Folk and Traditional Arts

From brass to bourbon: Celebrating the arts at Kentucky festivals

In honor of National Travel and Tourism Week, and because we’re excited about these warmer temperatures, we’ve compiled a list of 10 Kentucky festivals to not miss this summer. This festival guide will be your ticket to celebrating Kentucky arts and culture all summer long.

Lowertown Arts and Music Festival

May 16-17, Paducah

Recognized in 2012 and 2013 as one of the Top Ten Spring Festivals in Kentucky by Kentucky Tourism, the Lowertown Arts and Music Festival celebrates the cultural richness found in western Kentucky and the surrounding areas. The festival is free and features regional music, art, theater and food.

 Francisco’s Farm

May 17-18, Midway

 Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival is a juried art show that takes place at Midway College May 17-18. The festival features about 80 high quality artist booths, family and children’s activities, food, music and entertainment. This year, admission and parking are free. Although the location has varied in years past, this year’s festival will return to the Midway College campus.

 

Great American Brass Band Festival

June 5-8, Danville

The Great American Brass Band Festival, an internationally renowned music event, turns 25 in June. To celebrate the important milestone, the festival is inviting back brass groups from previous years. Joining former performers for the retrospective look back will be new ensembles and a range of band personalities and scholars. Dr. George Foreman, the founder of the Great American Brass Band Festival, will share stories and thoughts on the last 25 years and is expected to preview a future book on the GABBF. 

         

Maysville Uncorked! Wine and Art Festival

June 14, Maysville

Maysville Uncorked! draws thousands of visitors to Maysville each year on the second Saturday in June. Held in the historic downtown area, Maysville Uncorked! features Kentucky wineries from across the state as well as local and regional artisans. The event is hosted by the Maysville Players, one of the Commonwealth’s oldest theater companies

 

ROMP

June 26-28, Owensboro

Going on its 11th year, the ROMP festival is a “Bluegrass Roots and Branches” music festival in Owensboro, Ky., at Yellow Creek Park.  Romp stands for the “River of Music Party,” because of the festival’s previous location by the river, and is a joint effort of the International Bluegrass Music Museum, the Daviess County Fiscal Court and the city of Owensboro. The festival draws in upwards of 20,000 people every year.

 

Festival of Learnshops

July 11-27, Berea

Select a workshop from more than 100 choices to pursue your interest in sustainable living, culinary arts, collage, painting, Appalachian crafts, fiber arts, jewelry, glass, storytelling, literary arts, theater, music, dance, Native American folk arts, bonsai, woodworking, or professional development for educators. Workshops vary between two hours and five days and all are family friendly.

 Forecastle Festival

July 18-20, Louisville

 The Forecastle Festival in Louisville is fast becoming one of the state’s most popular festivals. Started in 2002, the three-day arts, music and activism event is held in Waterfront Park downtown. This year’s lineup includes big names like Beck, Jack White and Outkast as well as many other up and coming bands. The festival will also feature a Bourbon lounge and a Kentucky Landing area, a spot that will feature Kentucky-based creations, local craft breweries and food trucks from all across the Commonwealth.

Roots and Heritage Festival

Sept. 5-7, Lexington

The Roots and Heritage Festival is a celebration of African- American culture and achievements. The annual event has earned recognition as one of the Top Twenty Events in the Southeast named by the Southeast Tourism Society. The festival offers educational/cultural programs as well as a diverse group of food, clothing, music, literature and art vendors.

