Arts & Culture

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When Gov. Matt Bevin offers his first state budget proposal on Tuesday, it’s unclear how much money — if any — will be set aside for the Kentucky Arts Council, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Rumors have swirled on social media and in arts social circles during the past couple days concerning the future of the state agency.

Arts Council board member Wilma Brown of Frankfort sent an email to friends and supporters on Thursday, saying Bevin would seek to eliminate funding for the agency and asking recipients to contact their state representatives in protest.

“It is not clear whether an alternative agency will be formed or whether the arts will be folded into another agency,” Brown wrote. “In either case, oversight of the arts will become political with changes in personnel and programs with each election.”

Requests for information from Bevin’s office went unanswered. Lori Meadows, the Arts Council’s executive director, directed inquiries to the governor’s office.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Piano! Piano!

David Bowie is being remembered by a Kentucky guitarist as one of the most influential and innovative rock stars ever.

Bowie died at the age of 69 Sunday after a bout with cancer.

Kentucky Headhunters guitarist Greg Martin told WKU Public Radio he’s been in awe of Bowie’s music for decades. But Martin admitted he didn’t immediately understand everything Bowie was doing musically.

"There were some things that just went over my head early on,” Martin said. “But there's been some times in the past ten years, when my mind was a little more open like it should be, and I'd catch some things on the radio, and I’d think this guy is right up there with the Beatles."

NPR: Bowie Wrote Anthems for the Alienated

Martin says he and his band mates were honored to meet Bowie at a record convention in the early 1990s.

“I'm happy to say we did have a brush with him early on in our career, and that's something we will always cherish, getting to talk to him."

Bowie passed away just two days after releasing a new album called Darkstar.

International Bluegrass Music Center

The goal of making Owensboro the capital city of bluegrass is getting closer to reality.  Architectural plans for a new International Bluegrass Music Center are nearly ready to go out to bid.  

The new 50,000-square-foot music center will double the space the current bluegrass museum occupies.

Executive Director Chris Joslin says the new music center will position Owensboro as the home for bluegrass music that will attract visitors from around the globe.

“We’re the only organization and museum dedicated solely to gathering, preserving and exhibiting the artifacts having to do with bluegrass music. So I think that makes what we do unique," said Joslin. "I mean, what we have to offer, and what we will offer when we move into the new center, can only be experienced here.”

The music center will house the bluegrass museum and hall of fame, as well as indoor and outdoor performance areas and a restaurant.

Joslin says the center will be a dynamic venue intended to reach out to a broad audience.

“We will probably not limit the live music to bluegrass. I can envision other roots music, Americana, gospel. So we’re going to paint with a fairly wide brush, but certainly the focus will be on bluegrass and certainly on Saturday night, people know they come to Owensboro on Saturday night, they’re going to get a world-class bluegrass show.”  

Construction on the $15.4 million dollar project is expected to begin in April and be complete in about 18 months.

Lisa Autry

Ohio County is home to Bill Monroe, the man known as Father of Bluegrass music. 

His hometown is preparing to kick off a campaign to raise a half-million dollars to build a museum in his honor.  That’s despite the fact that a much larger International Bluegrass Museum in Owensboro is only 40 miles away.

For more than a decade, a collection of Bill Monroe’s personal items has been sitting in a dusty storage facility.  The location is secret for security reasons.  Locked away are his old gray Cadillac, a plow, furniture, suits, and awards.  Monroe’s last mandolin is stored in a separate, climate-controlled facility. 

Sixteen years ago, Ohio County bought the collection from Monroe’s family.  Jody Flener heads the county’s Tourism Commission and says part of the deal was that the items had to stay in Ohio County.

”The connection is to Ohio County for Bill Monroe," Flener told WKU Public Radio.  "What’s exciting about living in Ohio County is that you still have people who grew up with Bill Monroe and we even have relatives still here."

In December, the county hopes to start fundraising for a 15,000-square-foot museum to house the memorabilia.  It’s planed for the tiny town of Rosine, just a few miles from where the Bluegrass icon was born and buried.  That’s only a half-hour drive from the International Bluegrass Museum in Owensboro – but Flener says it wouldn’t be redundant.

Hardin County Playhouse

The Hardin County Playhouse has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help pay for a new home. The crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe has a goal of $100,000.

