Tag Archives: UK


WRFL hits ‘Big 3-0’

WRFL, at 88.1 on the FM dial, has been fulfilling its mission in Lexington for an incredible thirty years. Next weekend, March 2nd through March 4th, WRFL will be throwing an epic party in celebration of thirty years as a pivotal force in Lexington.

Photo by Arden Barnes

WRFL was started back in 1988, when “College radio was a vibrant media platform for punk rock and alternative music culture,” says Phillip Kisling, the station’s promotions director. After a year of research and fundraising by Kakie Urch, lovingly referred to as their “punk rock godmother”, WRFL hit the airwaves to offer Lexington “a source of music, news and other programming not regularly found through other media outlets in central Kentucky.” In doing so, the station has been foundational in the education and training of many of Lexington’s broadcasters, sound engineers, and music producers, fulfilling the first part of their mission, “to provide its members with professional training and guidance in radio operations management, program development, and quality broadcast performance.”

For thirty years, WRFL has been providing a creative and informative outlet for Lexington and has helped greatly in fostering a sense of community around town in the music and art we celebrate. While affiliated with UK, WRFL works with the entire community, accepting interns from many area colleges. Students in fields such as broadcasting, journalism, marketing, business, engineering, music or art can find a place to learn their career with hands-on training and encouraged creativity.

Being a DJ at WRFL is an opportunity many around Lexington can claim. They have an open door policy at the station: as long as folks commit to three training weekends and some studio time shadowing an experienced DJ, anyone in the community –not just UK students, can host a show of any theme as long as the content complies with FCC and UK stipulations.

Featuring everything from social activism, to mental health issues, LGBTQ topics, to Russian radio, WRFL is a blank canvas that encourages the creativity of the community to thrive. “We’re really an open door, despite being in a basement,” Ben and Phil joked, and are excited for when the studio gets to move into the new Student Center that is currently under construction.

WRFL has provided that “bridge or handshake” between UK students and the city where they may be finding themselves for the first time. Kisling spoke of how he hated Lexington when he arrived as a UK undergrad from Louisville: “It wasn’t until I found WRFL that Lexington opened up to me.” The station became an introduction to Lexington’s alternative music and art scene, and in turn, many of those musicians and artists have appeared in the studio or have been a dj themselves.

All of this successful collaboration, creativity and love for commercial free radio will culminate in the 30th Birthday Bash for WRFL happening over an entire weekend at The Burl. The lineup for the venue is to celebrate WRFL, and will feature a special draft from Blue Stallion Brewery, a mango IPA called “The Only Alternative Left”, celebrating the station’s motto.

Washed Out is the big headliner on Friday the 2nd, with openers Idiot Glee and Helado Negro.

Kisling and Allen are very excited to bring such a big name to Lexington, offering their supporters and audience a chance to see a band they would normally have to travel a long distance to pay much more money to see at a bigger, less intimate venue. There is an after party for that show as well, featuring Hell Bent Hearts, Just a Test, and The Yellow Belts.

Saturday’s festivities begin during the day at the Downtown Arts Center, where thirty years of DJs will reunite and celebrate at a free, family-friendly exhibit of Rifle Magazine, the station’s program guide. The evening will be back at The Burl headlining Cults, with openers Ellie Herring, Hair Police and Devine Carama, along with an after-dance party with DJ’s.

The next day they are hosting a “Hangover Brunch” and are bringing in all the nostalgia, with bands that were playing when WRFL was first hitting the airwaves all those years ago, featuring Ten Foot Pole and Nine Pound Hammer, along with the younger phenoms of Johnny Conqueroo. That brunch also promises to feature a collaboration between the generations when some of the original musicians will be performing with their own musical kids, as the generations pass the baton and the great music keeps on playing.

Such a magical celebration the folks at WRFL have put together for us, a celebration of thirty years of alternative music on commercial free airwaves, a collaboration of some of the best and hardest working creative minds in town. For thirty years WRFL has held true to the mission, and next weekend’s celebration promises to be an incredible apex for the “Only Alternative Left.”

Listen to Cara’s conversation with Phillip Kisling and Ben Allen:

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The Humor Lens: Photographers Habjouqa and Nakadate Rejuvenate May Lecture Series

In a continued effort to bring the Robert C. May Photography Endowment Lecture Series to a more prominent position at The University of Kentucky, The Art Museum will exhibit the work of award-winning Jordanian photographer, Tanya Habjouqa this winter. Alongside fellow statement show Same Difference, and the community pleasing Lexington Tattoo Project, Tanya Habjouqa: Recent Photographs will bring together two of her internationally acclaimed bodies of work for the first time.

Occupied Pleasures looks at the human spirit’s amazing ingenuity for entertainment in the glaring light of turmoil, while Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots examines the “muted testimony to loss” experienced by the women of Jordan who live in exile. The first installment of the 2015 Winter / Spring Lecture series, this collection of Habjouqa’s work demonstrates an admirable ability to document the occupied Palestinian condition from the perspective of humor, absurdity and finesse.


