Arts & Culture

Kenneth Hayden

Some state cultural leaders are concerned that a Kentucky arts agency restructured by Gov. Matt Bevin on Friday will prioritize commercial over creative value in the arts, diminishing their overall impact in the commonwealth.

The Kentucky Arts Council is designed to generate value for, participation in and benefit from the arts. Funding for the agency — which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year — is provided by the General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

As the state partner of the NEA, the council receives matching funds from the organization to distribute within Kentucky. This year, arts groups such as Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Louisville Orchestra and Stage One received funding from the council. It also distributes funds to individual artists.

On Friday, Bevin dismissed all but four of its members and reduced the size of the council from 16 to 15 people. He also accepted the resignation of executive director Lori Meadows, although sources say she was pushed out.

In a news release, Secretary of the Cabinet of Tourism, Arts and Heritage Don Parkinson wrote: “The new arts council will focus on ensuring that Kentucky artisans have the skills and knowledge to develop and successfully sell their products.”

Southern Kentucky Film Commission

The cameras are rolling in Hart County for a Hallmark Channel movie that’s expected to wrap-up filming on Nov. 19.  Local officials are hoping the movie signals a long and profitable relationship with the film industry.

The film called “An Uncommon Grace” is about a military nurse falling in love with an Amish man.

Hart County Judge-Executive Terry Martin hopes it’s just the beginning of the region’s focus on a new segment in economic development. Martin says when filming began in October, it was the spark that led the county fiscal court to create the Southern Kentucky Film Commission. He says the benefits are obvious.

“This film right here, being a small-budget film, like one-and-a-half-million-dollars compared to the big budget films, they’re still spending around a half-million-dollars in six weeks in Hart and surrounding counties.”

Longtime TV Host Bill Goodman Leaving KET

Nov 2, 2016
KET

The Kentucky Humanities Council has named longtime television host Bill Goodman its new executive director.

Goodman has served as host and managing editor of the public affairs series "Kentucky Tonight" on Kentucky Educational Television since 1996. He also has anchored the network's election night coverage and hosted the KET interview show "One to One with Bill Goodman."

The Kentucky Humanities Council, Inc. is a non-profit affiliated with the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Goodman says he will work to "support the history, heritage and cultural environment in the Commonwealth" in his new job. He starts Jan. 1.

Goodman replaces former executive director Ben Chandler, who left the position on Aug. 31.

Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

An announcement this week from the Oxford University Press landed like a bombshell in the laps of Shakespeare fans and scholars.

The prestigious publisher revealed that its new edition of the complete works of William Shakespeare will credit the 16th century British poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe as co-author of the three Henry VI plays.

There have long been debates and controversy over whether the many plays, sonnets and other works attributed to Shakespeare were, in fact, written by him. The decision by Oxford University Press will likely further stoke the discussion.

WKU Public Radio spoke with Western Kentucky University English Professor and Shakespeare scholar Gillian Knoll about her reaction to the decision to credit Marlowe as co-author of the Henry VI plays.

Orchestra Kentucky

Orchestra Kentucky is beginning a national search for its next executive director. 

Darrell Edwards left the post with the Bowling Green-based group earlier this month after 12 years on the job.

Orchestra Kentucky Music Director Jeffrey Reed credits Edwards with helping transform the group, which began as a chamber orchestra doing about six concerts a year.

“When we hired Darrell we had just existed for three or four seasons, so we were in our infancy. He gave us experience and vision, helping us realize we really could step out and grow the organization.” 

In the past 12 years, Orchestra Kentucky’s annual budget has increased from $50,000 to $900,000. The group now does about 15 concerts a year that include classical and popular music.

Kevin Willis

The Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center is holding a town hall meeting to gather suggestions on ways to improve arts education.

SKyPAC is hosting the meeting Thursday, Aug. 4.

SKyPAC education outreach coordinator Joshua Miller says the goal is to get feedback from community members, educators, and artists about the center’s outreach efforts aimed at young people.

“What you’re investing in is potentially the citizen for the next 30 years of where you’re living. I think it’s just important that we pore into them, and create opportunities for the youth--as well as the community--to express, to collaborate, to be together in spaces, especially with everything going on in our society today.”

Miller says those attending will be asked for input on the following questions:

Stephen Jerkins/WPLN

It's an estate sale for the ages. Stuff belonging to Bill Monroe, the "Father of Bluegrass," is on sale this weekend just outside of Nashville. As the patriarch of a genre and of a passionate musical family, artifacts from his rise to prominence are in high demand.

Now, 20 years after his death, the Monroe family is cleaning out the closets. Some of the relics from Monroe's life have become almost priceless — like his Gibson mandolin, which he played almost exclusively and famously sold for a million dollars. But that's at the Country Music Hall of Fame, not here at the Monroe family studio in Gallatin, Tenn. The place is surrounded by horse pastures, and some old favorites are playing through the speakers.

As Monroe's "high lonesome" sound rings out, shoppers pick through items that are a little more garage-sale-grade. Hannah Fitzpatrick, snagging some deer antlers, says she's not even much of a bluegrass fan. But another customer, John Vaughn, is, and he's already wearing his funky leather jacket. He says it has "energy."

"I paid 200 bucks for it," he adds. "So now all I can do is pray for fall to get here so I can rock it every day."

