The Bourbon Barrel Project on Town Branch – Lexington, KY

Unbridled by Augustine Zarate
Unbridled by Augustine Zarate (visit artist page)

In September 2013 the downtown streets of Lexington were littered with 41 whiskey barrels…colorfully painted ones to be exact.  The LexArts Organization introduced this unique public art event entitled “The Bourbon Barrel Project on Town Branch” which celebrated not only the history and lore of Kentucky’s bourbon, but also the chronicle of a long-buried stream that was a formative basis of historic Lexington, the Town Branch.  Alltech, Inc. recently opened a new Bourbon Distillery in Lexington called Town Branch Bourbon, and the charred, white oak barrels used in these displays come from this new distillery.

DSC_2437I had the opportunity one morning to drive around downtown Lexington and grab shots of a number of these barrels, trying to get them in the setting of the city more than the straight artwork.  Following is what I found, mingled with some history, a few comments on those I liked and some comments and links to many of the artists.  Like many of the other LexArts Projects, there were a variety of artists involved in this program and I have included links wherever applicable.

A person looks at the artwork on a barrel in downtown Lexington
A person looks at the artwork on a barrel in downtown Lexington
"Mint Jewel Lips" by Audie Price and Jean Issacs Bramlette (see artist page)
“Mint Jewel Lips” by Audie Price and Jean Issacs Bramlette (see artist page)
"Barrel of Monkeys" by Tnia Zivkovich (see artisits page)
“Barrel of Monkeys” by Tnia Zivkovich (see artist page)
"GiddyUp" by Tess Larimore (see artist page)
“GiddyUp” by Tess Larimore (see artist page)
Alternate view of "Giddy Up"
Alternate view of “Giddy Up” with “A Kentucky Tradition”  by Barbara Harper-Bach in the background (see artist page)
"A Kentucky Tradition" by Barbara Harper-Bach (see artist page)
“A Kentucky Tradition” by Barbara Harper-Bach (see artist page)

I really got a kick out of the GiddyUp barrel, which I thought was one of the more original designs and mixed the Bourbon history with the Horse history of the area, but with a bit of whimsy.  You can see a nice post about Tess Larimore’s work on this project here. She also has a business in Lexington “The Decorator Warehouse” where she provides a spot for unique artistic home furnishings to be displayed and sold.

"Town Branch Progress" by Mariana McDonald (see artist page)
“Town Branch Progress” by Mariana McDonald (see artist page)

Mariana McDonald is a Lexington artist that dos pastel and oil landscape scenes.  This barrel is a true “reflection” of her work.

"Blazing the Bourbon Trail" by Dean Southworth (see artist page)
“Blazing the Bourbon Trail” by Dean Southworth (see artist page)
Alternative view of "Blazing the Bourbon Trail"
Alternative view of “Blazing the Bourbon Trail”
"Big Black" by De Selby (see artist page)
“Big Black” by De Selby (see artist page)

Dianne Vincent (De) Selby is a well established Lexington artist.  The focus of this piece is corn for bourbon and chickens for corn.

Portion of "Big Black" corn cob work
Portion of “Big Black” corn cob work
"Kentucky Roots" by Wade Christensen (see artisit page)
“Kentucky Roots” by Wade W. Christensen (see artist page)

I enjoyed this piece as it was unique among the many barrels.  Wade W. Christensen III is another Lexington artist who works in metal and is also a photographer.

"Kentucky on Fire" by Cynthia Arnold (see artist page)
“Kentucky on Fire” by Cynthia Arnold (see artist page)
"Barrel House Distillery" by Neil Sulier (see artist page)
“Barrel House Distillery” by Neil Sulier (see artist page)

The “Barrel House Distillery” piece was painted by local Lexington artist/photographer Neil Sulier. He also does Wedding Reception paintings, which is something quite unique.

"The Wellspring of Champions" by Phil May (see artist page)
“The Wellspring of Champions” by Phil May (see artist page)

Phil May is a painter and mural artist from Winchester, Kentucky.  Not only had he completed the art on this barrel, but he recently completed a series of murals on Depot St. in Winchester. In 2010 he was one of dozens of artists to participate in the Horse Mania horse art project as well (see his piece here).