The playhouse has been in Hardin County for 47 years. It’s been at its current location at the Historic State Theater in downtown Elizabethtown for 10 years.

Artistic Director Bo Cecil says the playhouse got notice in July that its rent was going to double. 

“That, of course, was a big shock right there. And so we responded with, ‘Could we negotiate something else?’  But they did not want to do so. And so, they then they told us they were still going to double the rent, but they were also now not going to renew our lease," said Cecil.  "So it was a bit of a predicament.”

The playhouse is researching options for buying or renovating a property. The lease for the current location expires in August. Cecil says the theater isn’t sure yet whether it will buy or renovate a building.                        

“We’re trying to work with the city of Elizabethtown to figure out a way the playhouse can stay in the downtown area," said Cecil. "Elizabethtown, in the last several years, has been experiencing a revitalization of the downtown area. So we believe that an entertainment organization, such as the playhouse, would bring in a lot of business for the other local businesses.”

The playhouse launched its GoFundMe campaign on Oct. 19.  As of Oct. 23, the GoFundMe campaign has raised $775 from five donations, ranging from $25to $500.  

Bowling Green native and bluegrass musician Sam Bush's mandolin will be displayed at the Kentucky Museum at Western Kentucky University.

The university said Bush has allowed the museum to display the mandolin as part of the Instruments of American Excellence exhibition. The mandolin was given to Bush from the Americana Music Association as a gift for receiving the lifetime achievement for instrumentalist honor in 2009.

Kentucky Museum Director Brent Bjorkman says having the mandolin will allow the museum to share Bush's story with visitors for many years.

Bush is co-founder of the Newgrass Revival, co-winner of three Grammys, a member of the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and four-time International Bluegrass Museum Association mandolin player of the year. He will be recognized this month with a Kentucky Governor's Award in the Arts.

Orchestra Kentucky

Orchestra Kentucky Music Director Jeffrey Reed has been named one of this year’s 12 University of Louisville Alumni Fellows.  

Reed co-founded Orchestra Kentucky in Bowling Green in 2000. He was recognized by the University of Louisville especially for growing audiences by combining classical and popular music unified by a theme.  

“We started with a traditional all classical program and found that although the public supported it, the numbers were very modest," said Reed. "And I kind of morphed into the present approach.”

That present approach has included concerts featuring the music of  Elvis Presley, Kenny Rogers and Paul Williams.

“We’ve presented an Elvis concert. Of course, Elvis used orchestra in his recording, so it was a perfect concert for that," Reed said. "We just had Kenny Rogers here and Paul Williams, the Oscar winning songwriter. We have Michael W. Smith coming, the Christian artist. So we present many headliners with the orchestra, as well.” 

In honor of being chosen a University of Louisville Alumni Fellow, Reed will present a lecture to music students and receive his award at a banquet at the university.

The orchestra’s Oct. 16 concert is a Sci Fi Spectacular, with music from 2001: A Space Odyssey,  Star Wars, E.T. and Star Trek.

In the isolated regions of Central Appalachia, music was once the only form of entertainment. It's still alive today thanks to The Crooked Road, a driving trail that connects music venues in Southwest Virginia. It stretches from the Blue Ridge to the Cumberland Mountains for 333 miles, crossing some of the poorest areas in the country.

Making a living in those areas has never been easy, as guitarist Greg Ward knows. He's a native of Floyd, Va. — population: 432.

"You know, it was a rough life," he says. "It was a hard life."

Chris Joslin

The incoming executive director of the International Bluegrass Music Museum brings a background in music and business to the job.

The Owensboro-based group today announced that Chris Joslin will lead the museum starting September 1. Joslin toured nationally with the bluegrass group Crucial Smith, playing banjo and resonator guitar, before working with a healthcare company and an executive search firm in Nashville.

Joslin received his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Belmont University in Nashville, as well as a Masters of Business Administration from Belmont's Massey School of Business.

Joslin says he’s looking forward to being a part of the annual River of Music Party, held every summer in Owensboro.

“The work at the museum, combined with the energy and success of ROMP—it’s just a dream job.”

Another aspect of the job that attracted Joslin is a planned International Bluegrass Music Center, to be built in downtown Owensboro. Construction will start this fall, with the facility scheduled to open in 2017.

