Posts Tagged With: arts businesses

Buy local, buy unique, buy art

Challenge yourself this holiday season to buy at least one gift from a Kentucky artist. Why? There are certainly many reasons to support your creative neighbors. Here are just a few thoughts.

1. Strengthen the local economy

2. Encourage thriving, distinct communities

3. Invest in your community

4. Make better use of your tax dollars

When you buy local, more of your money stays in your community, whether you define community as your town, your region or your state. Purchasing a product from a corporation headquartered thousands of miles away means little of your money stays in the community. Should you even care?

Well, yes. Local taxes support local services, like your fire department, public library, police station and public schools. Small business owners and their employees (who are usually local people) benefit from increased revenue, increasing their purchasing power.

Small, local businesses also invest in their communities, sponsoring activities and events that promote community spirit, pride and involvement. These events — festivals, gallery hops, youth sports teams, concerts — create a wonderful and desirable atmosphere. Don’t think job-creating companies fail to notice great quality of life. As John Petterson, senior vice president of operations and manufacturing, told the Lexington Herald-Leader in 2010 on Tiffany & Co.’s decision to open a manufacturing facility in Lexington, Ky.:

“I want to be employing people in areas where I think they are going to have a great quality of life,” Petterson said, noting the city’s arts, history and sports activities. “That’s important to us at Tiffany.” [site]

Where to start?

First, check out the fantastic artists and musicians listed in the Kentucky Arts Council’s directories: Kentucky Crafted, Architectural Artist Directory and Performing Arts Directory.

Peek into an open studio, gallery or showroom

Visit one of the special artist events happening across Kentucky in November and December. You can find a list of activities and participating Kentucky Crafted and Architectural artists here. We’ve also put together a list of Kentucky Crafted retailers that sell a wide variety of Kentucky-made merchandise. Several retailers are hosting special events and promotions throughout the holiday season.

Put a name with a purchase

Take a tip from Arts Marketing Director Ed Lawrence in “Double Your Pleasure” and spend a pleasant weekend afternoon meandering the countryside, stopping at a few studios and putting a face and name with a purchase.

Look at the Creative Commonwealth archives

We love promoting Kentucky artists and their excellent work. You can find several great posts featuring gift recommendations on the Creative Commonwealth blog. Here are a few of my favorites:

Give a gift from Kentucky: good food deserves better!

Give a gift from Kentucky: six ways to black(out) Friday

Give a gift from Kentucky: no need for a chemistry textbook with these skincare products

Good food still deserves better!

Rings to Riches

Don’t forget the holiday gift guide

Kentucky Monthly magazine just released an online holiday gift guide  featuring many Kentucky Crafted artists and retailers.

I’m sure you’ll find a one-of-a-kind present that’ll knock the socks off the person you’re buying for. Feel free to post your best finds on our Facebook page . We’d love to hear from you. Happy holidays, everyone.


Heidi Caudill, administrative associate 

Categories: Arts Advocacy, Other | Tags: , , , , , ,

Things to know: 2012 Governor’s Awards in the Arts recipients

2012 Governor's Award sculpture

The 2012 Governor’s Award was created by Louisville artist Mark Needham.

October is National Arts and Humanities month and the Kentucky Arts Council has several events that coincide with the month-long celebration. One of those is the Governor’s Awards in the Arts at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, in the Capitol Rotunda, Frankfort. Arts council staff has been planning for the day for some time. As I have only been part of the staff for about five months, it has been an interesting process to participate in and observe.

As communications director, my main role in planning for the event was writing biographies for the awards program. For me, a former journalist and naturally inquisitive person who enjoys learning how other people live, work and play, this was a great assignment.

The 2012 award recipients are pretty fascinating. I wanted to take a moment to share with you a few facts about each recipient. In case you can’t make it to the awards ceremony next week, you can still know a little about your fellow Kentuckians.

Milner Award – William G. Francis, Prestonsburg: Mr. Francis and his wife, Linda Sadler Francis, have been major supporters of Jenny Wiley Theatre for more than 30 years. That’s three decades of faithful support that includes fundraising, financial contributions, providing housing for countless summer-stock employees, performing administrative tasks, selling concessions, handing out umbrellas and even cleaning up the theater after storms threatened to halt productions. Wouldn’t it be great if all theaters had a William Francis?

Artist Award – Gray Zeitz, Owenton: Mr. Zeitz is the only publisher of books printed in the letterpress style in Kentucky. A friend to Kentucky authors, Mr. Zeitz is one of the only letterpress publishers in the nation to print two editions of his books – an affordable version and a special edition. He said he feels it’s important to make an affordable version so that more people will discover the beauty and art of the letterpress style.

Business Award – UK HealthCare Arts in HealthCare Program, Lexington: I’ll be honest, I’m a little biased when it comes to UK HealthCare Arts in Healthcare. I have a family member who has spent considerable time in this hospital. In turn, I have spent considerable time visiting this hospital. Art is everywhere. It offers a welcome respite from the stress that comes along with a hospital visit. I am so personally appreciative of the program. So it was great to learn the program was an integrated effort that included input from the community and employees all while keeping the needs of patients and families in mind. It also features artwork by artists from every region of Kentucky. Putting Kentucky artists to work is always a reason to cheer.