"As the Bourbon Flows" by Melody Farris Jackson (see artist page)
“As the Bourbon Flows” by Melody Farris Jackson (see artist page)

Melody Farris Jackson is both an architect and an artist residing in Winchester, KY.  She was the Art Director for the 2010 World Equestrian Games and has mixed design and art for some unique views of horses and other themes.

"Town Branch Trail: Connecting the Past to the Future" by Lydia Underwood (see artist page)
“Town Branch Trail: Connecting the Past to the Future” by Lydia Underwood (see artist page)
"Colonel Pepper's Legacy" by Sarah Cobb Spradlin (see artist page)
“Colonel Pepper’s Legacy” by Sarah Cobb Spradlin (see artist page)
"On Manchester Street" by Cheryl Komis (see artist page)
“On Manchester Street” by Cheryl Komis (see artist page)
"Angel's Share" by Christine Kuhn (see artist page)
“Angel’s Share” by Christine Kuhn (see artist page)

Ultimately 31 of the barrels were auctioned off on Nov. 16, 2013.  Like other similar events in Lexington (HorseMania in 2010) or elsewhere (Enchanted Arboretum in Nebraska City – also see my photos of same), they are a means for keeping the arts alive and raising funds to do so.  I for one appreciate the time and effort put forth by the artists to bring this unique art works to the public.

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A 5 Day Midwest Adventure – Day 3: Hanging around Nebraska City, NE

Old Car - Nebraska City, Nebraska
Old Car – Nebraska City, Nebraska

After two days of hard driving with three children, we were ready for a brief break.  Marissa’s friends live near Nebraska City, so we stayed here for a couple of nights.  After a good night’s rest, I took them over to the Arbor Day Farm so that they could enjoy each others company.  Nebraska City is also the home of Arbor Day, which is a holiday in which individuals and groups are encouraged to plant and care for trees. It originated in Nebraska City United States by J. Sterling Morton. The first Arbor Day was held in Nebraska on April 10, 1872.

Arbor Farm Tree House - 50 feet tall
Arbor Day Farm Tree House – 50 feet tall (from arbordayfarm.org)

I didn’t attend the Arbor Day Farm with Marissa and her friends, but would have liked to.  Here are a couple of photos from Marissa’s visit…very kid friendly indeed!! The 260 acre of Arbor Day Farm is full of natural beauty and is also a National Historic Landmark.

Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure - Nebraska City, Nebraska
Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure – Nebraska City, Nebraska
View of the Tree House
View of the Tree House (by Marissa Noe)
Kids at the summit of the Canopy Tree House
Kids at the summit of the Canopy Tree House (by Marissa Noe)
Grandson Landen hangs in a canopy in the tree house
Grandson Landen hangs in a canopy in the tree house (by Marissa Noe)
The kids can climb on old tractors...at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City
The kids can climb on old tractors…at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City (by Marissa Noe)
The kids got all tangled up in this giant spider web at Arbor Day Farm (by Marissa Noe)
The kids got all tangled up in this giant spider web at Arbor Day Farm (by Marissa Noe)

While they spent a couple of hours at the farm, I spent my time driving around and enjoying the nice atmosphere of Nebraska City.  The farm not only has trees, but also fruit bearing trees and lots of flowers.  I snapped a couple of shots before I headed into town.

