Name a Kentucky tradition

If you were playing Family Feud and the category was Kentucky traditions, what would you say into the immovable podium microphone?

Maybe you would spout out something like: Horseracing! Bourbon! Coalmining! Bluegrass music! Fried chicken! Basketball!

Wearing fashionable, color-coordinated outfits, members of your immediate family would jump and clap as they watch a gigantic mechanical wall where checker-patterned rectangles flip over to reveal your exact words. The cyclical melody of the show’s theme music strikes up as you pump your fists in the air. Your opponents, the McCoys, shake their heads in despair, wishing they had thought of those traditions.

What constitutes a Kentucky tradition? All the ones you said when you were on the popular TV game show are fine examples. Quilting? That is another great one. What about a dance tradition that comes from India, or string music from China? Could those be considered Kentucky traditions?

That is a question we will explore with anyone visiting the wonderful Boone County Public Library in Burlington this summer. The Kentucky Arts Council’s traveling exhibit, The Makings of a Master, will be on display through June, July and August, showcasing some of Kentucky’s most beloved tradition bearers and the apprentices they teach.

The exhibit includes pictures, quotes, artifacts and videos you can view anytime the library is open. There will also be programs for you to attend for free. Here are details:

Friday, July 27, 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Lakshmi Sriraman

Lakshmi Sriraman

Lakshmi Sriraman of Lexington is a master of Bharatanatyam, a classical Indian dance form. She performs and teaches this centuries-old art form, fulfilling a strong demand in her central Kentucky community. Lakshmi and her apprentice Vasundhara Parameswaran will perform and answer questions about this living tradition and its cultural meaning, costumes and music.

Thursday, August 16, 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Hong Shao

Hong Shao

Hong Shao of Nicholasville is master of the pipa, a Chinese stringed instrument that has been around for at least two thousand years. Hong and her apprentice Leah Werking of Paris, Kentucky, will perform and discuss the intricate techniques of playing this instrument, and the stories and culture surrounding its characteristic sound.

Throughout Kentucky’s history, from the first Native Americans to Daniel Boone to today, everyone who has ever moved here brought their most treasured art forms and cultural traditions with them. Whether your family has been here for generations, or if you just arrived, you are part of Kentucky culture.

The arts council supports master tradition bearers from all kinds of Kentucky communities through its Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grant. We have collected these artists’ stories in an effort to document their role in Kentucky’s living, ever-changing cultural landscape.

I hope you will join us in learning about and celebrating these amazing Kentucky traditions, no matter what the survey says!

Mark Brown
Folk and Traditional Arts Director, Kentucky Arts Council

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