Others throw down $10 for a mandolin pick with a certificate of authenticity. Monroe's old musician's union card went for $30. The signed portraits from Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard go quickly.

Emil Moffatt

The Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center has named Rick McCue has its permanent executive director.

Rick McCue was named interim executive director of SKyPac in May, after the group parted ways with Jan Zarr.

McCue is a former Vice-President and General Manager of WBKO Television in Bowling Green.

In a statement released by SKYPAC Tuesday,  McCue said the facility and its mission have been a passion of his since it opened in 2012.

SKyPAC is a 1,743 seat auditorium that is home to Orchestra Kentucky, and traveling musical and arts performances.

International Bluegrass Music Center

The International Bluegrass Music Museum and Hall of Fame is about to break ground on a new $15 million facility in Owensboro next week.

City leaders including Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne and Daviess County Judge executive Al Mattingly are attending the June 23 event at 311 West 2nd Street.

The property takes up an entire block in a revitalized section of downtown. It will have a 450-seat concert hall, recording studio, an outdoor concert area, gift shop and a rooftop restaurant. Museum officials say it will house "the world's foremost collection" of bluegrass artifacts, memorabilia and music recordings.

Peyronnin Construction of Evansville, Indiana, is building the museum. It is expected to be finished in 2018.

National Park Service

Imagine hearing music reverberating through caves or echoing across mountains.  This summer, an ensemble of musicians from the Eastman School of Music in New York will be visiting national parks throughout the country and performing in the natural venues.   It's part of the national park service's 100th anniversary.

The first stop on the tour is Mammoth Cave National Park in south central Kentucky.  Emlyn Johnson is directing the project called Music in the American Wild.  She visited the park in December to scout out the venue and test the acoustics.

"I don’t think I had ever been in a cave before.  I was just amazed," Johnson told WKU Public Radio.  "I got to play my flute in some of the big caverns and it was like playing in a glorious concert hall.”

Kentucky Arts Council Awarded $746,500 in Funding

Jun 7, 2016
Kentucky Arts Council

The National Endowment for the Arts has awarded nearly three-quarters of a million dollars to the Kentucky Arts Council.

A news release from the state council says its funding is included in the latest round of state partnership agreement grants and is for the 2017 fiscal year budget. The $746,500 award represents a 5 percent increase from 2016 funding.

The federal agency will award $125,000 to several Kentucky projects.

They include $70,000 to the Appalachian Artisan Center in Hindman for two projects, $10,000 to Western Kentucky  University's Kentucky Folklife Program and Cumberland Gap National Park to place a folklorist in the park, $20,000 to Appalshop in Whitesburg, $10,000 to Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington and $15,000 to Pioneer School of Drama in Danville.

SKyPAC

The Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center in Bowling Green is looking for a new leader.

SKyPAC Foundation Board Chair Katherine Sikora released a statement Friday afternoon saying Jan Zarr was no longer the group’s executive director.

Zarr took the position in March of 2014.

The statement gave no reason behind his departure.

"Jan has seen SKyPAC through a period of transition and we appreciate his efforts," Sikora said in the statement.

Sikora says the board of directors has named former WBKO Television Vice President and General Manager Rick McCue interim executive director.

Zarr helped open the Bowling Green-based arts center before taking a job as director with the Topeka Performing Arts Center in Kansas. He then returned to Bowling Green to take the SKyPAC executive director position.

Henderson High School

Henderson County High School is gearing up for its new School of Fine Arts.

Current courses in voice, instrumental music, theater, dance and the visual arts will be expanded to create career tracks.

High school fine arts coordinator Brian Ettensohn is spearheading the program. He says the goal is to provide in-depth training that leads to a career path.

“There are a high number of students who are in probably band and theater, or possibly choir and theater,” says Ettensohn. “These are students that are passionate, highly passionate, about the arts. And they’re going on to college and looking at a career.”

The new program is being developed with existing staff.  So there will be no additional expense to the school district.

Ettensohn says one of the biggest challenges is parents.

Joe Corcoran, WKU Public Radio

Owensboro is stepping up its mission to become the nation’s bluegrass music capital. Construction of a new downtown performance center and museum is set to start this spring to go along with the city’s thriving local music scene.

Also, a program in local schools is looking to create new fans for bluegrass long into the future.

At Sutton Elementary in Owensboro, 400 students recently sat cross-legged on the cafeteria floor. They clapped along to a bluegrass band called the Rigs. The band performed as a part of a program created by the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro.

It’s called Bluegrass in the Schools, and it’s been bringing the music to students since 2003.

Tom Stites, the fine arts coordinator for Owensboro Public Schools, said the goal of Bluegrass in the Schools is to encourage a new generation of bluegrass fans and musicians and performances like this make the most of a unique Kentucky heritage. “It’s a chance for our children to connect with their culture, because the bluegrass roots run so very deep here," he said.  "And it’s not part of what our children experience every single day in their lives. I think it’s important that they continue to be connected with their background and where bluegrass came from.”

Harper Lee, the author of the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, has died in her hometown of Monroeville, Ala. The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer was 89.

Monroeville city officials confirmed reports of Lee's death to Alabama Public Radio. Her publisher, HarperCollins, also confirmed the news to NPR.

Her famous novel about a young girl's experience of racial tensions in a small Southern town has sold tens of millions of copies and been translated into dozens of languages.

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