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Celebrating the KMAC Triennial with our inaugural Vernissage

by Amy Foster Parish

In the 1800’s, the day before a new art exhibition opening was traditionally set aside for artists to put the final touches on their paintings before varnishing them. Patrons of the artist or particular friends might pop around to their studio on “varnishing day” to see the works before they went on view to the public.  By the early 1900’s, “varnishing day” had given way to the French term for varnishing, “vernissage”. 

KMAC Board Member and Vernissage event chair Christopher Welsh shared this charming anecdote as part of his remarks at KMAC’s inaugural Vernissage, held this past Friday.  And while varnish may have been in short supply at the event, it was lacking in little else. For a single evening, artists, donors, board members, KMAC staffers, and members of the public came together to celebrate the contemporary art of the Commonwealth and Crown of Rays, KMAC’s first Triennial.  The atmosphere was electric.

Guests came for the art, but they stayed for the family-style dinner by Atlantic No. 5.  Mary Wheatley and Rebecca Johnson let the season be their guide, sticking to fresh, late-summer produce like corn and collards, and Kentucky favorites like skillet cornbread and Broadbent country ham.  

In preparing for Crown of Rays, KMAC Curator Joey Yates envisioned Triennial artists stemming from the landscape of Kentucky, much like the crown of rays goldenrod from which the exhibition takes its name. In this sense, the community support expressed through events like Vernissage serve as the soil in which those artists thrive.

We look forward to more great contemporary art exhibitions, and more “varnishing days” to come!


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