The Kentucky Derby is surrounded by tradition, so much so that many festivities repeat year after year. It’s up to the creatives in town to envision new ways to celebrate an event that’s been around since 1875.
The Gallery at The Brown Hotel (Fourth and Broadway, brownhotel.com) features an annual Derby art show. This year’s artist is equine painter Donna B., who is anything but traditional as she sprays or throws the paint on the canvas. “I realize it is not horses that I paint,” she says. “I paint the way they make me feel.” Continues through May 19.
Racing around here means horses. The Louisville Visual Art Association’s PUBLIC Gallery (131 W. Main St., louisvillevisualart.org) wants to broaden that perception by showing “At the Races: The Graphic Art of Sport Racing” through May 8. Horse racing is featured, but so is racing by automobile, airplane and bicycle.
“Springtime in Kentucky” is indeed beautiful, as the exhibition at Leslie H. Spetz Custom Picture Framing and Gallery (2400-C Lime Kiln Lane, lesliespetzcustomframing.com) can attest. The group show ends May 10. The store also carries an assortment of horse-related items by local artists, such as belts made from horse bits and recycled serving pieces with “Happy Derby” on them.
“Klearly Kentucky” at Gallery Janjobe (Mellwood Art & Entertainment Center, 1860 Mellwood Ave., galleryjanjobe.com) features Derby-related work as well as art of the bluegrass; it runs through May 15. Place your bets at Revelry Boutique-Gallery’s “Win, Place, ART Show” (980 Barret Ave, revelrygallery.com); this all-Derby exhibition will be up until May 21.
Painter Peter Williams is best known for his work of horses and the people who surround them. He’s one of the few who paints from life, and this year will mark his 31st Kentucky Derby appearance. He will sign his book “Peter Williams Retrospective: Paintings and the People Dear to Me” at the Kentucky Derby Museum (704 Central Ave., derbymuseum.org) on May 2 and May 5.
Bourbon continues to be what fills glasses at Oaks and Derby brunches, yet what it’s poured into can be as important as what is poured. “Bluegrass Bourbon: By the Bottle/By the Ounce” is an exhibition of artist-made ceramic bottles and glasses at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft through June 16 (715 W. Main St., kmacmuseum.org).
Start celebrating Derby early with the Arts Association of Oldham County’s Derby en Plein Air Party on Sunday, April 28, held on the grounds of Luecke Gardens. Tickets are $50 for members, $60 for non-members (aaooc.org).
The Victorian historic home that is the Brennan House and Gardens (631 S. Fifth St., thebrennanhouse.org) is again holding an Oaks Brunch on Friday, May 3, for $50. As director Marianne Zickuhr says, “Good food, great bourbon and a beautiful mansion — what more could you need (on) Oaks?”
The fourth annual Annmarie’s Art Breakfast on Saturday, May 4, is a fundraiser for the Lomenta Foundation and its Annmarie Campbell Artist Scholarship at Murray State University. The breakfast will be at the Brown-Forman Playroom (626 W. Main St.). Tickets are $35 and are available through the PR firm Aspectx (292-2351, aspectx.com).
The F.A.T. Friday Trolley Hop during the Derby festivities is on April 26 (fatfridayhop.org). Since the May 3 First Friday Trolley Hop falls on Oaks Day, many galleries will not be open; visit firstfridaytrolleyhop.com for closings.
But before you go anywhere, be sure to deck yourself out in mismatched plaids and a hat made of horseshoes. Better yet, head down to one of these galleries to buy festive attire, including men and women’s hats (and its cousin, the fascinator). It’s probably against the law to go to a Derby event without one!