Lexington Artist Takes Flight with the Help of Art Inc. Kentucky

Melanie Osborne—or Mel O as her work is typically signed—cares deeply about her art, her fellow artists and the horses that she especially loves to paint. A lively free spirit with a southern accent, Osborne wears her heart on her sleeve when talking about the journey that brought her to Community Ventures’ innovative artist incubator program—Art Inc. Kentucky—in Lexington’s East End neighborhood. It was there that the artist found the acceptance and companionship of other creatives and comfortable studio space in which to work. In addition, Mark Johnson, President of Art Inc. Kentucky, provided Osborne the technical assistance and business acumen needed to take her dream to the next level—including her goal of joining the ranks of Kentucky Crafted artisans.

Osborne grew up on a small farm in Ashland, Kentucky and began drawing horses “as soon as I could hold a crayon”. After high school she enrolled in a vocational program to learn drafting, breezing through the course in five months. Post-graduation, she found work with a coal mining equipment company in central Kentucky, but quickly grew bored drawing black and white renderings and began to pursue fine art full time.

Years later, Osborne began seeking work space where she could be in the company of other artists. Unfortunately, while the group that she initially visited did offer her space, they also made Osborne feel ‘less than’ as an artist—a wound that has yet to fully heal. But an encounter with another creative at an art show pointed her straight to Art Inc. Kentucky, where Johnson turned her focus to the business of art, and provided one-on-one assistance with the application process for the Kentucky Arts Council’s Kentucky Crafted program—an accomplishment that for 15 years had eluded Osborne.

Osborne is quick to sing the praises of Johnson and Art Inc. Kentucky.

“Mark wants to build up everybody here…he cares about everybody. The artists here all get along. It is so different from the other place,” Osborne emphasized. “We are a really diverse group working in a lot of different mediums. Painting in acrylic and oil. Painting with dye on fabric. Photography and jewelry. All the studios are full now—even the ones they just finished.”

Since being accepted into Kentucky Crafted in the fall of 2021, Osborne participated in the recent Kentucky Crafted show held at the Kentucky Horse Park, which opened the door to the Kentucky Artisan Center and other galleries. And she has been selected to design a horse for the 22nd anniversary of Horse Mania to be displayed in Lexington leading up the 2022 Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland.

When asked what the future holds, Osborne smiles and hesitates. “I don’t know. Right now, I’m just trying to fill orders and follow up with contacts I’ve made. I’m painting so much my arm hurts. I’ve come to realize that there is never a stop sign around here (at Art Inc. Kentucky.) Mark will always find a way for his artists!”

According to Johnson, that is easy with artists like Osborne.

“Melanie is one of those artists that you know whatever she creates, it’s going to be beautifully executed and impeccable in the details and the finishing. It’s a sincere pleasure representing her and I’m so proud of her. She’s worked so hard to get to this point in her art career and she absolutely deserves all of the success and accolades that she’s receiving.”

To learn more about obtaining a small business loan, contact Community Ventures at (859) 231-0054 or email lew.whalen@cvky.org. To learn more about opportunities for Kentucky artists, contact Mark Johnson of Art Inc. Kentucky at mjohnson@artinckentucky.org.

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