Kevin's audio story about the Chester Cornett exhibit at WKU, featuring Kentucky Folklife Program director Brent Bjorkman
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.”
The archives of the Kentucky Folklife Program is being merged with the existing WKU Folklife Archives. With the transition of the KFP from the Kentucky Historical Society to Western Kentucky University earlier this year, parallel plans were made for the KFP archives to be transferred to the Kentucky Museum at WKU.
The Kentucky Folklife Program is moving to Western Kentucky University's Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology. The program's director will be Brent Bjorkman, who completed graduate work in folk studies at Western in 1998 and worked with the Kentucky Folklife Program in Frankfort and as associate director of the American Folklore Society.