About The Lyric

Welcome to the Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center a Historical Institution of Diversity, Inclusions, and Inspiration. We are dedicated to honoring our rich history while envisioning a brighter future for the Lexington & Bluegrass community. Our mission is to preserve, promote, present, and celebrate diverse cultures through exceptional artistic presentations, educational programs, outreach initiatives, film screenings, and inclusive community engagement opportunities. For almost 50 years, the Lyric Theatre stood as a vibrant entertainment hub for African-American families in Lexington. From its inception as a movie house to its heyday showcasing jazz, soul, and R&B performances by legendary artists such as Ray Charles and Count Basie, the Lyric Theatre was a cultural icon. It not only provided top-notch entertainment but also fostered the growth of black-owned businesses in the surrounding area. Today, the new Lyric Theatre and Cultural Center is a modern and magnificent facility, offering more than just a glimpse into the past. We invite you to explore our beautiful venue, experience our diverse programming, and join us in celebrating the African American cultural heritage. Our vision is to be a leading arts and cultural center, drawing inspiration from the African American experience. Our core values revolve around providing cultural education and programming outreach, delivering the highest-quality artistic experiences, creating inclusive opportunities for community participation, and promoting the artistic experience as a vital dimension of individual growth and community life. Join us on this remarkable journey as we bring the past to life, celebrate the present, and shape the future through the power of art and cultural diversity.


After nearly 50 years of dormancy since its closing in 1963, The Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center is dedicated to honoring its past while maintaining a strong vision for the further development of the greater Lexington & Bluegrass community. ‘The mission of the Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center is to preserve, promote, present, and celebrate diverse cultures through artistic presentations of the highest quality, educational programming and outreach, film, and opportunities for community inclusion.’


Vibrant. Alive. The place to be and be seen. Between 1948 and 1963, the Lyric Theatre was a thriving entertainment centerpiece for Lexington’s African-American families. Originally built as a movie house, the Lyric opened at the corner of Third and Deweese Street (now Elm Tree Lane) in Lexington. And it quickly became a cultural icon. Everyone has his or her favorite memory – the movies, fashion shows, vaudeville acts, local concerts, pageants – but during the ‘50s it was Jazz, Soul and R&B music that took center stage, with big-name acts like Ray Charles and Count Basie. Soulful sounds filled the theatre with other notable performers including: B.B. King; Wynonie Harris, who wrote Good Rocking Tonight, recorded by Elvis Presley; Mercer Ellington, the only son of Duke Ellington; and Billy Brown, formerly of the Dominos, who formed The Checkers and began recording for King Records. Entertainment wasn’t the only draw. Numerous small black-owned business – from clothing stores to ice cream shops – were launched in and around the theatre. Before closing in 1963, the theatre returned to its roots as a movie theatre, featuring horror films and black cowboy movies plus Saturday morning cartoons. The new Lyric offers much more than a chance to relive history. Come see the beautiful facility and enjoy the modern age Lyric.

A Brief History in Photographs

Few photographs exist of The Lyric Theatre in its original years of operation, but thanks to the generosity of Lexington Herald Leader, we have been able to track down some images that reflect the vibrancy, uniqueness, and grandeur of the Lyric as is was in the 40s, 50s, and 60s.

The Lyric under construction before its original opening date in 1948.

Newspaper clippings referencing the opening of The Lyric.

The completed and open Lyric.

Original Lyric Staff.

The Lyric’s projection room and operators.

Performers backstage.

A performer on The Lyric stage.

Participants in a Lyric Beauty Pageant

Count Basie patrons

In the dressing rooms

Christmas carolers in The Lyric’s Main Lobby

Cartoon playbill


The concept of the ceramic tile wall was developed through conversations with community members of various ages. Through these chats, the theme of “a community rising”, was revealed. The program director worked closely with the architect team to develop the visual symbology that would express the sentiment from the community. The design of the wall is based on a Ghanaian Kente cloth pattern which means Renewal. The wall,which is positioned between the historic facility and the new facility, also reveals the notion of re-birth. The words WE RISE are strategically placed high upon the side of the wall facing the new facility; the historic side, without words, provides the culture and foundation that affirms a continual ascension.

Reopening Timeline

March 11, 2009

Private Sector looks to Hold Up Its End of Lyric Theatre with Programming Kick-Off

Business Lexington Article

July 16, 2009

Lyric Groundbreaking Set for 10 am Thursday

Herald Leader Article

July 17, 2009

Lyric Theatre’s Revival Raises Neighborhood’s Hopes

Herald Leader Article

November 3, 2009

Private Sector looks to Hold Up Its End of Lyric Theatre with Programming Kick-Off

Business Lexington Article

August 24, 2010

Lyric Theatre to Reopen in late October

Business Lexington Article

August 25, 2010

Lyric Theatre plans October Reopening Celebration

Herald Leader Article

August 25, 2010

Grand reopening Celebration Planned for Lyric

WKYT Article

September 15, 2010

Excitement Building as Reopening of Lyric Theatre Draws Near

WKYT Article

September 24, 2010

Tickets to Lyric Reopening on Sale

Business Lexington Article

Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010

Ribbon-cutting by Mayor Jim Newberry, 10:15 a.m.

Movie, field trip, tour and art project for elementary schools. Cost $1.

The Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center is constantly looking for more historical documentation on past events held at the original Lyric!

If you or anyone you know would like to share stories, photographs or articles, please contact us at (859) 280-2201 or by emailing marketing@lexingtonlyric.com

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