Paint a Barrel

We are hiring local artists to create a piece of original public art directly on a bourbon barrel. Each barrel will have a solar lighting component, so these barrels will (literally) light up NKY's entertainment districts.


The barrels will lead locals and visitors from one fun spot to the next, showcasing the assets of our region.

Like Cincinnati's pigs and Lexington's horses, NKY's bourbon barrels will be eye-catching pieces of art that link our region together--and you can help create them! Scroll down to learn more and to apply to paint a barrel.


Applications are due by July 12.

Final Artist Information Session 

The final session was via Facebook Live.

Watch the replay here


On this page:

The overall project:

Businesses and other organizations will sponsor the barrels. Their sponsorship includes $500 for the artist and materials. The sponsors will be matched with artists, who will submit a design for approval. The artist will then paint the barrel and deliver it to a central location. The barrels will be sealed with a protective finish and fitted with the solar lighting component. All of the painted barrels will be unveiled at the October 3 Unveiling Party & Bourbon Toast event. After the party, the barrels will be placed on streets like Monmouth in Newport, Madison and Main in Covington and at Newport on the Levee, where they will serve as both wayfinding and public art.


The role of the artist:

  • Matching: Each sponsor will be matched with an artist.

  • Barrel pick up: The artist will pick up a barrel from a central location and transport it to wherever the painting will be done. 

  • Painting: The artist will then paint the exterior of the barrel in a design approved by the sponsor. The artist's signature will go on the top of the barrel (to the side of the location for the solar panel).

  • Barrel delivery: The artist will then deliver the barrel to a location at Newport on the Levee, where it will be sealed with a clear, protective finish and the solar panel will be installed.

  • Party and poster: The artist will receive two tickets to the October 3 Unveiling Party (additional tickets will be available for purchase here) to celebrate the project and kick off the Kentucky's Edge Bourbon Conference and Festival, which starts the following day. The artist will also receive a poster depicting all the painted barrels. 


Retention of rights: 

Although the artist will own the rights to their artwork and images thereof, they will agree to grant their barrel's sponsor and the organizers of the project (NKY Chamber of Commerce and the Catalytic Fund) the right to use digital images of the barrel for publication and marketing purposes. The sponsor, Chamber and Catalytic Fund agree not to sell images of your artwork.


Payment and materials: 

The artist will receive $500 for completing their barrel, half after approval of their design by the sponsor and half after delivery of the finished barrel. The $500 includes paint (see below for details on recommended paint) and whatever other materials the artist chooses to use. If the artist wants to do something very unusual and there are extra material costs involved (over $100), the artist and sponsor can negotiate the direct payment of these costs.


Design parameters:

There are a few considerations for the design of the barrel artwork. These include:

  • A rectangle, approximately 12" x 8", must be left unpainted on the barrel head (the top of the barrel) for the solar panel to be installed.

  • The sponsor's name or organization will be hand painted on the barrel head. If the sponsor has chosen to have a custom plaque etched with their logo and name, a 6" x 4" space must be left on the barrel head for the plaque. The logos for NKY Chamber and the Catalytic Fund will also be painted on the barrel head and on the barrel, as shown in the downloadable diagram in the Artist Info Packet, available when you click on the Apply to Paint a Barrel button, below.

  • Since each barrel will have a solar light hanging inside the barrel, the artist must include some holes or cutouts in the design so the light can be seen. 

  • Materials must be suitable for exterior use and exposure to the elements (although the barrels will be sealed with a protective finish). We recommend "mural paint", available here and elsewhere. 

  • Designs may not be offensive, profane or discriminatory. 

  • No religious or political slogans or symbols may be used.   

A sponsor has the option of purchasing an additional barrel head (just the top of a barrel) that will be painted to coordinate with the design of their sponsored barrel. The artist will be paid $250 for this additional project. There is a spot on the artist application to indicate whether you'd be willing to provide this extra artwork. If you do not wish to, you will be matched with a sponsor who has not selected that option.

Recommended materials:

There are two primers that we recommend. Both can be used directly over the lightly sanded barrel and metal hoops.

Mural paint: This is the paint we are recommending for the barrels. It is available from Dick Blick. It is specifically made for outdoor art, offers good coverage and comes in lots of colors: Chroma Acrylic Mural Paint.

Clear sealer: We are planning to apply the finish coat after the painted barrels have been delivered. However, if you wish to do it yourself, we recommend Old Masters Spar-Urethane in satin. It is available locally from B&E Decorating in Latonia.


Important dates:

June 27 at 7:00: Artist info session 1 at Wooden Cask Brewing in Newport

June 30 at 4:00: Artist info session 2 at Wooden Cask Brewing in Newport

July 12: Artist applications due

July 15: Artists selected and matched with sponsors

July 16: Artists emailed about matches

Aug. 2: Deadline for design approval by sponsors and first payments submitted

Sept. 7: Barrels completed and delivered to Levee and final payments submitted

Oct. 3: Unveiling party 



Contact Jill Morenz: (859) 757-0519 or