Arts & Culture

Joe Corcoran

A year-and-a-half after being closed by a fire, the Downing Museum in Bowling Green is set to reopen Thursday. 

The museum houses numerous paintings by the late artist Joe Downing.  The Hart County native was one of few Americans to have an exhibit shown at the Louvre in Paris. 

The fire, ruled electrical in nature, damaged nearly all 1,200 pieces in the Downing collection, though most were salvageable.  Museum Director Craig Cunningham says restoration work continues, but enough pieces have been restored to reopen the attraction, which will also include a special exhibit on the fire. 

"We have water colors that have a hole burnt in them that are in a shadow box and photos of our staff pulling paintings out of the basement while the building was on fire," explains Cunningham.

The museum’s reopening will feature some artwork previously not on display, as well as photos of Downing’s time in France, where he lived for most of his adult life. 

The Downing Museum is located on the estate of Jerry Baker, who has endowed the art collection, home, and grounds to WKU.

Homeless In Nashville, Huge In Sweden

Oct 9, 2014

Country music fans were introduced to a new face at last month's Americana Music Awards in Nashville, when 62-year-old Doug Seegers opened the show with a song from his debut album, Going Down to the River.

Muhlenberg County is hosting a show this weekend that pays tribute to the area’s most famous musical sons. The show, called “Walk Right Back”, honors the music of the Everly Brothers.

Don Everly was born in Muhlenberg County in 1937, and during 15 years beginning in 1988, he and his brother Phil performed an annual “homecoming” concert in Central City.

Joe Hudson, the executive director of the National Thumbpickers Hall of Fame and the organizer of Saturday’s concert says the influential harmonies that the Everly Brothers sang in the late 1950s and 60s played a major role on future musical acts.

“The significant impact that the Everly’s harmonies had on other bands, even The Beatles, is really humbling when you look at the fact that it all roots back here to a small town in the middle of Muhlenberg County," Hudson told WKU Public Radio. "They had that family harmony that you just cannot reproduce, and their harmonies are still known as some of the best and tightest harmonies that have ever been recorded.”

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Of course. It sounds so inevitable, you might assume it's existed since time immemorial: a museum to celebrate the food and drink of the American South, to enshrine barbecue and grits, showcase the heritage of Louisiana shrimpers and Kentucky bourbon.

But no.

New Movie Marks Kentuckian's Directorial Debut

Sep 25, 2014
City on a Hill

A new movie called The Song comes out in theaters Friday. The film is the first full-length feature directed by Bowling Green native Richie Ramsey.

The Song is said to be inspired by the Song of Solomon, so it's no surprise the film about a singer-songwriter is heavy with religious imagery. One of the first conversations between main characters Jed King and Rose Jordan involves a debate over a popular song from the 1960s that's based on biblical text.

Jed: I love that song too, it’s just not the Beatles.
Rose: Yeah it is.
Jed: No it’s the Byrds, you’re thinking of the Byrds.
Rose: No. Agree to disagree.
Jed: No, you’d still be wrong.
Rose: The lyrics are in the Bible. Can we agree that God wrote them?

Abbey Oldham/WKU Public Radio

For the last 10 weeks, Mustered Courage, a bluegrass quartet from Melbourne, Australia has been zigzagging across America in a white conversion van that, according to the band, hasn’t always been the most dependable.

“When we’re traveling down the road, it’s a lot better than when we’re on the side of the road, I’ll tell you that much,” said banjo player and lead singer Nick Keeling.

“We’ve had a couple of van breakdowns,” added guitarist Julian Abrahams.

They've also been crammed into small hotel rooms, eaten food of varying quality and had to dodge cars in some larger northeast cities while trying to cross the street.

Keeling is originally from Austin, Texas, Abrahams is a native Australian. The two met at school where they were studying jazz.  Later they would play together in a hip-hop band.

“Jazz actually has a lot of similarities to bluegrass the improvisation is such a key element to bluegrass music. Jazz is all about soloing and playing as many notes as you can, or as little notes as you can,” said Abrahams.

“Nick and I played too many notes in jazz, so we got ousted and banned from playing jazz; blacklisted and banished to the wasteland of bluegrass music,” said Abrahams with a grin. “Hip-hop? Well, we just didn’t want to be mid-30 year-old white rappers from Australia, so we thought we might be more suited to playing bluegrass in our 30s.”

"Outlander" Author Featured at Southern Kentucky Book Fest

Sep 16, 2014
Southern Kentucky Book Fest

Author Diana Gabaldon, known for her "outlander" series of books, is coming to Kentucky in the spring. She'll be featured at the 17th annual Southern Kentucky Book Fest scheduled for April 18th at WKU's Knicely Conference Center.

Gabaldon is not a stranger to college campuses. She has three science degrees and spent a dozen years as a university professor with an expertise in scientific computation before she started writing fiction.

Evansville Museum

After two years without a permanent leader, the Evansville Museum has selected a new executive director.  Bryan Knicely comes to Evansville from Florida where he led the Coral Springs Museum of Art.

The Evansville Museum completed a major renovation earlier this year and houses 30,000 objects in its permanent collection.

"This is an exciting time for the Museum. After the successful completion of the capital campaign and building expansion, we are in a period of rapid growth and look to become the number one cultural destination in the region,” said board president Sharon Walker. “We are happy to have Bryan join the staff, as he has extensive experience leading arts and cultural centers across the country.”

Dr. John Streetman III retired at the end of 2012 after nearly four decades with the museum. Mary Bower had been serving as the interim director.

Abbey Oldham, WKU Public Radio

A set of chairs currently on display at The Kentucky Museum on WKU’s campus offers a glimpse at some of the finest pieces of Appalachian art ever created.

The exhibit, “Chester Cornett: Beyond the Narrow Sky” features over 20 chairs made by Cornett, a simple and quiet man from the Appalachian region of Kentucky who possessed an amazing talent. Cornett was born in 1913 in Letcher County, and learned chair-making from his grandfather and uncle. He served in WWII, and then returned to his mountain home in 1945.

Brent Bjorkman, director of the Kentucky Folklife Program at WKU, says Cornett seemed to be at peace when he was creating chairs—a peace that alluded him in other aspects of his life.

“He grew up as a loner,” Bjorkman told WKU Public Radio. “Chester was a mountain kid who had difficulty fitting in with the community. He was also married a couple of times, and I think dealing with people was pretty hard for him. So I think he back again and again to expressing himself through this creative form that he felt was something familiar to him.”

Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt did as much to create 20th-century America as any three people linked by blood and marriage.

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