Updated: Dec 3, 2019
Street art is a “love letter to Lexington.”
This is how the organization PRHBTN views street art, said co-founder John Winters.
Organizations like PRHBTN and SquarePegs Studio and Design contribute to many murals and other artwork around the city, which range in size from covering part of a wall to scaling the entire side of a building.
In 2011, John and Jessica Winters founded PRHBTN to help celebrate local artists and their various art styles—styles that may have been unappreciated or unrecognized as art by the public.
“The idea was brought up by Jessica after I recommended her to watch the Bansky film, ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop,’” John Winters said.
The 2010 film is directed by Banksy, the well-known but anonymous street artist from England.
The name PRHBTN was derived from artists’ being prohibited to show their art in public, as well as a nod to the Prohibition era since the organization started in Kentucky, a state with lots of pride in its bourbon.
Creating the organization was the first step toward supporting artists and helping them express themselves without the fear of their art being marginalized by public opinion.
“We do it for the city,” John Winters said.
The couple works year-round to prepare for the PRHBTN festival by reading street art blogs and keeping up on multiple social media platforms to look for the artists they are wanting to invite to the following year’s festival.
After starting with a long list, the Winters whittle it down to nine or 10 national and international artists before inviting them to participate in the festival.
“We’ve been lucky enough to get some amazing artists to participate,” John Winters said.
For the past eight years, along with the ninth year coming up in October, PRHBTN has been sponsored by local businesses and citizens through its Kickstarter fundraiser program.
The Winters also deal with their fair share of complications when preparing for the festival, including artists not getting their visas in time, paint not arriving and lifts getting stuck in the mud.
“We try to think of it in a Murphy’s Law kind of concept,” John Winters said. “Where ‘anything that can go wrong will go wrong,’ so we try not to be as rigid in our thinking and focus more on solving the problem.”
The ninth annual festival begins Oct. 18, 2019, and continues through the end of the month. The gallery is free to all at the Loudon House, located at 209 Castlewood Dr.
“Good things come from good people” is the logo of Kentucky business SquarePegs Studio and Design, another organization that contributes to the art scene in Lexington.
Friends Graham Allen and Geoff Murphy have been running this business since 2014, and since then, their work has gained recognition from their clients, ranging from restaurants, breweries and bars, shopping malls and universities, and both public and private commissions.
Allen and Murphy have more than 20 years of combined experience. Allen said he takes pride in his work and will make sure to provide a client with whatever they need to gain business.
SquarePegs’ art includes the Pazzo’s Pizzas Pub outside patio walls on South Limestone; branding products for Atomic Ramen and Bear & The Butcher; and the “Inspiration Series,” which includes murals of Harry Dean Stanton, Muhammad Ali, Tom Waits and John Prine.
The studio also has some lettering and graphic work in the Barn at the Summit at Fritz Farm and has contributed artwork to UK for raffles.
Allen said he enjoys creating things that can motivate and inspire positivity in the community.
For the future of street art, Allen said he would enjoy seeing more type-based art, more “Easter eggs,” which refers to some hidden element in a work, more thought-provoking installations and more murals hidden from public view. One example is this year’s “LOVEBOMB” mural on the roof of the Hive Salon and Art Haus, which is the first rooftop mural in Lexington.
As for SquarePegs specifically, Allen said he wants the business “to grow while remaining manageable and intimate.”
By Nicolas Torres
Photos By Sydney Carter