Community Arts Award – Latitude Artist Community, Lexington: In just 12 years, Latitude has made an enormous impact in its community and far beyond. Latitude is an agency without borders. It serves all people, with an emphasis on artists with disabilities. Latitude uses art to improve the lives of all it serves, best summed up in this quote from one of its founders, Bruce Burris. “The lives for many of us with disabilities are unreasonably difficult, and there are few occasions to function as a fully realized human…The arts help in this capacity, allowing us to – at the very least – share intimate potential without negative consequences and with the possibility that sharing can lead to change.”

Education Award – Christina Hartke Towell, Morehead: I’m not playing favorites, but Mrs. Hartke Towell’s story is massively impressive. She created the Lucille Caudill Little Strings Program in the Rowan County school system. More than 140 students, including elementary, middle and high school students, as well as students with disabilities, have learned how to perform as soloists, in small chamber ensembles, and in large orchestra ensembles. Mrs. Hartke Towell started the string program to encourage participation in, and instill awareness and appreciation of, string music performance. Isn’t it wonderful Kentucky has artists dedicated to creating and ensuring the future of the arts?

Folk Heritage Award – Leona Waddell, Cecilia: Mrs. Waddell has dedicated her life – and let me be clear, I mean more than 80 years – to conserving and perfecting the south central Kentucky white oak basket making tradition. She learned to make baskets as a child, with her 15 siblings, at her mother’s feet. What I found most interesting about Mrs. Waddell was her willingness to share her craft. Mrs. Waddell is known for inspiring others to excel in their own basket making and encouraging young weavers early in their careers. She has also restored basket making techniques that were once thought to be lost. Truly inspirational.

Government Award – U. S. Rep. John Yarmuth, Louisville: I could spend the whole day writing about the countless ways Congressman Yarmuth has supported and participated in the arts during his lifetime. But I’ll sum it up quickly. Congressman Yarmuth has set himself apart from other governmental arts supporters in many ways, but none more notable than by donating his congressional salary to numerous non-profit and charitable organizations, many with an arts focus like the Governor’s School for the Arts, Louisville’s Fund for the Arts and the Kentucky School of Art. Since he first ran for Congress in 2006, Yarmuth has donated more than $600,000 to such organizations.

Media Award – Jeffrey Lee Puckett, Louisville: I always enjoy a story where a person is so intent on pursuing a specific career that they will do anything to get there. Mr. Puckett, a music journalist, began his career in 1985 at The Courier-Journal, but he wasn’t writing about music. His first assignment was covering youth sports in the paper’s Neighborhoods section. Mr. Puckett was so intent on writing for the newspaper, he didn’t care much about what beat he covered. He readily admits he still doesn’t understand soccer.

National Award – Bobbie Ann Mason, Lawrenceburg: I don’t think I could possibly say anything about Ms. Mason that hasn’t been said by someone much more eloquent than me. So let me state the obvious. Ms. Mason is a true Kentucky treasure and her career is one that many use for inspiration in their own writing. What I really enjoy about the work Ms. Mason has produced during her three decades of publishing is her ability to tell the human story in a way that is relatable to readers of all tastes. If you’re a great reader and lover of literature, you know there are times you search high and low – and still come up empty-handed – for a book you can connect with. Luckily, we never have to worry about that with Bobbie Ann Mason.

Follow the links to read full biographies of each award recipient. We hope to see you on Oct. 9 at the presentation of the state’s highest honors in the arts.

Emily B. Moses, communications director

Categories: Other | Tags: , , , , ,

Top ten tips for creating (and sustaining) a blog

This morning I gave a presentation about blogging within a government agency to the Kentucky Association of Government Communicators. Although there were a few suggestions specific to government, most of them were just common sense for all bloggers.

It occurred to me that there may be artists and others who might benefit from some of the lessons we’ve learned from hosting Creative Commonwealth for over two years (woohoo!).

Tip 1: Do you even need a blog?

Google (who owns Blogger) defines a blog as, “…a web site, where you write stuff on an ongoing basis. New stuff shows up at the top, so your visitors can read what’s new. Then they comment on it or link to it or e-mail you. Or not.” It’s a silly definition, but no less true. Our blog has been a place to share feature articles about cool events we produce; explain the ways in which our jobs can be fascinating; brag about the artists we work with; and illustrate that we are truly dedicated to promoting the arts in Kentucky. A blog may do something different for you. If you don’t have the time; if you don’t have a list of people who you might share with; and you can’t think of five good blog posts off the top of your head—then a blog may not be for you. Don’t create a blog you can’t sustain and then later have to mercy kill. Not everyone needs a blog.

