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Professors give Lexington residents ‘Good Morning’ message

Todorova and Gohde
English professor Kremena Todorova and art professor Kurt Gohde put lyrics on the American Inn sign. To see the “Good Morning” video, go to http://bit.ly/goodmorningvandaveer.

Perceptive eyes in Lexington may have noticed a strange message slowly making its way across the sign of the now-demolished American Inn on New Circle Road last summer. Some poignant, some cryptic, new phrases appeared on the sign almost every day for several weeks.

The source can now be traced back to Transylvania and the Creative Disruption course that art professor Kurt Gohde and English professor Kremena Todorova taught during May term 2011.

For part of their credit, students had to do one creative disruption per day, pulling stunts that shook up normalcy. Gohde and Todorova couldn’t just sit by while their students had all the fun; they decided to join in as well. Gohde had been interested in the old sign, which advertised a motel that was torn down approximately eight years ago. The two debated what to do with it—Gohde wanted to write trick questions about the United States to commemorate Todorova’s recent citizenship test, and she wanted to display the first lines of great American novels. They ultimately settled on the lyrics to a song called “Good Morning” by Vandaveer, an alternative rock band fronted by Mark Charles Heidinger ’00.

“Vandaveer had recorded a song using another project we did, and it worked out great,” Gohde said. “They gave us a CD called A Minor Spell, and we liked the song and decided we would put the lyrics on the sign and change the letters every day.”

The professors went to the sign in the middle of the night, and Todorova managed to figure out how to get the letters out—“She has a reach like a basketball player,” Gohde said.

After making replica letters that were missing, they went to work, returning each night to change the sign to a new line from the song. They spray painted marks in the parking lot to show where to set up a tripod and photographed the sign each day.

“Kurt originally wanted to just do it until the end of the class, but we didn’t realize it would take so long to get the whole song up,” Todorova said. “It took us the whole summer to do.”

They had some fun with it as well, even displaying the word “welcome” in Bulgarian when Todorova’s mother came to Lexington to visit.

Eventually, after a run-in with a suspicious Lexington police officer, they realized nobody was going to make a fuss if they were caught, so they started going during the day, getting photos of themselves changing the sign. They took all the photos and compiled them into a stop-motion video that was synced with the song and sent it to Heidinger, who had no idea what they were up to.

“We sent him the video while they were on tour, and they saw it and really liked it,” Gohde said. “They came to Lexington on their tour, and we thought it would be cool for them to play it live with the video in the background. It’s a song they never play, so it took them several tries to get it to sync right, but they did it.”

With a full-fledged multimedia project on their hands, Gohde and Todorova presented their work at the Little/Gaines Collaborative Artist Series, sponsored by the University of Kentucky Gaines Center, in November. After their talk, a man came up to them who had suffered a flat tire while riding his bicycle on that section of New Circle Road. Frustrated, he had happened to catch a glimpse of the sign, which at the time was displaying a melancholy phrase—Gohde and Todorova aren’t sure which one—and he said he felt like he was almost being mocked by it. But after riding past it several more times and seeing the new messages, he realized the sign wasn’t meant to be forlorn—but it was art, and he started to enjoy seeing what it would say next, not knowing at the time that he was the recipient of a creative disruption.

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