Joslin currently calls Franklin, Tennessee, home. He and his wife will soon make the move to Daviess County.

Gabrielle Gray, the longtime leader of the IBMM, stepped down in December.

Unitarian Church Welcomes First Same-Sex Wedding

Jul 30, 2015

Since the Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage across the nation, there’s been both acceptance and resistance. But at the Unitarian Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky, there is strong support for the new law, as the congregation prepares to celebrate the first same-sex wedding at the church.

“We are gay and straight together and we are singing for our lives…"

On this Sunday morning, the congregation at the Unitarian church in Bowling Green is singing, “We are gay and straight together...”  

The song has verses about being justice seeking-people  and a land of many colors.

Forrest Halford is playing piano. He will marry his partner, Greg Willis, in this church in August. 

Halford found his way to this welcoming community after years in other churches.

"I grew up in a Christian church. I grew up in a musical tradition. My mother was a musician at a church. I sang in the choirs. Ultimately, I played in churches and was a minister of music, saved at 16 with a sinner’s prayer, baptized in the Holy Spirit at 19, speaking in tongues, going to charismatic Pentecostal churches. And then backslid, whatever that means…"


Penn State / Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Jean Ritchie was born in the Perry County community of Viper, and that was where she learned the Appalachian folk music she would bring to the world.

Richie moved to New York City in the 1940s and became an internationally recognized torch-bearer of the traditional songs. She sang and played the dulcimer and other instruments on dozens of albums and became a familiar figure in the folk revival of the 1950s and ‘60s.

Richie moved back to Kentucky several years ago, settling in Berea.

She was preceded in death by her husband, photographer George Pickow. Survivors include two sons. Her niece, Judy Hudson, says Ritchie died in her home in Berea, with her family around her.

The tall, red-haired Ritchie, who grew up in Kentucky's Cumberland mountains, sang ballads with a clear soprano voice. She accompanied herself on the guitar, autoharp or the mountain dulcimer, a string instrument that Ritchie helped rescue from obscurity.

Hudson said Ritchie suffered a stroke several years ago and moved back to Kentucky from the East Coast.

WKU

WKU and Mammoth Cave National Park are partnering in an effort to revive the Folklorist in the Park program.

The effort is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and will document the cultural heritage in and around the Mammoth Cave region. Josh Chrysler, a recent graduate from the WKU Folk Studies graduate program, has been hired as the project’s summer folklorist.

“What I’ll be doing is going around talking to people who live in the communities in and around Mammoth Cave, and I’ll be doing ethnographic interviews and oral histories documenting the traditional culture, arts, and music of the region," Chrysler said.

The materials collected this summer during the project will be housed in the Folklife Archives in the Kentucky Museum at WKU.

Chrysler will also work with Mammoth Cave National Park to develop evening programs for the public this summer focused on traditional arts and culture from the area.

Chrysler and the Kentucky Folklife Program would also like to ask for help in this project. If you or anybody you know practices a traditional skill or art, including but not limited to basketmaking, quilting, traditional music, hunting practices, traditional food preparation or recipes, contact Josh Chrysler at (270) 791-8653.

Youtube

NPR’s Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg is coming to WKU later this year as part of the school’s 2015-16 Cultural Enhancement Series.

Totenberg is a familiar voice to public radio listeners who have heard her report on U.S. Supreme Court cases throughout her NPR career that began in 1975.

Totenberg will speak at WKU September 21st, and will kick off the Cultural Enhancement Series that also features appearances by the Martha Graham Dance Company, British author Neil Gaiman, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Ticket information for the events will eventually be released by the Cultural Enhancement Series at its website.

Business is brisk at the Ole Curiosities and Book Shoppe, a block off the town square in Monroeville, Ala.

Jennifer Brinkley and her friend Leigh Mikovch are at the counter, putting in a pre-order for Go Set a Watchman, the much anticipated forthcoming book from Harper Lee.

"We're big Harper Lee fans and To Kill a Mockingbird fans," Brinkley says.

Both are writers from Bowling Green, Ky. They're visiting Monroeville for the annual Alabama Writers Symposium. Brinkley says it will be meaningful to have the new book come from Lee's hometown.

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