Kentucky Bourbon Festival

Sept. 16-21, Bardstown

 Started in 1992, the Kentucky Bourbon Festival offers a chance to celebrate Kentucky’s favorite spirit! The festival showcases the bourbon-making process and the incredible history behind the bourbon industry in Kentucky. Visitors can also enjoy distilleries’ tents and local artisans on the lawn of Spalding Hall. Participating bourbon makers include Barton Brands of Kentucky, Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon, Buffalo Trace Distillery, Bullit Distilling Company, Four Roses Distillery, Heaven Hill Distilleries Inc., Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark Distillery, Michter’s, Wild Turkey Distillery and Woodford Reserve

St. James Court

Oct. 3-5, Louisville

St. James Court is a juried fine arts and crafts show that hosts around 750 artists from around the country. The show is celebrating its 57th year and was founded in 1957 as a way to help develop and support St. James Court, one of Old Louisville’s most renowned neighborhoods.

For more information about upcoming events, festivals and Kentucky summer adventures, visit the Kentucky Department of Travel at http://www.kentuckytourism.com/

Alex Newby, Communications Assistant

Categories: Arts Organizations, Folk and Traditional Arts, Literary Arts, Other, Performing Arts, Visual Arts | Tags: ,

Scarecrows have invaded downtown Scottsville, Ky.

They have taken over the square. Big scarecrows, little scarecrows, hug-ably soft scarecrows and pointy-toothed scary scarecrows are all frozen in their own autumnal tableaux.

This annual assemblage is a great example of a living folk art tradition. Individuals, organizations and businesses join in the fun and express their aesthetics right in the heart of the city.

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Learn more about the Scottsville Scarecrow Invasion here.

How does your community celebrate this time of year? Share comments below.

Thanks, Scottsvillians, for this wondrous display. Also, congratulations to your newly-certified Kentucky Community Scholars who are working to identify and celebrate more folk art forms and heritage in the area.

Mark Brown, folk and traditional arts program diector

Categories: Folk and Traditional Arts | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Jazz apprenticeship of the divine nature

My one-year apprenticeship studying jazz piano with Jay Flippin ended in July. Jay and I went out with a bang with a joint, two-piano concert June 13 at Natasha’s Bistro in Lexington, Ky. One of my friends described the event as an apotheosis, a Greek word meaning “elevation to divine status.”  That night I certainly experienced a period of elation and excitement, possibly bordering on the divine, after a celebratory glass of wine when it was over.

Playing Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird Suite” with Jay on one piano and me on the other was as good as it gets. But this pinnacle celebration could not have taken place without an intense and arduous year of disciplined practice and hard work on my part, along with Jay’s generosity and willingness to share his treasure trove of piano experience and knowledge. So I think this combination of intense study and working toward a goal of playing jazz for an audience, and then actually doing it, was the fruition of a realized dream called an apotheosis. The Kentucky Arts Council Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program allowed me the unparalleled opportunity to devote myself to this task.

I have always wanted to play jazz, and have been a piano jazz fan and dabbler for many years.  I started studying with Jay a year before my apprenticeship began, which was the year I retired from my job of many years teaching art. So I know a good teacher when I see one. Because there were no grades, no pressure except what I placed upon myself, and no deadlines except a faraway collaboration of some sort, Jay’s lessons were always inspiring.

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Jay is a fountain of knowledge about jazz theory, history, jazz players and traditions. Born in a small mountain town, Jay learned jazz the way traditional musicians almost always learn their art. He learned by watching and listening to artists he admired, practicing hours and hours, imitating what he heard and learned, and then taking a risk and going out and playing in public! Most of all, Jay is one of the best jazz piano players around, having won five Emmys for original composition. Not only does he know how to play, but he knows how to tell you exactly what he is playing in terms of jazz theory. That is indeed a rare combination.

I have played the piano almost all of my life. Now I play for contra and swing dances, belong to the Reel World String Band, and have done all kinds of ensemble and solo piano work over the years. All of my piano work is now informed and changed by what I have learned during this apprenticeship. Because I was a teacher for many years, I also know what it’s like to be a good student. Jay said he appreciated me because I actually would do what he told me to do. I would follow his instructions. I taped all my lessons, so I could work with these recordings when I got home. You can’t really cram for a piano performance, so what you do is a result of what you have done, but the practicing definitely got more intense closer to the end of the apprenticeship.