Born in Jordan and then raised and educated in Texas, Habjouqa is a founding member of the all female, all Middle Eastern photography collective Rawiya. Rawiya, meaning “She who tells a story” presents  “an insider’s view of a region in flux balancing its contradictions while reflecting on social and political issues and stereotypes.” Habjouqa’s dissertation on narratives of resistance and suffering in Israel and Lebanon earned her an MA in political communications, and the academic qualifications to endorse such a socially progressive mission as Rawiya.

However, Habjouqa refuses to document the archetypes of journalistic conflict coverage and a population under duress, instead favoring elements of comedy and joy. For example, a grey, bullet-marked structure provides the background, but teens performing urban gymnastics serve as the subject in her photograph Gaza Parkour Team, Khan Younis Refugee Camp. In addition to these playful youth, Habjouqa’s subjects include teenage girls performing karaoke, grown bodybuilders, and whole families enjoying a meal on the beach. In another photograph, the border walls in the background appear less threatening because of what Habjouqa chose for the foreground: a man casually smoking a cigarette inside his car while a live sheep stares at him from his passenger seat in a comical moment of mutual respect, and sexual tension.

Habjouqa’s quest for these surreal moments does not occur coincidentally, but instead through a determined divergence from the “hyper narration” she saw put upon a place she now calls home.  In an article for the New York Times in 2014, she says, “ I really felt like I needed to find another way to tell a story, not only just to make sense of it for myself, but to make sense of it for how I’m going to present it to my children as well, since this is going to be their home too.” This bold choice in documentary style photography has won Habjouqa a World Press Award for Occupied Pleasures and Time magazine selected a photograph from There will be Apricots as one of the top photographs of the year.

Habjouqa is the second contributing artist in the R.C. May Lecture Series, curated by Janie Welker. In the wake of the captivating portrait series Strangers and Relations by artist Laurel Nakadate, the increased emphasis on the photography endowment is both evident and welcomed. Having previously worked with Nakadate in 2012 at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, newly hired director Stuart Horodner would place the expansion of her Star Portraits project in the recently expanded main room of the Art Museum’s floor gallery. While the Habjouqa’s exhibition hangs in the more contemplative room located adjacent to this space, her work does not feel under-appreciated by comparison. Habjouqa and Nakadate’s photography achieve narrative in very different ways, but their distinctive approaches to portrait photography equally allow both female artists to reach extraordinary heights of self-reflection through their portraits of others..

Both Habjouqa’s work, and Nakadate’s Strangers and Relations use two modes of theatre to accomplish and ultimately showcase their processes. Both artists must manipulate the technical components of the camera (composition, lighting, etc.) in order to frame and light their subject. Nakadate’s use of the night sky and one flashlight creates an intrusive and eerily sharp concentration on her subjects, while Habjouqa prefers natural light for a more forthright approach to her subjects. Regardless, both artists excel in their ability to foster a human connection prior to the moment of the photograph so that their subjects understand and participate in the documentation.

In short, the Art Museum staff has brought the R.C. May Photography Series back into a brighter spotlight. The work of these two artists alone signals positive changes in the lecture series and the Art Museum at UK on the whole, including the forthcoming exhibition of 1950s and 60s street photographer Vivian Maier.

The R.C. May Photography Lecture Series will host Tanya Habjouqa for her culminating talk about her exhibition on February 27th at 4 p.m. in the Worsham Theatre. This event is presented in conjunction with the UK College of Arts and Sciences’ Year of the Middle East and is open to the public.

Tanya Habjouqa Review

On Display January 24th  – April 12, 2015

The Art Museum at The University of Kentucky

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Big Changes: A Conversation with Robert Jensen, Director of the UK School of Art and Visual Studies, pt. 2

The School of Art and Visual Studies (SA/VS) at the University of Kentucky is going through an exciting, transformational period driven, in part, by its anticipated move to a new home in a completely renovated facility on Bolivar Street.  In addition, Stuart Horodner, Artistic Director of the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, has just been named as Museum Director of the UK Art Museum after an extensive national search.

UnderMain’s Art Shechet asked Robert Jensen, Ph.D., Director of SA/VS to join us in a conversation about what we can expect from the new facility, how programs at UK will be impacted, and the potential benefits of the move for the larger Lexington community.  We also wanted to have a look into what we might expect from the changes at the Art Museum. Dr. Jensen discussed with UnderMain other issues of importance to UnderMain’s readers, like the much-suggested idea of a major Lexington art museum.

In the first part of the Interview Jensen discussed the new building that will become the home for SA/VS in 2015 (https://under-main.com/arts/big-changes-a-conversation-with-robert-jensen-director-of-the-uk-school-of-art-and-visual-studies/).  The second and final part of the interview explores some of the changes we might anticipate with the change at the top at the UK Art Museum, and Jensen’s thoughts about a Lexington art museum, and critical review.


