In an effort to learn more about the different studio art communities in our region, my colleague Sallie Read and I visited a great program in Lexington, KY. The Latitude artist community is located at 167 Saunier Street in the heart of the city’s downtown district. The previous year, the good folks at Latitude had visited our program and so this was a way to return the favor and continue building upon our budding relationship. The two programs have much in common.
The founding co-directors are Bruce Burris and Crystal Bader and their program emphasizes “…a communal studio space where artists come together to work.” Their focus, like StudioWorks, is a fine art one. Latitude strives to “…empower and give voice to artists considered to have a disability.” Latitude is a working model on how to achieve this. This artistic community exhibits widely and a few of their members are nationally known for the caliber of their art. Most of the artists have either the SCL or Michelle P. Waivers. And like other person-centered, choice based programs, the artist population varies. The Latitude artist community has had as many as thirty members.
What the Latitude crew does especially well is advocate for the complete quality of their artists’/clients’ lives. This is done in a number of ways including being politically active and bringing issues of social justice to the fore in the population at large. Latitude was active early in the community gardens movement in Lexington. Recognizing that getting enough physical excercise can be a challenge with this community…Latitude initiated yoga and movement classes (open to the pubic for a nominal fee) that have produced increased physical mobility with some of their clients.
The day Sallie and I were present, LexPro clients mixed with the Latitude artists for a community garden experience led by Jim Embry. Embry is the founder and director of the Sustainable Communities Network which emphasizes “…living with a sense of the sacred connections between ourselves…Mother Earth…and the entire Earth community.” Embry spoke easily about the connections between the quality of our food and the health of our bodies and his message was understood and appreciated.
The program was a two-part experience. The first consisted of planting herbs in one of Latitude’s Mobile Urban Garden Units (or something like that!). In this case, it’s an old bar-b-que grill being reused and recycled. I also like the irony. What was once used to cook meat now grows veggies.
One by one the participants planted their herbs with Embry’s help. And upon leaving Latitude, were given a disposable cup containing dirt and yellow squash seeds to plant at their home gardens. On our way out, I noticed a few Latitude artist painted signs and since we just observed Earth Day…thought this would be a nice visual to end this post. Thanks Latitude for being good hosts and we hope to see you soon.
Latitude is actively using social networking tools and maintains a blog. To learn more about them, check out this link: http://latitudeart.blogspot.com/