At the beginning of my study with Jay, I was sure I knew what jazz sounded like, but that I would never be able to play it.  Now I know what is involved. I still think that, as Jay and others have said, that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. I know that I am on my way. I have the tools to do it, and it is a matter of refining my skills through practice, interacting with other musicians, and performance.

What I have gained from the apprenticeship and from Jay is the confidence and the desire to share jazz music with other players and listeners. I learned that you don’t have to be perfect to get out there and play, you just have to do it. It is perfectly legitimate to learn from your mistakes, as anyone will tell you. Now when I play, I also have the desire and the ability to educate people about some facet of jazz based on my own experience of the medium. I did not have this knowledge and experience of jazz before the apprenticeship. I thank the Kentucky Arts Council for giving me this opportunity to be a successful student, for acknowledging that jazz is a traditional Kentucky art form, and for creating such a valuable program to connect and showcase master artists and their aspiring students.

Elise Melrood, pianist, Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program participant

Categories: Arts Education, Folk and Traditional Arts, Performing Arts | Tags: , , ,

This summer, be an adventurous listener

When you travel this summer, music can be part of the journey and the destination. If you really want to have an adventure on the road, put aside your MP3 players and  favorite CDs, and forget the radio stations saved in your channel memory. Summer is a time to burst out of your usual, comfortable musical realm and be an adventurous listener!

 Journey with radio

Tune in, and turn on to something new. Radio is a conduit for creative and eclectic communities. Here are a few stations that will challenge and excite you while you travel across Kentucky:

WMMT-FM 88.7, Whitesburg

WRFL-FM 88.1, Lexington

WFPK-FM 91.9, Louisville

WKYU-FM, 88.9, Bowling Green

Music destinations

International Bluegrass Music Museum

Whether you love bluegrass music, or tend to avoid it, a trip to the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro and the Bill Monroe Homeplace in nearby Rosine will expand your mind. Experience the living legacy of bluegrass at the ROMP festival June 27-29.

Kentucky Music Hall of Fame

Here, you will experience exhibits, tours and programs about artists from many genres of American music who have made a big impact and who are all from Kentucky. Country and bluegrass? Check. Blues and pop? Check. Opera and jazz? Check.

National Thumbpickers Hall of Fame

Experience the birthplace of thumb style guitar made famous by Merle Travis and Chet Atkins. Visit the Merle Travis Music Center in Muhlenberg County at the end of summer—late September—when the Home of the Legends Weekend and the Hall of Fame ceremony occur.

Butcher Holler

Take in the sights and sounds of the home place of the proud coalminer’s daughter, Loretta Lynn. If you are lucky, you might arrange a tour with Loretta’s brother, Herman Webb, like this blogger did.  Butcher Holler is just one site along the Country Music Highway. Learn more and order a copy of More than Music: A Heritage Driving Tour of Kentucky’s Route 23 here.

National Jug Band Jubilee

Did you know that Louisville was the birthplace of this enduring DIY music style? Plan now to go to the Jubilee on Sept. 21, so you can close out your summer with a jubilant thhhhhbbbtt!

Go beyond these suggestions. It is easy to find out about festivals, performing arts centers, and jam sessions all over Kentucky. You can start by surfing the Performing Arts Directory to find video and audio of artists you like. Visit their websites, collect their music, go to their shows.

Have fun, be adventurous and then post your experiences and recommendations below.

Mark Brown, folk and traditional arts program director

Categories: Folk and Traditional Arts, Performing Arts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

My Journey Through a Storytelling Apprenticeship

Thanks to a Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grant from the Kentucky Arts Council, I started on a journey in July that has taken me to worlds I had never before visited. It’s a journey through storytelling. Although I’ve just traveled a short way down the first trail, I’m amazed at what I’ve learned. I’m enjoying this expedition with my friend and guide, Appalachian storyteller Pam Holcomb. She has shown me the way to places I never would have visited on my own. Worlds of fables, imagination and creativity are all ready to come into your life if you open your mind. With Pam’s guidance, I have learned that anything is possible through stories. Teaching youth the truth about difficult topics, talking to an audience about complicated issues, or getting the attention of those you never thought would listen to you; they’re all possible through storytelling.

