Bibelots and other nautical hijinks

A few months ago I was asked to judge Improbable Baubles at the Headley-Whitney Museum in Lexington. This hands-on program is designed to give Fayette, Franklin, Jessamine, Scott and Woodford County public and private school children the opportunity to create, perform and respond to art.  Participating students “learn the history of George Headley, his artwork and bibelots, and his significance to Kentucky.” This event benefits participating schools, as it directly ties into the Kentucky Department of Education Program Review in Arts and Humanities. The museum curator provides materials and lesson plans from which each child can make his or her own bibelot. Students then write artist statements, critique the work or their peers and choose among themselves who will go on to the main competition.

That’s where I came in. This must be a red letter year, because I have been invited to participate in four arts-related activities in as many months. They have all been fun, exciting and fulfilling, but this was by far the most amusing. And, this was just the judging!

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This Saturday, Improbable Baubles opens to the public with a grand reception, complete with a candy buffet. First, second, third and fourth place awards will be given, and each of us bestowed a judge’s choice award. Thanks to Toyota, students 18 and under will receive free admission for the duration of the exhibit, so don’t miss these objets d’art.

Sarah Schmitt, arts access director 

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Categories: Arts Education | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Buying local for the holidays: It’s personal

For the past three years, it’s been my priority to buy local for Christmas. It really was hard at first, but now it’s relatively easy. Starting a new job at the Kentucky Arts Council hasn’t hurt, either, because it is currently my job to promote Kentucky artists and businesses for the holiday buying season. Not a bad gig, eh?

When you buy from a local artist, it’s not only personal for you and the person you’re buying for, but also for the artist who puts their heart and soul into each and every unique piece. Artwork brings character to the world around you. Each piece created by a local artist helps you embrace what makes your community home.

Chances are you know why to buy local, but do you know how? Here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Start early
    I usually start around October brainstorming, making lists and asking my family what they want. It’s not until November that I start buying. This also helps you budget and find meaningful gifts, instead of absentmindedly throwing things in a shopping buggy because it’s on sale.
  2. Do your research
    Look around your town. Browse the Internet. You can start by taking advantage of the arts council’s online artist directories. Simply go to http://artscouncil.ky.gov/, click Find An Artist at the top of the page, and search based on the artist’s medium. Know someone who seems to have everything? Use this to your advantage! Done and done.
  1. Talk to business owners
    I can’t stress this enough. Have fun making connections with local shop owners. Get to know them. They have a wealth of knowledge of what’s available. They know where to find more unique items. As an added bonus, they’ll be able to share a personal story that goes along with the pieces. How cool is it to pass that story along? It’s like two gifts in one!
    To help start your journey, we have more than 20 businesses designated as Kentucky Crafted Retailers. These businesses carry items made in Kentucky by Kentucky artists. This includes those in the arts council’s Kentucky Crafted Program, Architectural Artists Directory and Performing Arts Directory. Many retailers also have special events, promotions and discounts throughout the holiday season. Basically, we’ve done a lot of the hard work for you! You’re welcome. http://artscouncil.ky.gov/KentuckyArt/retailers.htm.
  1. Follow the trends
    You can get a lot of inspiration from social media. Look for certain hashtags, turn on the Google machine, search through Facebook, etc. Tip: Keep it simple! This will help you find shops that have Facebook pages and events. For example, during our Give A Gift Made in Kentucky campaign, the arts council is tagging local artists, experiences and items using #giveagiftky on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out our Give a Gift Pinterest board for even more “Pinspiration.”

    Let your gift-giving experience be a journey. Have fun! It shouldn’t be a chore. Here’s some items I’ve found so far: (*Spoiler alert for my family!*)

For the children (or animal lovers) in your family, Judy & Gordon Geagley make precious stuffed critters. They’re made from upcycled clothes and quilts. If your family is like mine, your cup probably runneth over with children. These gifts are safe, adorable and affordable.

For the children (or animal lovers) in your family, Judy & Gordon Geagley make precious stuffed critters. They’re made from up-cycled clothes and quilts. If your family is like mine, your cup probably runneth over with children. These gifts are safe, adorable and affordable.

For the author or reader, take a look at these Memory Book Ornaments by ReImagined by Luna. The mini-books can be used for writing little notes or memories. They are made from reclaimed leather and recycled, acid-free paper and are available in many colors.

For the author or reader, take a look at these Memory Book Ornaments by ReImagined by Luna. The mini-books can be used for writing little notes or memories. They are made from reclaimed leather and recycled, acid-free paper and are available in many colors.

I've fallen in love with the work of Melisa Beth Zimmerman. Her ceramic ornaments are only $8. They’re hand stamped, then painted with bright colors. They come in snowflakes, peace doves and stars.

I’ve fallen in love with the work of Melisa Beth Zimmerman. Her ceramic ornaments are only $8. They’re hand stamped, then painted with bright colors. They come in snowflakes, peace doves and stars.

This is the first time in years I’ve been able to truly enjoy the spirit the holiday season brings. I can actually take the time to search and browse for the perfect item they need and deserve. To say I’m excited is an understatement. Knowing I’ll be showing off the talent of Kentucky artists is only fueling that re-born childlike holiday spirit.

Megan Williamson Fields, communications assistant

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Good food deserves better: revenge of the ramekin

This post has nothing to with ramekins. It’s just that this is the fourth in a series of musings about artful dinnerware, and I’m running out of clever sequel titles.

