A lot of people wouldn’t think of Lexington, Ky. as a place with a vibrant community, according to Kremena Todorova, artist and professor at Transylvania University.
But the town was home to the Lexington Tattoo Project, a community-based art project produced by Todorova and her colleague, Kurt Gohde.
The two artists had been thinking about creating artwork that involved tattoos and community pride for awhile, but they weren’t sure exactly what to do, Todorova said.
“It was obvious to us ... that people just loved the community and the town, and were very committed to each other. ... We wanted to figure out a way to somehow capture that love for Lexington,” Todorova said.
Bianca Spriggs, a local poet, wrote the poem that provided the foundation for the project.
Todorova and Gohde had worked with Spriggs before and it was at a poetry reading in 2012 that they decided to ask her to participate in the tattoo project.
“There was something about hearing her voice ... that made both of us have pretty much the same realization that we should ask Bianca ... to write a poem as a love letter to Lexington and then find enough people to have one word from the poem tattooed on their bodies,” Todorova said.
Todorova and Gohde divided the nearly 500-word poem into single words, phrases and punctuation marks that would be the tattoo options. They posted the options to the project’s Facebook group and participants submitted their top three choices.
The process worked surprising well. Of the 253 participants, only 17 people didn’t get one of their choices, according to Gohde.
But the tattoos aren’t just text. Every tattoo also has a number of circles and dots as a part of the overall image the poem was laid over, Todorova said.
The image is based on New Circle Road, one of the main, landmark roads in Lexington, Todorova said.
The project created a new community, Gohde said.
Many people met at the project’s meet and greets, the tattoo or photography sessions, and “in the wild,” as it’s sometimes referred to, Gohde said.
“When they spot someone else with a tattoo that's part of this project that they don't know then they kinda connect with each other through that,” Gohde said.
People said that the project made them proud to publicize Lexington as their home, Gohde said.
“It gives them a way to ... say that Lexington is a really exciting place,” he added.
The project was funded by local, private sponsors. That fundraising model has had a big impact in terms of people realizing what’s possible for community artwork, Gohde said.
“It’s enabled other people who are interested in doing community projects ... to realize that it can happen,” he said.
The preview can be seen below.