Street Art Curators: John & Jessica Winters

Posted on
Saraya Brewer

street art

John and Jessica Winters are organizing the third annual PRHBTN festival in November.

The title PRHBTN might be a play on the word “prohibition” – referring to the stigma often affiliated with the art forms featured at the annual “street art” event – but one of the primary goals of event organizers John and Jessica Winters is to make art more accessible for everyone.

“There has always been this perception of art as ‘elitist,’ or that it’s only for the chosen few who can appreciate it or who seek it out,” John said. “We love being able to help put works on the street where anyone can enjoy them – it really breaks down the barrier that galleries and established art shows can sometimes create.”

A multi-faceted art and music event primarily concentrated on the weekend of Nov. 15-17, PRHBTN has a special focus on art forms typically found on the street, including spray paint, wheat paste, decals and stencils, but to be clear, one of the primary elements of the third annual PRHBTN is indeed a gallery show at Buster’s Billiards & Backroom. In the words of John and Jessica, however, this isn’t “some stuffy art show” – PRHBTN weekend events include a Friday night party for the Lexington Tattoo Project and a Saturday event culminating in a dance party with high energy electronic artists Paper Diamond and Wick-It the Instigator. Additional PRHBTN events include artist talks and a showcase featuring local and regional street art, where the public can purchase and take home art that’s primarily relegated to the side of buildings or other public settings.

“Part of PRHBTN is that we are trying to give these artists a legal platform for expressing themselves and making money and making art,” Jessica said.

New to this year’s event is a public art component, something that was inspired in part by the local response to the large commissioned murals that German artist duo HERAKUT installed on two downtown buildings last year. In November, PRHBTN will bring in four internationally recognized muralists from locations as far as Portugal and Brazil to create large scale, permanent or semi-permanent installations on prominent public walls around Lexington. Owners of the walls – which include the large brick wall on the backside of the Kentucky Theater and the side of The Bazaar at the Gathering Place adjacent to the Lexington Rescue Mission in north Lexington – will be signing agreements not to alter the works for 10 years.

While the public response and support has been overwhelmingly positive, the organizers are aware that there is still a stigma attached to this kind of art, and that’s something they hope to help the public overcome.

“It’s kind of controversial – some people are hesitant to get involved, because they’re like ‘I don’t want anyone to think I support vandalism,’” she added. “But everything that we are promoting is legal and with permission.”

One goal of bringing in national and international muralists is to ultimately help raise the profile not only of PRHBTN but of the Lexington art scene overall, John explained – as a result of their involvement with both PRHBTN and the HERAKUT murals (which were organized by Kremena Todorova and Kurt Gohde, but which John and Jessica helped promote and support), several business owners have come to the couple asking them to connect them with local artists for commissioned artwork.

“After last year’s show we had a lot of requests for mural work,” John said. “In the last year alone, murals and large scale pieces have gone up in over half a dozen locations and they have all been done by local artists. We love being able to turn the excitement around Herakut’s murals and the upcoming murals from Eduardo Kobra, Gaia, Phlegm, and Odeith into opportunities for our local artists.”

Jessica is looking forward to the public murals doing what she feels public art does best: making people think.

“When you see something on the street, it should zap you out of the everyday hum drum and make you think – whether you laugh, or are inspired, quizzical, or even disgusted,” she said. “If it gets your attention, I believe it’s done its job.”

The Painting on the Wall 

Thanks to the folks at PRHBTN and the local community that has come together to support a massive public art undertaking, one large-scale public mural has been completed in Lexington this week and three more are in the works. Portuguese artist Odeith, who specializes in hyper-realistic graphics that give the optical illusion of being 3D, has begun painting on the outer wall of the Gathering Place at the Bazaar (attached to the Lexington Rescue Mission Thrift Store on the corner of N. Limestone and Bryan Avenue); British artist Phlegm has started painting in the Lexington Distillery District on the backside of the Pepper Distillery Building; and New York-based Gaia will arrive in town this afternoon and begin his mural on the side of West Sixth Brewing either tonight or tomorrow.

All three muralists will be hard at work over the course of the next few days, and the public is invited to watch them work, photograph and film the works in progress, bring the artists snacks and/or anything else to help keep them warm and contribute to the art project by contributing change at any of the city’s “Change For Art” installations, located at Buster’s, Good Foods Co-Op, the Kentucky Theater and CD Central. All the change from the meters will be donated to supplies and costs of the project this Friday. A benefit for the project, featuring a chance to meet the artists, will take place at Blue Heron (185 Jefferson St.) on Thursday evening starting at 9 p.m.

PRHBTN will continue this weekend, with a gallery exhibit of local and regional street artists taking place at Buster’s, a series of art talks and more. To read the feature article on PRHBTN we featured in the November issues of our sister publications Chevy Chaser and Southsider Magazines, click here. See below for the weekend’s schedule of events:

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