MU collaborates with community on audio tour of historic Lexington

  • Published: Thursday, July 10, 2014

LEXINGTON, Mo. – Visitors to historic Lexington, Missouri, can learn about the town’s rich Civil War history through an audio walking and driving tour created through the University of Missouri Extension Community Arts Program.

The audio tour gives businesses another way to drive economic development in the town of 4,500, said Lee Ann Woolery, MU Extension community arts specialist.

MU faculty, students, and Lexington volunteers created the tour to go with a map of historic areas.

The tour is yet another part of a two-year program to help Lexington brand itself as a destination for tourists and artists, Woolery said.

During production, MU School of Music faculty and students were guests of the community as part of the first Mizzou New Music Initiative Residency.

Volunteers narrate the tour, set to original music composed by an MU music student. Billy Lackey, managing director of Mizzou New Music Initiative, provided audio engineering and advised graduate student Justin Pounds, who composed the music.

Lackey said the project lets student composers explore ways to use their talents.

“Working with Lexington, Missouri, has provided a forum for amazing conversations to take place about the role of music and art in communities, and to explore how the arts can be used as an economic driver for a city,” Lackey said.

The project has enthused and inspired local artists. Theater professional Hughston Walkinshaw moved to Lexington from a metropolitan area. The project provided him artistic inspiration while he got to know townsfolk.

“For an artist it’s vital to have something like this to work on. An excuse to get out of Lexington has always been wonderful. Now I have an excuse to stay in Lexington,” he said.

Mark Porth, regional community arts specialist with MU Extension, worked with more than 90 Lexington volunteers on the project. He said it has attracted new volunteers and supporters of the arts.

Porth hopes the tour encourages visitors to buy fuel, spend the night, eat at restaurants, and shop.

Mayor Jerry Brown said the tour is another part of the evolving Lexington Community Arts Pilot Project (CAPP). City officials hope to start an incubator program to draw artists from the nearby Kansas City area. He said officials recognize the need to attract artists to draw tourists.

Woolery said the Lexington CAPP serves as a model for other rural towns.

“Through this partnership we have developed a great model and we hope to continue it by taking the community arts and music residency to other communities in Missouri,” Woolery said. “We work with communities by building on their assets.”

The arts build and galvanize vibrant communities where people want to visit and live, fueling economic and community development, Woolery said.

Mayor Brown said Civil War buffs would find many reasons to spend time in Lexington, the site of one of the largest battles in the western theater. The battlefield is a state historic site.

About 500 antebellum homes and Wentworth Military Academy are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

There’s legend and lore of Quantrill’s raiders and the James Gang, and the Santa Fe Trail and Potawatomi Indians’ “Trail of Death” run through the town. The state’s oldest incorporated cemetery boasts intricate ironwork and cemetery art. 

The tour, available in several media forms, will be released at the town’s Apples, Arts and Antiques Festival, Sept. 25-28.

Writer: Linda Geist

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Lee Ann Woolery

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