Arts & Culture

Downing Museum

A Bowling Green museum dedicated to the late renowned artist and Hart County native Joe Downing has reopened following a 2013 fire. 

Nearly all of the 1,200-piece collection was damaged, but most was salvageable.  A few of the pieces have returned to the museum, but many others face a long, arduous restoration process.

"If you took the canvass paintings to L.T. Smith Stadium, they would cover the entire grass area, so we have a lot of work to do," said Baker Foundation President Bob Hilliard.  "I've learned a lot about Joe Downing.  He was a workaholic and I think he painted everything he touched and Jerry Baker bought it from him."

Friends, family, and art enthusiasts celebrated the reopening Thursday.  Among them was Joe Downing's sister-in-law Harriett who was married to Dero Downing, the late WKU President.

"I've been so overwhelmed they were able to preserve as much," Harriet told WKU Public Radio.  "I know he and Dero both are up there in heaven looking down and saying thank you to all the people who put so much effort into making sure this was restored and saved."

The Downing Museum is located at the Baker Arboretum.  The estate is owned by Jerry Baker who has endowed the art collection, home, and grounds to WKU. 

In an announcement Thursday, officials said the estate has acquired 100 additional acres of land.  The Baker Foundation also plans to establish a collection of Downing’s work at the Kentucky Museum at WKU.

Photo courtesy of Philip Scott Andrews

When NASA called an end to the space shuttle in 2011 after 30 years, it really was "The End of an Era." That's the title of a photo and video display in the Mass Media & Technology building on WKU's campus through November 8th.

It tells the story of the shuttle through dozens of photos taken from the collection of Scott Andrews, who shot all but three of the missions, and his son Philip who worked with his father for the program's last five years.

Joe Corcoran spoke with Philip about the display and about his dad's career shooting history.

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.

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.

Kevin Willis

If the state of Kentucky is looking for an at-large ambassador for its small towns, they’d be hard pressed to find someone better suited for the job than Cory Ramsey.

The 33 year old WKU graduate works as a welder during the afternoons, but is a Kentucky traveler in the morning. In the past five years, Ramsey has been to every county in the commonwealth at least twice. During his travels, Ramsey mostly sticks to the backroads in order to see parts of the state that are off the beaten path.

His passion for exploring the commonwealth’s nooks and crannies led Ramsey to create Map Dot Kentucky, a website and social media venture dedicated to sharing pictures and stories related to Ramsey’s exploits throughout the state. Unlike some tourism websites that focus on large metro areas like Louisville and Lexington, Map Dot Kentucky is a place where small towns are celebrated.

Ramsey told WKU Public Radio that his upbringing in the small western Kentucky town of Hickman helped shape the way he views the commonwealth.

Bringing It Home the Movie

A documentary called "Bringing it Home," which trumpets the benefits of industrialized hemp, was shown before an audience in downtown Hopkinsville Saturday.

The film, by two North Carolina filmmakers spotlights the effort to use hemp as a building material for homes and warehouses.

 “[It’s] a material that is mold and mildew resistant, fire-retardant, pest-resistant and in addition to that, it’s absorbing carbon out of the atmosphere as well as toxins. What they’ve found is that it’s not only breathable but a very good thermal regulating construction material," said film co-director Linda Booker.

Booker has shown the documentary in several states, says the film was well-received in Christian County.

 “It was really great to see such a diverse audience of all ages,” said Booker.   “I know that there were farmers there and people just interested in looking at new job opportunities and new economic opportunities for your state.  And of course we talk about this on a national level as well."

Several industrial hemp pilot projects associated with state universities continue this summer across Kentucky. The mission of those projects is to figure out which types of hemp seeds grow best in the current climate.  The documentary’s co-director is Blaire Johnson.

PBS

A former PBS star known as “The Science Guy” and one of America’s most famous jazz musicians highlight the 18th season of WKU’s Cultural Enhancement Series.

Here is the lineup for the 2014-15 Cultural Enhancement Series, released Friday by the university:

Sept. 30: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, 7:30 p.m. at Van Meter Hall. The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, comprising 15 of the finest jazz soloists and ensemble players today, has been the Jazz at Lincoln Center resident orchestra since 1988. (Note: CES Premier Event; tickets available Aug. 25.)

Oct. 15: Bill Nye, 7:30 p.m. at E.A Diddle Arena. The scientist, engineer, comedian, author and inventor is a man with a mission: to help foster a scientifically literate society, to help people everywhere understand and appreciate the science that makes our world work. (Note: CES Premier Event; tickets available Sept. 15. Co-sponsored by the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky.)

Oct. 28: National Dance Company of Ecuador, 7:30 p.m. at Van Meter Hall. Performance is part of WKU’s celebration of the International Year of Ecuador. (Note: No ticket required; free seating on first-come, first-served basis.)

Nov. 18: Kentucky Glory: Gospel Music from the Commonwealth, 7:30 p.m. at Downing Student Union Auditorium. Performance will feature John Edmonds, Paul Moseley and The Northern Kentucky Brotherhood. (Note: No ticket required; free seating on first-come, first-served basis. Co-presented by the Kentucky Folklife Program at WKU.)

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