The Headley-Whitney Museum of Art is a small museum in Lexington, Kentucky that features a fascinating and diverse collection of jewels, books, artifacts, dollhouses, and bibelots, as well as a library, shell grotto and lovely rose garden.
Founded in 1968 by notable jewelry designer, George Headley, and his wife, Marylou Whitney, the Headley-Whitney Museum has long been an icon of art and culture in the Bluegrass County. The Museum showcases the collection through rotating regional and international exhibitions and special events throughout the year and offers educational classes and workshops for visitors of all ages.
Surrounded by 13 acres of beautifully manicured gardens and grounds, the Headley-Whitney Museum of Art also features the Jewel Room and Private Library, an award-winning rose garden modeled on Marylou Whitney's Saratoga Garden in New York, and a fascinating shell grotto.
The Headley-Whitney Museum of Art’s collection includes unique pieces of jewelry, mounted semi-precious stones, and bibelots dating back to the early 1930s, some of which were designed by George Headley himself. The collection also includes dollhouses designed, constructed and furnished by Marylou Whitney for her daughter, Cornelia. The miniature dollhouses feature exquisite details including parquet flooring, Aubusson carpets, chandeliers, and replicas of original oil paintings.
Built to house George Headley's Bibelot collection in 1964, which is now displayed in the main building of the Museum, the Jewel Room was designed to reflect a jewelry box with elements such as shining brass finishes and deep rosewood doors. Headley's private library is housed in this building, which features more than 1,500 volumes of beautiful art books, catalogs, and periodicals, as well as several of his amazing collections of natural objects.
Designed by Robert Pinkerton, the building combines a mix of Headley’s favorite architectural styles, including Greek columns, Georgian moldings, English windows, and French floors, all of which are juxtaposed with a sloped Thai roof. The building has a symmetrical brick and limestone pavilion connected with a central converged breezeway and fronted with two domed bay windows overlooking the museum grounds.
Added to the Museum’s grounds in 2004, the Rose Garden was an anniversary present from John Hendrickson, Marylou Whitney's husband, and was designed to replicate her beautiful garden in New York. The garden features a variety of award-winning red and pink roses, including climbers and the main viewing season is between May and October.
A shell grotto was added to the grounds by Headley in 1973 and features thousands of shells and fossil specimens attached to the exterior of what was once a three-car garage. Inspired by buildings and artificial caves decorated in shells in France, Italy, and England in the 17th and 18th centuries, Headley wanted to the shell grotto to be an entertaining distraction from the formalities of life in the principal residence. In addition to the unique exterior, the building displays beautiful mosaics designed by artist Carl Malouf and a collection of shell and fossil specimens acquired by Headley on his travels.
The Headley-Whitney Museum hosts a wide variety of workshops, functions, and special events throughout the year for visitors of all ages.
‘Improbable Baubles’ is a community-based art program designed to give children at both public and private school throughout the region the opportunity to create, perform, and respond to art. The program focuses on the history of George Headley, his fascinating collections and artworks and the role he played in the artistic community in Kentucky. Children are given the opportunity to create their own masterpieces with materials and lesson plans supplied by educators on the program, which will then be displayed, along with an artist statement at the Headley-Whitney Museum. Works will be judged by local professional artists in a competition and awards given to the top three artists in each age division.
The Headley-Whitney Museum of Art is located at 4435 Old Frankfort Pike in Lexington and is open Wednesday through Friday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Guided tours of the grounds and the Library are offered daily and leave on the hour. Brunch & Bibelots is an annual fundraiser and Lexington post-Derby tradition and takes place on the Sunday following Derby Saturday every year.
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4435 Old Frankfort Pike, Lexington, KY 40510, Phone: 859-255-6653