Apple Trees at Arbor Day Farm
Apple Trees at Arbor Day Farm
A tree full of fresh Jonathan Apples...I was SO tempted to hop out of the car and pull one off.
A tree full of fresh Jonathan Apples…I was SO tempted to hop out of the car and pull one off.
More Apples in Nebraska City
More Apples in Nebraska City
Beautiful Roses
Beautiful Roses

For me, there were actually two interesting highlights of the visit to Nebraska City.  The first was the “Enchanted Arboretum,” which began in the fall of 2012. Professional artists from around the country submitted 12-inch maquettes of suggested designs that were then juried by area arts experts for project inclusion. Of the 55 submissions, only 21 could be chosen. The artists of the winning designs received their blank sculpture along with a materials stipend in January 2013 and set to work on their creations.  This kind of fund raising and art event seems to have become a popular trend in recent years.  I have noted the “Horsemania” event held in my hometown of Lexington, KY in a previous post.  And just a couple of weeks ago Lexington rolled out another one called “Town Branch Bourbon Barrel Project” which features painted bourbon barrels (I will have a post about that in a week or so).  I have seen others, such as painted buffaloes, painted cows (see Cow Parade), Moose in the City (in Toronto), and many more.  I have, on occasion, run into some and have photographed them.

Enchanted Arboretum in Nebraska City, Nebraska
Enchanted Arboretum in Nebraska City, Nebraska

We were very fortunate (the kids saw a few as well) to have seen these as they all went on the auction block on September 28, just about two weeks after our visit on September 11.

Old Style Wall Advertisement in Nebraska City
Old Style Wall Advertisement in Nebraska City

The other delightful surprise for me were the newly painted Old Fashioned product Wall Advertisements that covered the walls of many of the downtown buildings.   Following are a few photos of the Enchanted Arboretum and the Wall Art of Nebraska City….

Painted Tree from Enchanted Arboretum
Painted Tree from Enchanted Arboretum
Enchanted Arboretum - Nebraska City, NE
Spring Awakening in Blue by Eliska Greenspoon
Enchanted Arboretum - Nebraska City, NE
Elementals by Sharon Ohmberger
Missing Trees by Greg Holdren
Missing Trees by Greg Holdren
Why the Crow's Feathers are Black by Sharon Cech
Why the Crow’s Feathers are Black by Sharon Cech
Growth Rings by Sue Kalicki
Growth Rings by Sue Kalicki
Spirits of the Wind by Janelle McKain
Spirits of the Wind by Janelle McKain

By far my favorite is the “Spirits of the Wind”, as seen above.  Very detailed and intricate.  Following is a detail of this nice piece of art….

Detail of Spirits of the Wind
Detail of Spirits of the Wind

I plan on doing another blog post about this kind of art work as seen from my travels.  Hopefully I can include much more.

Green Machine by Corby Renard
Green Machine by Corby Renard

As I mentioned above, I also got a kick out of the numerous wall advertisements painted on buildings in the downtown area.  These works have all been painstakingly recreated and painted by local artist Kent Schwartz thanks to a charitable donation from the Paul John Anton and Doris Wirth Foundation of Nebraska City (which was also one of the organizations providing grant assistance for the Enchanted Arboretum). Most of these are from products in the 1950s-1970s (and maybe earlier).  I remember some of them from when I was younger. Here are some samples

SELX Wall Advertisement - Nebraska City, Nebraska
SELZ Wall Advertisement – Nebraska City, Nebraska
Dr. Prices Baking Powder Wall Advertisement - Nebraska City, NE
Dr. Prices Baking Powder Wall Advertisement – Nebraska City, NE
Morton's Salt Wall Advertisement - Nebraska City, Nebraska
Morton’s Salt Wall Advertisement – Nebraska City, Nebraska
Old-style Coca Cola Wall Advertisement  - Nebraska City, NE
Old-style Coca Cola Wall Advertisement – Nebraska City, NE
Argo Baking Soda wall advertisement being added in Nebraska City, NE
Argo Baking Soda wall advertisement being added in Nebraska City, NE

We visited Nebraska City on September 11 and the town was decked out in flags in remembrance of all those who lost their lives during the 9/11 attacks.  Many small towns across America do the same thing.

Flags hang all along main street in Nebraska City on 9/11
Flags hang all along main street in Nebraska City on 9/11
A Flag frames the top of the courthouse in Nebraska City
A Flag frames the top of the courthouse in Nebraska City
A nice handcrafted flag decorates a house in Nebraska City
A nice handcrafted flag decorates a house in Nebraska City

Nebraska City is also home to the Kregel Windmill Company, which manufactures the famous ELI windmills used on farms across the midwest.