UM:  The search for a new Director for the UK Art Museum just concluded with the hiring of Stuart Horodner, the artistic director of the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center.  What vision for the Art Museum guided the search process?
Jensen:  I was not on the search committee, so I can’t speak to the “vision” that guided the search.  But I’m fairly ecstatic that Stuart was hired for this position.  He has broad and deep connections with the international contemporary art world.  How this will affect the museum’s programming remains to be seen.  But I hope that the UK Art Museum will join institutions like the Lexington Art League to expose audiences for art in Lexington to the many strands of contemporary art.  And as someone who finds contemporary art fascinating, entertaining and occasionally transcendent, I’m looking forward to what Stuart can bring to the job.  That being said, I’m sure he will be respectful of the many other aspects of the museum’s mission, from serving K-12 children to providing programming for those adult audiences with more conventional tastes in art.  I am really looking forward to working with him.

UM:  Of course, the new director has not begun his work at the museum, but what are some of the changes we might expect to see take shape in the relationship between the museum and the university community, and between the museum and the larger Lexington community?
Jensen: We often speak on campus at UK about the dangers of being siloed, of paying attention only to our individual programs without regard to what’s happening elsewhere in the university.  Under our new Provost Christine Riordan and our relatively new President Eli Capilouto, collaboration and interdisciplinary work are the new bywords under which UK hopes to operate.  I think that is what we can also expect from Stuart.  I think he is going to want to integrate the Art Museum much more thoroughly into the academic mission of the university than his predecessors have, and I think he is going to reach out to the local artist community and arts organizations in a way that the Art Museum has never done.  I am very optimistic about the positive impact Stuart and the Art Museum will have on the exhibition and appreciation for the visual arts in the Lexington community.

UM:  Since we are on the subject of museums, there has been lots of discussion over the past several years about Lexington needing a significant independent art museum.  I am interested in your thoughts as to whether that is a realistic proposition and how the conversation about the merit, or lack of merit of this proposition can be facilitated.
Jensen:  I don’t think most people really understand how expensive art museums are.  They might imagine that just building a building is the principal task of a fundraising campaign.  But an art museum is pretty much the same proposition as saying that the city needs to build a new concert hall/theatre.  Sure it would be great to have.  But even if the money were found to get the building built, who underwrites the labor costs of the technicians and the house administrative expenses involved in every concert, ballet or theatrical production?  Local arts organizations don’t have the money generally to meet these costs without raising the ticket price point much higher than the already modest public attendance at these events would bear.  Similarly, paying staff salaries, keeping the lights on, these are big ticket and unglamorous line items.  Creating exhibitions and hosting traveling exhibitions are very expensive propositions.  And we haven’t yet begun to talk about what is to go into such a museum.


Important contemporary art, for example, is unbelievably expensive.  Collectors today are often paying more for a Jeff Koons than they are for a Claude Monet.  While there are local collectors with interesting collections all these collections combined, were they to be given in one great gift, would hardly suffice to fill out a museum collection of any real significance.  Lexingtonians would no doubt love to have a second Speed Museum in town, but I just don’t see this happening.  I think the UK Art Museum, which does have an interesting collection, will continue to be the city’s primary museum.  Now if we could find an off-campus location for it, and a significant recurring budget to support the new venue, that would be a great thing.  But it will take a great deal of money to pull off.

UM:  Finally, one of UnderMain’s core missions is to publish critical reviews of the visual arts.  What do you think are the most important elements of an outstanding critical review?
Jensen:  Art critics often remind me of the fashion mavens who comment on the runway dresses at the Academy Awards.  Every dress is wonderful until it’s not.  These commentators are very good at saying what is possible in the fashion industry at a given moment.  In the art industry it is much the same.  Most good criticism is able to identify what is possible at a given moment.  Art, which obeys its own fashion laws, needs that kind of criticism and it typically comes from writers who are contemporaries or near contemporaries of the artists whose work they’re writing about or who are themselves artists.  What is far more rare, in both fashion and art criticism, are those writers who are able to say why something is possible, not only what.  I am not saying that such critical writing has the ability to understand individual works of art better than the ordinary art lover.  In my view, the contemporary artworks that are internationally celebrated are also extremely accessible to anyone with a decent knowledge of recent art history, an open mind, and a willingness to engage with the art.  Art today doesn’t require a priest caste of art aesthetes to interpret the holy creations of artists.  But to explain why something is possible requires a broader perspective.  It is why I always have loved the art criticism of the philosopher Arthur Danto.  He comes to works of art with an open mind, always asking why something is possible as art.  And the recently deceased British critic David Sylvester is my favorite interviewer of artists, because Sylvester was always interested in how artists got their ideas, how they worked, and why.  It is surprising to me how few interviewers ask artists about their working methods and sources of information in any sort of serious, sustained way.  Good criticism does not talk down to the reader nor hide behind the fashionable jargon of the day.  If the goal is not to be understood, what is the point of writing?  (Hyperlinks added by UnderMain)

– Art Shechet

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