A reinvention has quietly been taking place across Somerset, adding brilliant color, soaring messages, and even angel wings to the local landscape. It’s our ever-growing collection of murals, painted by local artists and gracing everything from brick walls to fence pickets to a basketball court.
While in town, spend a morning discovering this whimsical outdoor art for yourself. Below is a guide for what there is to see and where to find it. Most of the pieces are downtown or very nearby.
In a few of the paintings, you’ll see #seemyset, the hashtag that has come to define the vibrant energy that has taken over our town. So, go and discover your ’Set and see what we’re all about.
Chamber of Commerce, 236 E. Mount Vernon Street: A great place to start your tour, the goal of this giant piece is to capture and showcase everything Somerset is about. Artist Jordan Justice said his goal is to “uplift the community so that when you’re driving downtown, the work gives you something to smile about.” Justice also pointed out this type of art has a tendency to get people out of their cars so they can take a picture with it. He hopes this then prompts them to explore downtown on foot and visit its shops, bistros and local merchants.
As you gaze at this mural, know that Justice has incorporated some Easter eggs, or secret images, within it. There are a few hidden Somerset and Chamber of Commerce logos throughout, as well as the names of the artist’s wife and two children.
- Energy Center, 306 E. Mount Vernon Street: You’ll find a mural spilling off the stairs of our new Energy Center, a recent work by artists Tyler Whitaker and Bryan Landon II. Titled “The Spirit of Southern Kentucky,” it is inspired by our town logo, a propeller whose four blades each represent a different part of local life: industry and economy; outdoor adventure; Lake Cumberland’s shorelines; and agriculture and art.
- Commonwealth Journal, 110 E. Mount Vernon Street: This pretty piece, painted on a wall where our local newspaper is housed, fittingly depicts two of Kentucky’s famed journalists, George Joplin III, the former owner and publisher of the C.J., and current editor emeritus Bill Mardis. It’s painted by artist Tyrone Vetter.
- God’s Food Pantry, 110 S. Central Ave.: Inspired by Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, this is a collection of pieces standing side by side like a film strip. There is the quintessential image of Silverstein’s boy and his tree, followed by a scene showing hands signing the word “love,” followed by images of some juicy fruit. All are meant to inspire charity, compassion and kindness, embodying the mission of our local food pantry. “It makes you think about life in general,” said artist Amanda Brooks. “We try to give back as much as we receive.”
- Rocky Hollow outdoor basketball court, 142 S. Central Ave.: This gorgeous piece of art is inspired by Somerset’s logo, a propeller that represents the four cornerstones of our town: industry and economy; outdoor adventure; Lake Cumberland’s shorelines; and agriculture and art. Artist Amanda Brooks artistically riffed on these foundations, which translates into an incredible collection of geometric shapes and vibrant color.
- Carnegie Arts Center, 107 N. Main Street: It certainly seems fitting that our local arts center should be in on the mural revolution. The center features two murals, one by Tyrone Vetter beautifully decorating the building’s retaining wall, the other around back showcasing angel wings so bright they nearly glow against their black, brick backdrop. The wings were painted by local middle and high school students under the direction of artist Amanda Brooks. Also, look closely and you’ll find a hole to another universe nearby.
- Jarfly Brewing Company, 103 W. Mount Vernon Street: In 2018, our town was beyond proud to host legendary musician John Prine at our annual Master Musician’s Festival, known for featuring up-and-coming performers, as well as long-time greats. Prine performed an amazing concert that hot July, treating us with his haunting lyrics, displaying incredible musicianship, and even, at age 71, dancing on stage. To honor him and what he gave to Somerset that night, local artist Josh Mitcham painted this stunning, artsy portrait of Prine.
- Sky Hope Recovery Center, 77 Union Street: This kaleidoscopic butterfly is meant to inspire the women who are participants in the drug recovery program that is proudly housed here. “Art reminds people to feel alive, it inspires and motivates,” said artist Amanda Brooks. “Murals also build a bridge and bring people together who may have not otherwise had anything in common.”
- Hopkins Elementary School, 210 May Street: This formerly drab concrete wall now visually sings with watercolor-style wings inspired by Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar. Artist Amanda Brooks is a third-grade teacher at the school, and says students have a great time posing with the piece.
- Kids Kastle II, 420 Monticello Street: This lovely little addition is a tribute to Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, sharing the wise words “It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become” while dressing up a long fence.
- Mindsight Behavioral Group, 600 Monticello Street: Mindsight has become a veritable campus for murals, ranging from a beautiful white and chestnut horse waiting to be led to the giant reminder that “You are not alone,” which was painted during the pandemic. There are angel wings here too, as well as a message to 2020 graduates saying, “We don’t need no graduation,” a nod to the missed celebrations as a result of COVID-19.
- Persnickety Jane, 15 Centre Street, No. 3: A stark, white brick wall is the canvas for this whimsical, pastel-hued piece by Amanda Brooks. “It feels Californian or Floridian,” Brooks said. “It makes me feel like I’m at the beach.”
- Virginia Theatre, 218 E. Mount Vernon Street: A giant portrait of local legend Johnny B. Perkins now sits at the back wall of the Virginia Theatre, facing the post office where Perkins was postmaster. Painted by Louisville artist Damon Thompson, the piece honors what Perkins has given to our community, which includes not just the daily mail but some of the best barbecue sauce in Kentucky as well (hint: Johnny B’s is sold at Kroger). “Johnny B. is the epitome of the Somerset person we want to highlight,” Leslie Ikerd, city of Somerset director of tourism, told The Commonwealth Journal. “He’s always positive, he always has a smile on his face, always welcoming. He is what I call a tourism ambassador. His story shows what Somerset is to our guests.”
A LITTLE WAYS OUT …
- Somersplash Water Park, 1030 Ky. 2227: Check out this giant pair of watery wings that will enhance anyone’s photos and memories of their day at the park.
MORE TO COME …
More murals are planned for the coming months. Jordan Justice will work on a piece that will face our new Lake Cumberland Farmers Market on E. Mount Vernon Street. It will celebrate our town’s locomotive and agricultural history.