If you’ve read the other three posts, you know the gist. If you’re going to entertain this holiday season – or anytime around the calendar – don’t serve your wonderful food on trash (i.e., disposable plates and aluminum pans). Conversely, if all you have time to prepare is a “pack of Nabs,” at least unwrap them and place them on a tea towel in a lovely basket. Make bad food look edible, and good food look superb by serving on Kentucky Crafted items for the kitchen and dinning room.

I’ve covered the basics like plates, mugs and casserole dishes, and now I’d like to get fancy. The following are not things that everyone needs. What you are about to experience covers two things important to holiday entertaining: wowing the cream cheese out of the people who come to your house and finding gift items for the gourmand who thinks he or she already has everything.

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For example, you’re never going to impress your wine aficionado friend with a bottle of wine, unless you’re a sommelier. Stop trying, and buy this fine wine caddy by Doug Haley. Made from maple, cherry or exotic woods, the caddy will hold bottles, glasses and even cheese and crackers or desserts.

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I know it’s not practical to buy kitchen gadgets that only do one thing, but sometimes a uni-tasker’s unique nature is a good conversation starter (i.e., guest impresser). Besides, Stone Fence Pottery’s garlic grater works up garlic and artfully presents oil emulsions for dipping – that’s one more task than a regular, old garlic press.

3 chip and dip final_1

Matthew Gaddie is a skilled ceramicist, but — I’m embarrassed to admit — I had no idea what this was when I first saw it at Kentucky Crafted: The Market.  I sort of thought it was a bird bath, maybe? That’s why these things are best left to the artists; this is actually a genius chip and dip or salad bowl, equipped to serve three different dressings or dips. This is the reason he was best of show in 2014, and I’m merely writing an article about his creations. Amazing, impressive, and no one else you know has one. Furthermore, you can get the ugly Wishbone and Ken’s Steakhouse dressing bottles off of your gorgeous table.

So that’s how you dazzle even the most ennui-ridden epicurean. Oh! I almost forgot; here’s an assortment of ramekins from Tater Knob Pottery in case you were feeling cheated by the title.

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Sarah Schmitt, arts access director 

Categories: Other, Visual Arts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering our great ones

The problem with a being an arts administrator is that you spend so much time administering the arts that you have little occasion to enjoy them. Wonderful opportunities offered by our Kentucky Arts Partners and program artists pass over our desk, and we lament not having the time to attend or participate in all of them.

We are pleased to report that this year, the planets aligned in such a way that we will be able to join the celebration during the Living Arts and Science Center Day of the Dead Festival at the Old Episcopal Burying Ground in Lexington.

We are creating an altar honoring late Kentucky artists with Kentucky-centric ofrendas. Our intention is to be faithful to the spirit of the traditional Dia de los Muertos celebration, while offering a cross-cultural interpretation that is also true to the Commonwealth. We look forward to learning and sharing on Nov.1 and, of course, having some fun.

 John Tuska style papel picado

Papel picado we made in the style of John Tuska, one of Kentucky’s great artists.

We will feature photos of artists who have passed like Rosemary Clooney, Bill Monroe, Rude Osolnik, Skeeter Davis, James Baker Hall and many others. Ofrendas will include all those foods and items a Kentucky artist might miss if far from home.

Heine Brothers’ Mexico Maya Vinic

There are layers upon layers of meaning in this offering of Heine Brothers’ Mexico Maya Vinic.

It’s inspiring to watch a Day of the Dead celebration become a part of the annual fall landscape in Lexington. This holiday from another country and culture certainly has resonance in a new home. This is likely because the participants — whether first –generation Kentuckians or tenth-generation Kentuckians — place a strong value on remembering those who came before. Nowhere is this value more evident than in our art. You can hear it in our musician’s songs and read in our author’s words. Kentucky’s strong sense of place has as much to with people who walked it and were inspired by it throughout their life, as it does with the land itself.

Sarah Schmitt, arts access director

Categories: Folk and Traditional Arts | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

InSights

Kentucky is home to many nationally important organizations like Actors Theatre and Appalshop. We tend to think of them as “ours,” but it’s important to remember the impact many of these places have beyond the borders of the Commonwealth. The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) is one of these Kentucky organizations with great reach, and it has served blind Americans since 1858 as the national leader in providing accessible media, training and products.

APH serves artists who are blind or have vision loss through InSights, an annual juried visual art competition and exhibition. Each year the contest receives about 350 national and, sometimes, international entries. Judges from Louisville’s education and art community select pieces for display at the APH annual meeting in October, which took place on Oct. 16-18. “Prize winners are invited to come to Louisville to receive their awards at an evening banquet. Artwork from entries may also be reproduced in the annual InSights calendar and as images on greeting cards.”

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I had the pleasure of viewing the exhibit this year. Now in it’s 30th year, the APH has a solid process and guiding philosophy for InSight. Artists must be legally blind by the federal definition. The judges come from diverse backgrounds —  they are artists, gallery owners, educators, etc. Each piece is judged on its own artistic merit with first, second and third places awarded in several school grades, an ungraded school-age category and an adult category. The show is also further curated by adding pieces that did not receive awards but contribute to the aesthetic of the exhibit.

I had many favorites, but I spent extra time on the following quilt. The piece came from a group of 17 students at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Mass., in the ungraded school-age category. Each square was developed on the theme of “What Growing in Your Garden” and comes with an accompanying Haiku. Flowers, fruits, grains and vegetables are all hanging out in a quilt that remind the viewer of farmer’s market stalls. The result is powerful, colorful collaborative art.

Sarah Schmitt, arts access director

Categories: Visual Arts | Tags: , , ,

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