Good food deserves better: mean mugs

‘Tis the season for me to sound off about serving your delicious holiday food on something better than garbage (i.e. disposable plates, utensils and bakeware). For the 2015-16 holiday season, I am turning my attention to a very specific kitchen item used by a very specific group of aficionados.

Coffee drinkers are serious. There are a few of them at the arts council, and each is almost as passionate about coffee as he or she is about art. As matter of a fact, I have joked that the only acceptable excuse for being late to an arts council meeting is needing to go make another cup of coffee.

If you or someone you know is a coffee enthusiast or just a plain addict, don’t let them go another day pouring their Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee in a Styrofoam cup or hand-me-down mug. Good coffee deserves to be encapsulated and embraced by beauty.

Here are just few examples from the arts council’s “personal” collection (click on the photo for more information about the item):

Obviously these meticulously handcrafted items will cost more than a dollar store mug, but it’s easy to justify the expense for something used daily – sometimes four or five times a day. Besides, it’s a kindness to our environment – a gift for friend and a gift for the earth.

Sarah Schmitt
Arts access director



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Kentucky-made wearables will fight the chill this holiday season

This year, I’m all about handmade wearables. I recently purchased a unique hand-woven poncho from Maiken Ischiel Young and I can’t wait to wear it to a festive holiday function this month. Maiken also has simple, thick and soft woven scarves, to keep the winter chill away.

I purchased wearables as gifts, too: beautiful silk scarves by Laverne Zabielski and Judy Kushner for my mom and stepmom (who I hope don’t read this!). Laverne’s scarves are dyed in rich, vibrant hues that really pop when worn. She sometimes uses a felt loom and combines felt with silk, for a more substantial scarf. Judy’s colors are lovely and subtle. I chose a scarf in a burn-out pattern that gives it added texture and dimension. A simple scarf doesn’t have to cost a lot of money and it adds special flair to an outfit.

Another unique item, and a popular gift in my family, is Mary Lamb Nehring’s brightly dyed bamboo knit socks. I have given several pairs of these socks as gifts and the recipients always tell me they are their favorite socks. They are thick and wonderfully soft and dyed in fun colors.

Whether you’re looking for something small and simple, something warm and cozy, or something unique and stylish, Kentucky fiber artists have lots to offer!

Kate Sprengnether
Public art and design director


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The gift of Kentucky literature

The colder and darker evenings of December drive me indoors in search of warmth and light. To help ward off winter, I like to settle in front of the fire with a cup of hot tea or coffee or cocoa (or a glass of wine) and a good book. I have my favorite authors, living and dead, literary and popular, fiction and nonfiction and poetry. But I can’t helping thinking how amazing it would be to wake up Christmas morning and find one or two or 10 books by some of Kentucky’s finest and most honored writers of poetry and prose, the state’s poets laureate. Please, Santa?

Kentucky Poet Laureate George Ella Lyon

Kentucky Poet Laureate George Ella Lyon

The current Kentucky Poet Laureate, George Ella Lyon, is a prolific writer of books for children and adults alike. Her most recent book, “Boats Float!” (Atheneum Books for Young Readers) includes cheery illustrations by Mick Wiggins, and will make any child or adult dream of voyages over the sea, across the lake or down the river. Did I mention that I’m a big fan of children’s books and can’t imagine giving them up just because I’m above the recommended reading age? If you prefer a book more befitting your age, consider “Many-Storied House” (University Press of Kentucky), a book of poems based on memories of Ms. Lyon’s childhood home (one poem for each room in the house), and “A Kentucky Christmas” (University Press of Kentucky), a collection of holiday stories, poems, songs and essays that includes such stellar homegrown writers as Ms. Lyon, Wendell Berry, Frank X Walker, Jean Ritchie and many more.

WhereImFrom-bannerJust a quick side note, this is also a good time to become a part of the poet laureate project, Kentucky’s “Where I’m From:” A Poetry of Place. Open to all Kentucky residents, participants use Ms. Lyon’s poem “Where I’m From” to commemorate and share their own personal histories and traditions.

For additional ideas, check out the list below of books by some of the Commonwealth’s past poets laureate. These and other titles can be picked up at your local bookstore or ordered from the publishers. I’m giddy just thinking about finding a stack of these books wrapped in a big red bow under my Christmas tree!

