Arts & Culture

From its earliest days as America's homegrown whiskey elixir, Kentucky bourbon has been traveling on boats.

In fact, boats were a key reason why Kentucky became the king of bourbon. In the late 1700s, trade depended on waterways, and distillers in the state had a big advantage: the Ohio River. They'd load their barrels onto flatboats on the Ohio, which flowed into the Mississippi, taking their golden liquor as far down as New Orleans.


When Jan Allan Zarr takes the reins of the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center later this month, it will be a homecoming. 

Zarr has been hired as the new executive director of SKyPAC, a facility he helped open.  He’s been away for a year, but he told WKU Public Radio it won’t take long to get up to speed.

"The staff knows me, I know the staff," he said.  "That takes off a lot of pressure and time.  Normally, you come into a situation and you spend the next six months of the staff getting to know you, you getting to  know the staff and how everybody works."

Zarr currently directs the Topeka Performing Arts Center in Kansas.  His first day on the job in Bowling Green is March 24. 

SKyPAC, now in its third season, has seen a drop off in attendance, but Zarr says that’s normal. 

“You’re going to see that," replied Zarr.  "We started above the bar there and outpaced ourselves starting out.  What you’re seeing now is Skypac coming in where it should be.”

Emil Moffatt

A new executive director has been hired for the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center.  Jan Allan Zarr comes from the Topeka Performing Arts Center where he served as director. 

Zarr is actually returning to Skypac, having helped open the Bowling Green facility from 2011-2012.

Zarr replaces Tom Tomlinson, who resigned last month.

Poet Laureate Giving Workshop in Bowling Green

Feb 26, 2014

Budding poets will have a chance to work with Kentucky Poet Laureate Frank X Walker at a workshop in Bowling Green this weekend. The Warren County Public Library is hosting the event from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm Central time at its main branch on State Street.

Assistant Library Director Ashley Fowlkes says Walker has been popular during previous events at the library, saying he's very talented and a great teacher.

Walker is a founding member of the Affrilachian Poets and a writer in residence and lecturer of English at Northern Kentucky University. He's lectured, conducted workshops and read poetry at more than 300 national conferences and universities.

Admission to the workshop is free but registration is needed due to limited space. To register, call 270-781-4882 or email

Emil Moffatt

Three days after the resignation of SKyPAC’s executive director and CEO, the Bowling Green-based performing arts center has confirmed that it is laying off five employees. 

The vice chairwoman of the SKyPAC Foundation board tells the Daily News that SKyPAC may have been “overstaffed in some areas”.  Names of those who lost their jobs have not been made public.  No other layoffs are expected. 

CEO and Executive Director Tom Tomlinson departed last week for a job with another performing arts center outside of Kentucky.

Emil Moffatt

The Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center is searching for a new leader.

SKyPAC executive director and CEO Tom Tomlinson is leaving the Bowling Green-based organization to lead a new performing arts center outside the state.

Tomlinson was hired in early 2012 to lead SKyPAC following the $35 million dollar center’s opening.

A news release from SKyPAC says a search committee has been formed to find a new executive director.

Details on Tomlinson’s new job aren’t being released until next week, as the new employer requested confidentiality until then.

Pokey LaFarge

Among the things that make Pokey LaFarge stand out: his unique moniker, his throwback sound, the formal attire he often sports on stage and one of the songs from his latest album, which celebrates….a time zone.

I don’t mind the West Coast, and I don’t mind the East Coast, Oh, baby, but I ain’t gonna live on no coast. I’m just a plain ol’ Midwestern boy, gettin’ by on central time.

LaFarge says the song, called "Central Time", took him only five minutes to write

“Some songwriters would say that’s proof that it’s a good song,” said LaFarge. “Some of the best songs come out that way If it came out in five minutes, I wasn't even consciously thinking about it. It just came out.”

The 30-year-old St. Louis native along with his five-piece band will keep it within the Central time zone tonight as he performs in Bowling Green. The Pokey LaFarge sound can be described in a variety of different ways. He says it changes every time he’s asked.

“If I had to describe it today, I would say that it’s acoustic-rooted, horn-accentuated, lyric- and melody-driven Midwestern swing. How’s that?”

Owensboro Bluegrass Festival Announces Lineup

Feb 19, 2014

Organizers have announced the lineup for an annual bluegrass music festival sponsored by the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro.

The festival known as ROMP: Bluegrass Roots & Branches Festival will welcome Ricky Skaggs, Sam Bush and Del McCoury to the June three-day event. It is held at Yellow Creek Park in Owensboro and last year attracted about 21,000 bluegrass fans.

The museum announced the lineup of more than 20 artists and bluegrass bands last week. Other acts including Doyle Lawson, the David Grisman Folk Jazz Trio and Railroad Earth.

Tickets and camping passes can be purchased on the festival's website.

The ROMP festival is June 26-28.

Henderson County Honors Native Son Grandpa Jones

Feb 18, 2014

The Kentucky Historical Society has approved a proposed highway marker to honor country music legend Louis "Grandpa" Jones at his birthplace.

Linda Hallmark, vice-president of the Henderson County Historical and Genealogical Society, says the approval will allow the group to start fundraising for the project, which is expected to cost about $2,500.

WKU Kentucky Museum and Special Collections Library

Update: Visitation for Carlton Jackson will be from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14th at J.C. Kirby's on Lovers Lane. His funeral is Saturday, Feb. 15th at 2 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church.

Longtime WKU history professor and noted author Carlton Jackson has died at age 81.

“Carlton was a passionate historian and a very clever scholar who had a knack for finding an unusual, intriguing story and telling it in a way that really caught folks’ interest," said David Lee, Dean of Potter College of Arts & Letters.  "He was a master combination scholar-storyteller and a remarkable historian.”

Jackson authored several books including “Hattie: The Life of Hattie McDaniel”, the biography of the actress who won an Academy Award for her role of Mammy in "Gone With The Wind". He also wrote “P.S. I Love You: The Story of the Singing Hilltoppers”, chronicling the four Western Kentucky students who rose to national stardom as a singing group in the 1950s . 

“Carlton is kind of a WKU legend,” said Lee.   “Universities are extensions of the personalities who comprise them and Carlton was a distinctive, legendary figure who’s left a tremendous legacy to this university.”

Jackson was featured as a part of WKU's "View from the Hill" program in 2011.

Jackson was one of the first two faculty members to be named a University Distinguished Professor.  Born in Blount County, Alabama, he came to Western Kentucky in 1961.