(Story by Johnathon Boles, Kentucky Classic Arts volunteer, and John Bramel, for Lebanon Tourist & Convention Commission)
A portion of Marion County’s premier jewel of natural beauty could be getting a facelift, courtesy of a project that’s the brainchild of Kentucky Classic Arts (KCA).
“Fagan Branch Reservoir has long served as a place for anglers, nature lovers, families and hikers to spend a day in the beauty of God’s creation,” said Gene Hall, a KCA volunteer who will serve as the project’s coordinator. “The Cecil L. Gorley Naturalist Trail surrounds the lake and offers views of our special geographical wonders, and has been the first spot where many have seen wildlife, including bald eagles.”
But unfortunately for far too long, one site has been an eyesore for the many who visit: the spillway. The spillway is located on the southeast corner of the reservoir and is a below ground concrete channel that directs water to the creek once it is full. It serves as a critical component to the safety of the dam but also has become a blank canvas.
“Those who have little regard for the property have damaged and made graffiti with less than appropriate sayings and pictures,” said Hall.
Lebanon Water Works Company personnel have gone through the expense and effort to paint over the graffiti again and again. But the graffiti vandals come back, and strike again.
Daren Thompson, general manager and superintendent of the Lebanon Water Works Company, which own Fagan Branch, said it’s frustrating.
“Fagan Branch is an astonishing resource, but as you complete walking the trail the last thing that’s left in your memory is the graffiti that’s written in the spillway,” he said.
Robin Humphress, executive director of KCA, said it was her son Silas Humphress, manager of KCA’s School Grounds Coffee, who brought the original concept of the project to the KCA staff.
“He said we need to do something about the spillway at Fagan Branch,” she said. “He said right now it is disgusting at the end of a beautiful walk, but it could be such a cool place for art that the community and the students who are currently defacing the walls could actually be proud of. In addition to changing the physical view, we need to work on changing the mental view of what Marion County has to offer. We need to educate the youth and civic groups on Lebanon’s natural resources and get them involved with solving the problem. If we expand the community service aspect of Kentucky Classic Arts to Fagan Branch, we can promote artists and show art’s ability to make a real world difference in a real world problem.”
Thus, KCA came up with a unique idea for the 1,800 linear feet of white walls of the spillway, which ranges from 5 feet to 9 feet in height: Why not showcase actual artistic expressions of the beautiful natural scenes of Kentucky with murals?
Hall said, “Planning and an official announcement is in the works, but the current plan is to invite artists across the entire United States of all backgrounds, including professional mural painters, professional graffiti artists, amateurs, art departments at all school levels, private enterprises, sports teams…whoever…to take a preselected 25-foot area to make their own mural.”
The plan is to have that gathering of artists in October of 2021, since October is National Arts and Humanities Month nationwide, and they would paint the walls of the spillway.
The theme could be “Scenes of Kentucky” and showcase the artists’ favorite scenes of the Commonwealth, said Hall.
“Ideas that quickly come to mind include our local distilleries, our collegiate athletics, perhaps famous Kentucky buildings, and outdoor beauty,” said Hall. “Really the ideas are endless.”
What’s driving the artists’ inspiration?
“Monetary awards would be given in a variety of categories, professional, amateur, college, high and middle schools, civic clubs, private enterprise, and so on, as examples,” said Hall.
More information about this project, dates, vendor information, and lodging opportunities will be made available soon by KCA, said Hall. Information about the event and questions can be directed to Project Coordinator Gene Hall at email@example.com; or call him at (502) 445-2931.
Hall also said that Johnathon Boles, another KCA volunteer, will be handling publicity and media relations.
“And look to the KCA webpage and The Lebanon Enterprise for more information as it develops,” Hall said. “We will be seeking community support and sponsorships as well, so please contact me today!”
Thompson said the Lebanon Water Works Company is pleased to work with KCA to partner with the project, and hopes it happens.
And if the project is completed, what will protect the paintings from the graffiti vandals bent on destruction…again?
Thompson said the Lebanon Water Works Company has discovered an effective product called “graffiti guard.” Think “thick polyurethane coating” that would cover the artwork, and any vandal-produced graffiti can be washed off, with soap and water.
Thompson said the Lebanon Water Works Company welcomes the opportunity to work with partners at Fagan Branch and the Cecil L. Gorley Trail. Especially since coming up with money for expenses, such as blacktopping for visitor parking and trail maintenance, look challenging for the future, as budgets get tighter.
In fact, the Lebanon Tourist & Convention Commission is currently in discussion with Thompson regarding additional partnerships to help fund possible immediate projects like installation of security lighting and security cameras at Fagan Branch. That additional security could, of course, help guard a valued art project in the spillway.
“In an existing partnership with the Lebanon Water Works Company, we already promote Fagan Branch and the Cecil L. Gorley Trail as a wonderful, natural visitor destination,” said Nena Olivier, Lebanon Tourist & Convention Commission executive director.
A new tourism effort promoting the lake and the trail are underway now, with development of a new brochure and web and media content.
“Fagan Branch and the Cecil L. Gorley Trail are extremely important components of a direction we’re taking here at tourism,” said Olivier. She said tourism survival in the Covid-influenced future depends on outdoor recreation, with built-in social distancing, to draw visitors.
“We’re building marketing content that involves canoeing, hiking, biking, fishing and other wonderful outdoor opportunities available here in Lebanon and Marion County, the Heart of Kentucky,” said Olivier. The new “outdoor opportunities” direction fits well with the community’s excellent visitor draw resources already in place—the bourbon experience, the arts experience, dining and shopping opportunities and more.
Thompson said the Lebanon Water Works Company “values its community partnerships that make the additional projects possible.”
“With the help from additional partners, we can do things that create more reasons to attract people to enjoy our resources, and build a greater appreciation for, and expanded knowledge of the resource that quenches our thirst on a daily basis.”