Frank X Walker, Kentucky Poet Laureate 2013-2014: “About Flight” (Accents Publishing), “Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers” (The University of Georgia Press)

Gurney Norman, Kentucky Poet Laureate 2011-2012: “Ancient Creek” (Old Cove Press), “Divine Right’s Trip” (Gnomon Press)

Maureen Morehead, Kentucky Poet Laureate 2009-2010: “Late August Blues: The Daylily Poems” (Larkspur Press), “The Melancholy Teacher” (Larkspur Press)

Jane Gentry Vance, Kentucky Poet Laureate 2007-2008): “A Garden in Kentucky” (Lousiana State University Press), “Portrait of the Artist as a White Pig” (Lousiana State University Press)

Sena Jeter Naslund, Kentucky Poet Laureate 2005-2006: “The Fountain of St. James Court; or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman: A Novel” (HarperCollins Publishers), “Adam & Eve” (HarperCollins Publishers)

Joe Survant, Kentucky Poet Laureate 2003-2004: “The Land We Dreamed: Poems” (University Press of Kentucky), “Rafting Rise” (University Press of Florida)

James Baker Hall, Kentucky Poet Laureate 2001-2002: “Orphans & Elegies” (Larkspur Press), “Firesticks” (Larkspur Press)

Richard Taylor, Kentucky Poet Laureate 1999-2000: “Fading into Bolivia” (Accents Publishing), “Rain Shadow” (Broadstone Books)

Tamara Coffey
Individual artist director

Categories: Literary Arts

Horsin’ around for the holidays

Tom-horse headWhen I first spoke to Kentucky Crafted artist Eugene King on the phone, I liked him right away. If art is his livelihood, you’d never know it because he talks about his work with such an easygoing manner, as if he didn’t have to create art for a living. Seeing his work, you know woodwork is something he enjoys, because each piece is a demonstration of care and attention to detail.

Eugene’s pieces were among the most popular at the Kentucky Arts Council’s Kentucky Crafted @ the Breeders’ Cup Festival in late October. I’m no retail expert, but I believe his work sold so well because it was well-made, practical and affordable.

The most sought after of his pieces at our Breeders’ Cup Festival event was his horse head cutting board. In addition to being a great artisanal cutting board to put out at a party for cheeses, it can also be used exclusively for decoration. It’s a great gift for the horse lover in your life or for friends visiting from out of state who want to take a symbolic piece of Kentucky home with them.

Tom Musgrave
Communications director

Categories: Other

My child has enough toys

Actually, to say “my child has enough” is an understatement. My child has more toys than he even wants, let alone needs. After last year, Santa has given up trying to outdo my son’s grandparents. Santa would have to pawn his sled and borrow against the equity of his workshop to keep up with the grandmas and grandpas.

This wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t have a small house, and the desire to avoid raising an entitled brat. Besides, we’ve found something my son loves as much as toys. Plays – he loves to see plays.

He may be naturally drawn to the stage, but I have to give some credit to the environments and performances he experienced for his first two dramas. We took him to see The BFG produced by StageOne Family Theatre at the Kentucky Center in early October. He had such a good time that we followed that up with “Zombie in Love” at Lexington Children’s Theatre on Halloween. A few weeks ago, we attended a dress rehearsal of “A Year with Frog and Toad.” I implore you; do not miss your opportunities to take your kids, cousins, nieces and nephews or neighbor’s kids to see this show in December.


They even let us meet the zombies.

This year, Santa is buying theater tickets. He doesn’t even have to deliver them; he can just leave them at will call. Long after the wrapping paper, ribbons and obnoxious toys have been broken or discarded, we’ll still be enjoying “Puss in Boots,” “Duck for President” and “Harold and the Purple Crayon.”

Other benefits of buying experiences instead of toys:

  • No assembly (or abstruse instructions).
  • No batteries (or awful, unnecessary noises and sounds).
  • No cleanup (on Christmas morning or for years after).
  • No late night foot injuries (I’m looking at you Legos and Barbie shoes).

A helpful tip: although they are well into their season, you can still get season tickets (i.e., discounted) for the remaining plays at Lexington Children’s Theatre. They even feature a helpful guide for picking the right performances by age group. All of their plays tie into a book or traditional story that you can share with your children before and after the play.

Sarah Schmitt
Arts Access Director

Categories: Other

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