Lately, I've been having these weird realizations:
~ Jim Clarkhas been president of the LexArts more than five years.
~ HorseMania was eight years ago.
~ Broadway star Laura Bell Bundy is nearly 27 years old ... and I covered her senior-year musical at Lexington Catholic!
They're moments that can make you go all Edvard Munch (right).
They're moments when you realize that you've been around long enough that things that were once news are now fixtures on the landscape. I'm feeling like something of a fixture, too.
Ten years ago today was my first day of work at the Herald-Leader. I wasn't sure where to park or what to do when I got through the door.
Back then, I was a young reporter with a young family. Today, my
Lexington tenure is twice that of my first two gigs combined, and my
kids are in the latter stages of elementary school. Like them, after a decade in this sort of job, I hope I've learned a few things. Things like ...
It's good to have been around a while: When I got here, I was hearing about groups such as Junkyard Players and Lexington Musical Theatre and people like University of Kentucky sculpting legend John Tuska and Lexington Ballet founder Nels Jorgensen - all of whom would live for me only in yellowing newspaper clips and stories people told me. But I also got to meet and cover folks such as now-retired Singletary Center for the Arts director Holly Salisbury, former Lexington Arts and Cultural Council director Dee Fizdale, the late Lexington Opera House impresario Dick Pardy, and artist and philanthropist Lucille Caudill Little. They all played critical roles in the development of Lexington's arts community, and it's good to have been here in time to cover them and see firsthand what they brought to the table.
I've seen moments of discovering new talent, like Adam Luckey popping out of bed naked in Actors Guild's 1998 production of The Monogamist, and things coming to an end, like the Lexington Shakespeare Festival.
In these 10 years, there have been groups that have flourished, others that have gone through trials and come back, and others that have suffered and never been quite the same.
A decade gives you perspective, and the No. 1 thing I can say about Lexington arts during the past 10 years is that they are growing.
Most of the flagship arts groups are now headed by seasoned professional artists and arts administrators. Jim Clark and LexArts have fostered the idea that a city of Lexington's size and stature should have substantial, professional arts, and that idea is taking hold.
Great art can happen anywhere, including here: No, this is not New York or Chicago or London. We do not have international superstars performing in our midst on a regular basis. And many people we do see on stage here are balancing their artistic ambitions with day jobs. Even so, you can buy a ticket here, go to a show and have a transcendent experience. There is a passionate and talented community of artists fully capable of making you think, thrilling you or breaking your heart.
Lexington should appreciate itself more: Sometimes we seem to have an inferiority complex. Looking at the plans for CentrePointe, the 40-story hotel complex proposed for downtown, I had to wonder whether there's some kind of "we've got to be a big city" mentality at work there.
Lexington has a great proportion of life. We have an increasingly active urban core, but drive 15 minutes from it in most directions, and you're in beautiful countryside. Most nights of the week now, you can find something to do, but it doesn't all cost $90 a ticket.
Yes, we are growing, and we should grow, but in accordance with what we are and build to complement our assets and atmosphere.
It's not all about me: Yes, I've been "the arts guy" here for 10 years. But there have been numerous other writers during that time who have added their voices to our cultural coverage, including Heather Svokos and Jamie Gumbrecht; past free-lance critics Dag Ryen, Linda Dimon, Carmen Geraci and the late, great Rob Baker; and current critics Candace Chaney and Loren Tice.
With Jamie's recent departure, I did get this strange mental image of myself and longtime free-lance music writer Walter Tunis sitting in a box at the Opera House like hecklers Statler and Waldorf on The Muppet Show.
Attending an arts-journalism conference last fall opened my eyes to the fact that many papers across the country load their arts coverage on one person. It's been a privilege to be part of a great conversation, and I'm looking forward to it continuing.