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Pam Holcomb and Gwenda Adkins during their apprenticeship site visit

A spur off our main trail has taken me into an unlit land I never realized was so amazing and misunderstood. Sometimes dark places appear evil and forbidden, but if you conquer your fears and enter the passage, there may be a bright spot waiting for someone to find it. This life event has opened my eyes and my world to a condition that approximately 10,000 babies born in the United States each year will develop. Its name is cerebral palsy (CP), a group of disorders that can involve brain and nervous system functions such as movement, learning, hearing, seeing and thinking.

Why did Pam lead me to CP? It wasn’t just the condition that took us to this place, it was the person. She was born in January 1972 and weighed just a bit more than two pounds. She tried to come before Christmas, but the doctors talked her into waiting a bit. Even so, she was born two months early. She, like Pam, is a native of Harlan County Kentucky. Her name is Kristy “Bee” Barrett, one of Pam’s very dear high school students.

Kristy’s mom felt her daughter’s growth and development wasn’t on time with other babies. The doctors kept saying, “Its because she was a preemie. She just has to catch up.” Kristy didn’t catch up; she was diagnosed with CP at 18 months old. She and her family also began an amazing life journey. Although she didn’t “catch up” with age developmental expectations, Kristy has flown past most people her age when it comes to lifelong achievements.

Kristy is now 41 years old. She and Pam are very close friends. Kristy refers to her CP as her gift from God. She says,”I am the way He wanted me to be.”

Pam tells a story titled “Three Steps.” Through emotional words and expressions, Pam explains how excited Kristy was when she took three steps without the assistance of a walker, wheelchair or other device. She couldn’t wait to tell Pam and all her other friends at school. Just three steps, that’s all she has ever taken. But the races she has won are countless. Those races—along with Kristy’s attitude toward life, people and her gift—encouraged Pam to ask me to join her in telling Kristy’s story as the culminating project for my storytelling apprenticeship.

So this unknown land called cerebral palsy is more than something to pass through. Its a place to pause and reflect, a place to learn and share, a place to listen and grow. I have learned about CP, but my short time with Kristy really taught me about life and how to live it to the fullest. From her, I learned you have to conquer your fears and take chances. Kristy has done both. She can show the world that a person is not defined by a condition, the person defines the condition. Kristy has chosen “Bee Still, Embrace My Gift” as the title for her life story.

I have written four short stories about Kristy and have a couple of others in my mind. I fear there are way too many great things to tell than 90 minutes will allow. What I hope is that Pam and I can wrap our arms around Kristy’s many accomplishments and relay them to the public as an inspirational production that makes her proud and celebrates her life and her gift.

The CP spur is only one pause in my journey, it certainly didn’t stop it. On February 23, I joined my mentor and other Kentucky storytellers for a program in Harlan, Ky. Harlan County extension agents Jeremy and Theresa understand the importance of storytelling, so they host events for the public and invite storytellers to participate. I helped with the Storytelling in the Mountains” spring event and also told a story for the first time to a public audience. Learning by doing is wonderful, but learning by watching Kentucky’s great storytellers perform…priceless.

Only half of my storytelling apprenticeship journey remains. Where will it take me…I dare not imagine because my guide is creative and doesn’t mind to enter untamed territory. Perhaps you and I will bump into each other on the trail. Thank you, Kentucky Arts Council, for the opportunity to blaze a new life trail.

Gwenda Huff -Johnson, storyteller

Learn more about he rjourney on her  blog “Gwenda’s Storytelling Trail”

Categories: Folk and Traditional Arts, Literary Arts | Tags: , , , , ,

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