distancing practices.” 

The students would like to thank the School of Art and Visual Studies and the College of Fine Arts for supporting this project, as well mentor, Spencer Reinhard, Lexington native and international mural artist.

The UK School of Art and Visual Studies, part of the College of Fine Arts, offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in the fields of art studio, art history and visual studiesart educationcuratorial studies and digital media design.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.