Kregel Windmill Factory Museum
Kregel Windmill Factory Museum

The Kregel Windmill Company operated as a commercial enterprise in the same building in Nebraska City, Nebraska from 1903 to 1991. Even though they have not been mass produced since the early 1940s, Kregel Windmill Company “Eli” brand windmills are still found in service pumping life-giving water for both humans and livestock. They demonstrate clearly how wind power without polluting the environment can serve the needs of humans now and in the future to improve their lives.

Kregel ELI Windmill framed by a flag on 9/11 in Nebraska City, Nebraska
Kregel ELI Windmill framed by a flag on 9/11 in Nebraska City, Nebraska
Small Kregel Windmill
Small Kregel Windmill

Little Nebraska City offered a few other things to see as I drove around the quiet, seemingly All-American town…here are a few more shots:

Downtown Nebraska City
Downtown Nebraska City
Historic Otoe County Courthouse in Nebraska City
Historic Otoe County Courthouse in Nebraska City

The Otoe County Courthouse is currently on the National Registry of Historic Places and is the oldest public building in the state of Nebraska.

Old Neon Sign for Fraternity of Eagles in Nebraska City
Old Neon Sign for Fraternity of Eagles in Nebraska City
Nebraska has its own Duck Dynasty at a local antique shop
Nebraska has its own Duck Dynasty at a local antique shop
Yes, these appear to be antiques as well...
Yes, these appear to be antiques as well…
Many of the Nebraska City streets are paved with brick
Many of the Nebraska City streets are paved with brick
Old Wooden Bridge in Nebraska City
Old Wooden Bridge in Nebraska City
An Old Rock House adorns a corner in Nebraska City
An Old Rock House adorns a corner in Nebraska City

Every town seems to have that one odd house with a collection of junk or perhaps their version of folk art.  I found Nebraska City’s house on one of the neighborhood roads…..

The Junk Collector house - every town has one
The Junk Collector house – every town has one
Reflector Mailbox - bet he doesn't have trouble finding his place at night
Reflector Mailbox – bet he doesn’t have trouble finding his place at night
Rocking Horse Gate - this is really folk art at its best!
Rocking Horse Gate – this is really folk art at its best!

Whenever I travel I am always watching for animals…I found the following “animal” – but I am not sure what to call it….

Man in Wheelbarrow
Man in Wheelbarrow – a real Truper….

Naturally, when I am on the road I am always looking for interesting animal shots as well.  Here I found a red-tail squirrel scampering for nuts….

Scampering Squirrel
Scampering Squirrel
Squirrel with a mouthful
Squirrel with a mouthful
Ready for Storage
Ready for Storage

And how about a couple more shots of Nebraska City

An old bell in someone's yard
An old bell in someone’s yard
Fresh Crabapples
Fresh Crabapples
Gotta add some wood carvings - these from Nebraska City
Gotta add some wood carvings – Welcome to Nebraska City
Honoring Squirrels
Honoring Squirrels
Great Name for a Lawn Care Business - Lawn Order
Great Name for a Lawn Care Business – Lawn Order

I really got a kick out of this sign and their website. Their Motto: Lawn Order – Do Your Lawn Justice!

Curious Car in a motel parking lot.  Saw it driving around town later in the day.
Curious Car in a motel parking lot. Saw it driving around town later in the day.
Old Pioneer Theatre in Nebraska City
Old Pioneer Theatre in Nebraska City
Tacos anyone? - A Pink building in the middle of small town America.  Priceless!
Tacos anyone? – A Pink building in the middle of small town America. Priceless!

And perhaps the best thing in town??  How about a park with an old Merry Go Round.  I don’t see these much anymore.  Too many parks are concerned about safety I suppose.  My grandkids and my daughter loved it!!

Merry Go Round in park in Nebraska City, NE
Merry Go Round in park in Nebraska City, NE

(2009)