Arts & Culture

UK Guerrilla Art students help DV8’s angelic ‘family’ mural come to life

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 2, 2022)  Need that perfect picture donning beautiful angel wings and your very own halo? Thanks to popular local restaurant DV8 and students in University of Kentucky’s Guerrilla Art class, you won’t have to go far to capture not only your angelic side, but your family’s too. Just head on out to Lexington’s East End.

For several years now, UK students in UK School of Art and Visual Studies senior lecturer Lee Ann Paynter’s course have had the opportunity to participate in public art projects that they proposed to area businesses, campus offices, etc. This time, the mural request came to them.

“At the original DV8 Kitchen, we have an angel wing mural,” said Rob Perez, co-owner. “The mural has been an important element of our concept that is a nice symbol of supporting the mission of helping people in a second chance position.”

DV8 Kitchen operates as a second chance employment opportunity for people who are trying to redirect their lives. People in the early stages of substance abuse recovery often find it difficult to find employers to take a chance on them. The restaurant runs on the concept that providing employment can lead to a lifetime ability to gain and maintain employment and allow workers to deviate from their past lifestyle. The first location, on South Broadway, is a thriving business where customers value the food and service and celebrate the second chance employment concept.

The restaurant’s success has manifested itself most recently in a second location in Lexington’s East End, located at 594 East Third St. A new location meant a new set of wings, and after some research into the Guerrilla Art course, Perez’s daughter, Samantha, suggested the business reach out to Paynter and her class to proceed.

Guerrilla Art, Interventions and Social Practice, a special topics art class, explores the intersection of one's artistic voice and its expression in public space, taking artwork out of the studio and into the public sphere, while considering the role of the artist in the social fabric. 

“Creative social practice blurs the distinction between life and art, utilizing various strategies of representation, dialogue and interaction,” Paynter said.

Murals are visually compelling on a basic level due to the sheer size of the art and its interactive nature. Murals are technically some of the earliest forms of art dating back to cave paintings — it was then, as art is now, an important mode of communication.

With the restaurant’s new East End location triangular in shape, the mural location was proposed for the building’s most prominent corner.

“This is a heavily traveled thoroughfare that heads into the center of Lexington. When a car approaches the DV8 Kitchen building on Winchester Road, the driver must make a decision to go to the left of the triangle building onto Midland and into downtown or to the right and onto Third Street to the East End of Lexington,” Perez explained.

In the past, most of this traffic proceeded onto Midland into downtown Lexington. But now — with DV8, the new Town Branch Trail, Isaac Murphy Park and the MET development — a new and vibrant entrance to the East End community is becoming popular.

Once a location was decided, students in the UK class submitted designs. Ultimately a combination of digital media design senior Emma Beverage and digital media design junior Isaiah Flannery’s proposals was selected that included not only one set of wings — but three — for adults, children AND dogs.

With the help of classmates, art studio junior Chrys Lynch and arts administration senior James McMullin, Beverage and Flannery spent the last four weeks completing the mural, so it was picture perfect.

And it seems Perez isn’t the only one happy with the new artwork. “Our staff and guests have already concluded they love the mural. People have already found this photo opportunity and are stopping by morning, noon and night!

“We are grateful for the University of Kentucky’s Guerrilla Art class for creating this incredible mural on the side of our East End location. Led by instructor Lee Ann Paynter, students Emma, Isaiah, James and Chrys worked hard on bringing this mural to life,” Perez added. “They were collaborative, professional and fun! We would love to work with UK art students again.”

The feeling is mutual. "We are thankful for this opportunity to work with Rob and Diane, and everyone at DV8, and to shine a light on their important mission of lifting up people's lives,"  Paynter said. 

The Guerrilla Art, Interventions and Social Practice class would like to thank Rob, Diane and Samantha Perez, Perspectives Paint & Design, Equipment Sales and Rentals, and everyone else involved in the mural.

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

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $501 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.