National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Jane Chu listened to grant recipients Tuesday tell about art-based community development projects that honor traditions in eastern Kentucky towns.
“Not only is it beautiful here, we have seen firsthand how the community has celebrated its long-established traditions created generations ago,” said Chu.
During a roundtable discussion at Appalshop, Chu encouraged representatives from organizations who have received NEA Our Town grants and ArtPlace America funding to continue use art-based projects to highlight their towns as well as collaborate with other grantees.
“Each community and each project is a different way of celebrating through the arts and at the same time when you come together collectively they are all altogether creating that community vitality,” said Chu.
Appalshop received an Our Town grant to create more public art in Jenkins to include large-scale photo banners depicting photographs by William R. “Pictureman” Mullins, a self-taught photographer born in 1886 in southwest Virginia. Appalshop has archived his work taken from 1935 to 1955.
At his studio in East Jenkins, Mullins specialized in paintings, portraits and frames.
The Appalachian Artisan Center of Kentucky obtained $75,000 in 2014 through the NEA’s Our Town grant to preserve the heritage of the dulcimer by researching Knott County’s history of the instrument, offering dulcimer lessons and by studying how the instrument is made. A curator gathered dulcimers for an exhibit at the Hindman center.
Mike Slone, a dulcimer maker in Hindman, said Uncle Ed Thomas began making dulcimers in 1910 in Knott County and produced 1,500 in his lifetime. Thomas sold dulcimers for $3 each.
Through various funding sources including NEA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development, Mandy Hart, executive director of the Center for Appalachian Philanthropy, said plans are in place to rehabilitate and renovate the historic Carter House Hotel, which will house the Promising Futures Program. Entrepreneurial trainings in wood artisan, bed and breakfast, and textiles, repurposing and design are catered to Lewis County residents to potentially begin small businesses in the Vanceburg area.
A $100,000 NEA Our Town grant awarded to Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College (SKCTC) is supporting the arts programming connected with the Good to Be Young in the Mountains Conference. Robert Gipe, coordinator of the Higher Ground Project, said the purpose of the grant is to turn the Higher Ground Project over to young people in the community.
Prescription drug abuse, outmigration, mine disaster and gender sexuality have all been addressed in five plays written and performed through the Higher Ground Project. The first play created in 2005 centered around what Gipe refers to as a prescription drug crisis and more than 80 community members including doctors, lawyers and inmates participated in the production.
“It had a real catalytic impact on the community,” said Gipe, director of the Appalachian program at SKCTC in Cumberland.
Gipe said it is important for youth to see professionals working in the arts in order to gain interest in pursing a similar career.
Belle Jackson, executive director of Berea Tourism, said Berea, the official arts and crafts capital of Kentucky, is using an Our Town grant to design a wayfinding system to point tourists and residents toward artistic and cultural assets in the town. Grant funding will be used to design and install signage in Berea.
Jenny Williams, of Pathfinders of Perry County, said construction is about to begin in downtown Hazard on the River Arts Greenway Project, which will develop land adjacent to the North Fork of the Kentucky River. Plans include public art, performance spaces, community gardens and a walking path. Phase one is funded by an ArtPlace America Grant.
“I want my community to be a place where I want to live and work,” said Williams.
Chu told the presenters that she is impressed with their commitment and dedication to the projects they spoke about during the roundtable discussion.
“I just love it when it comes together and you get to show the traditions,” she said. “Each of you have a very special place that you are wanting to highlight.”
As I sit here this beautiful Sunday morning after church writing this article thinking of all the good things God has done, I know we are a blessed people. Sorry I missed writing anything last week.
Late happy birthday to Thelma Roark Osborn, Gwen Amos and Delilah Breeding (seven years old), all on April 10; Chris Taylor on April 11; Phillip Fields on April 14; also having birthdays are Arlene Collins on April 15; Brad Johnson and Diana Abbot, both on April 16; Archie Wayne Fields turns 50, and Timbo Dobson has a birthday, both on April 17; Tammy Trent, April 20; and Courtland Gales will be nine years old April 21.
Anniversaries, Charles and Shirley Standifer, April 18, and Kathy and Eddie Wolfe will be married 67 years on April 22. Kathy is my sister and former writer for The Mountain Eagle. Love you, sis, happy anniversary.
In memory of this past two weeks; Avis Boggs Fields died two years ago on April 17; Mary Ellen Blanken would have been 72 on April 19. She was my aunt on Dad’s side.
Mark Pennington died one year ago on April 21; Dorothy Jean Miles would have celebrated her 60th wedding anniversary with her husband, Glen, on April 22. Gone from our homes but always in our hearts.
I met a descendant of the real McCoys last week in Pikeville. I was getting an oil change on my car, and a man and his wife, last name Conn.
His grandmother was a daughter of Samuel McCoy. I thought that was so neat. His grandmother died at the age of 92, in 2004.
Mr. and Mrs. Conn are from Pikeville, and living in Tennessee.
Hillbilly Days are going on this weekend in Pikeville, I think. It might be someplace fun to go.
Pray for the following, some are in the hospital or have been released, Eugene Day, Elmo Day, Brent Adams, Melinda “ Kay- Kay” Daniel, Grant Fields, Charles Large, Bug Yonts, Wayne Turner, Irene Day and Agnes Maggard.
Also, all those who are sick in body and spirit, the homeless, shut-ins, those that are bound with alcohol and drugs, all my relatives, friends and neighbors, King’s Chapel Church and all the pastors, especially Jeanne and Frank Adams.
I met another Howard, Benjamin, a son of Hillard Adams, and he is as pleasant as the rest of the Howards. He works in Pikeville.
Well, got to go. Have a good week, may God bless, until next time. Love you all.