Art Center Welcomes New Artist-in-Residence
The Art Center of the Bluegrass has launched an artist residency program for artists from diverse backgrounds, welcoming Germaine Dunn as the newest member of the Art Center artist community.
Germaine moved into his studio on the second floor of the Art Center at the beginning of November, joining artists David Ray Farmer, Katherine Updegraff White, and Sarah Wiltsee as the official artists in residence for the organization.
A painter and mixed media artist, Germaine is an art facilitator and public relations professional for Isaiah House, a wrap-around residential substance misuse treatment facility. He is also a graduate of the program. After more than thirty years of struggles with substance abuse, Germaine graduated from the Isaiah House program in April of 2018. Through those dark years, art was always a constant for him. “Art makes you think about life,” he says, “about way more than just what’s in front of you. It allows me to express myself in ways that words can’t.”
During a period of homelessness, Germaine would visit art galleries in Lexington. “It helped me to feel normal,” he explains. “Being there made me feel normal.”
Now Germaine shares his love of art with the clients of Isaiah House, believing that art can support them on their journey to recovery. Isaiah House founder and CEO Mark LaPalme (pictured at left) agrees. He says, “Everything is about finding purpose in life. When you find your purpose in life, that’s where you find peace and joy and contentment. We live in a crazy world and art brings some stabilization to that. Art gives people the ability to have a creative outlet and to put a little beauty back into the world.”
LaPalme believes so strongly in the importance of art that he offered to sponsor the first year of the residency program, allowing Germaine and subsequent artists to participate at no cost. The organization also funded renovations to the studio space itself. “We are very grateful to our friends at Isaiah House for supporting this new endeavor,” says Art Center Executive Director Niki Kinkade. “Now more than ever, we believe that partnerships are essential to the success of organizations like the Art Center. Working together, we can bring new opportunities to our region.”
Kinkade says that the new artist residency grew out of the 2020 Commitment to Diversity adopted by the Art Center Board of Directors over the summer. “That commitment isn’t just a piece of paper. It is our road map,” says Kinkade. “It challenges and inspires us to adopt programming that is intentionally inclusive and anti-racist. It pushes us to seek new ways to bring people together through art.”
When considering artists for the residency, Kinkade says that Germaine was an obvious choice, due to his long relationship with the Art Center – a connection dating back more than a decade. More than fifteen years ago, Germaine met Brandon Long, then the Program Director at the fledgling Community Arts Center. Germaine was serving time in jail for drug offenses, but after a friend showed some of his artwork to Brandon, the two struck up a friendship, facilitated through letters and in-person visits. ‘I remember thinking – who does that?” Germaine recalls with a laugh. “Who is this stranger that came to see me in jail?”
Brandon recognized Germaine’s creative spark and sought to nurture it, finding him art supplies and giving feedback on his work after Germaine got out of jail. In 2019, Brandon invited Germaine to participate in the Art Center’s New Year New Art exhibit, during which Germaine sold his first piece of artwork. “It’s been great to see Germaine grow and develop his skills as an artist,” says Brandon. “I especially love that he has used art as a positive agent of change. His art has been an important part of his story and he’s definitely passing his passion for creativity along to others on their journey to recovery.”
When he was invited to become an artist-in-residence at the Art Center, Germaine didn’t hesitate. “I always dreamed of being able to share my art,” he says. “I also hope that my story inspires others – for people to see where I’m at and where I’ve been. I want people to know that there is always someone pulling for you, even if you don’t realize it.”
Artist studios are open to the public Tuesday through Friday, 11am to 7pm and Saturday 10am to 5pm. As a safety precaution, all visitors must wear a mask at all times when in the Art Center and visitors should use hand sanitizer before entering an artist studio.