Tip 2:  Create a policy and procedures

Create a general policy with adaptable procedures…by copying off of someone else’s paper. Our policy and procedures are formal. Because we are a state government agency, we need a guiding document that will sustain changes in staff and agency direction. Even if you are an individual artist, it’s good to write down an agreement with yourself about the focus and frequency of posts, as well as the technical information about where your blog is hosted, passwords, when you have to renew your account, etc. If you have never written a policy or procedures for social media then copy off of someone else. We sure did.

Tip 3: Design and name your blog 

Blog hosts offer templates for designing your look. I recommend choosing one in between “off-the-shelf” and “do-it-yourself.”  Blog designing should not be a time-sucking activity (precious time is better spent on the content), but you do want to make sure your brand is evident in the design to match the rest of your marketing materials (business cards, website, brochures, etc.)

Elements of the Creative Commonwealth design come from our agency brochure and parts of our artist directory brochure shown above.

Notice that we did not call our blog “The Kentucky Arts Council’s Blog.” This was deliberate.  The blog is not a place for our official message; it’s a place for creative people in Kentucky to talk about what they do. Obviously, how you name your blog will depend on your goal. A good example is architectural artist Karine Maynard, who named her blog “The Stay at Home Welder.” It’s about her artwork, the custom metalwork business she runs with her husband, and techniques and methods for welders and blacksmiths.

Tip 4: Pay for your host

Most blog hosts will give* you a free* account with abbreviated features. If you are a blog beginner, start with this account, play around and make sure blogging is for you. If you are ready for more sophisticated options, space (memory) and better technical support, then purchase a package. What each host offers for free* and what they ask you to pay for will vary, so be sure to shop around for what’s most important to you. The cool thing about blogs is they are often transferable if you change your mind later.

* If you are not paying, make sure your intellectual property and privacy are not the product they are really selling to someone else!

Tip 5: Get a discrete URL

If you can afford it, get a discrete URL. The free version most blog hosts offer will include your own site with a name like “” or “” This is fine, but your blog is easier to find if your address is something like “” You can buy site names through independent vendors, and hosts will allow you to map your blog to them. This may cost extra as well. If this all sounds very complicated and unnecessary, you can always map to a discrete URL if you decide to later. Don’t let not having one stop you. These are tips, not laws.

Tip 6: Use an informal voice but have a formal proofing/editing process

A blog is your opportunity to be more personal with your customers, clients, fans and followers. Use first-person voice, be brief and incorporate  engaging photos. However, this is not a chance to beat up the English language and disgrace yourself. Always have another set of eyes look at what you are about to post. If no one is around, let the post sit for a few hours and read it again with renewed eyes. Three different pairs of eyes (other than the author) edit and proof every Creative Commonwealth blog post before it is published. There are people out in the blogosphere who love to point out grammatical errors. Don’t be their victim! If something slips by the grammar goalie, rest assured that you can change it after it’s posted without too many people noticing. Blogs are more forgiving than print media and other social media.

Tip 7: Post regularly

In your procedures, decide on a publication schedule. Will you post once a month, once a week or more frequently? Stick to your schedule as best you can. It’s fine to cheat sometimes and backdate a post. It’s also acceptable to pull things out of the archive and re-post them when they are relevant. If you find yourself skipping two deadlines in a row, perhaps it’s time to reconsider whether or not you need a blog. I should confess that if you look back deeply in our archives, you will find a some gaps. This was before we established a posting schedule. Without it we were quite lost.

Tip 8: Make use of guest bloggers and syndicate

No one cares what I have to say and that’s fine. Our posts get more hits when we feature a guest artist/author than when I write something. If you have friends with great blogs, ask to feature a few of their relevant pieces to increase your readerships. Do likewise for them.

Tip 9: Optimize for search engines 

The best way to make sure people can find your posts via Google, Bing or another search engine is to use tags and links. Blog hosts will usually have a place to put tags at the bottom of the post. For example, if you are writing about an outdoor music festival you will be headlining, you can tag the name of the festival, other bands, the location, sponsors, the musical genre and any other words people might use to search for information. You can also include links within the text to the festival site and lineup. Another optimization trick is making “top five/ten” lists. People go crazy for them, because they know exactly how much time and energy they’ll be devoting to reading a post—they know they will only have to deal with five or ten basic concepts during their coffee break.

These are all of our tags represented in a cloud. Larger font tags are used more often.

Tip 10: Encourage subscription

There are a few ways readers can subscribe to your blog so that they are automatically notified when you publish a new post. The first one is easy. To allow people to subscribe by e-mail, you merely need to indicate it as a blog setting and make sure a sign-up area appears on your front page. Allowing people to subscribe by RSS (Rich Site Summary) feed is a little more complicated, but your host will have instructions. It usually involves registering you blog’s website with a tool called Feedburner. Once this is complete, you can include the universal RSS feed button on your front page.

An RSS feed symbol

I hope these tips are help. Happy blogging, and watch for a new page on Creative Commonwealth featuring blogs written by artists in our adjudicated programs!

Sarah Schmitt, arts access director

Categories: Other | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Rejection doesn’t have to hurt

When you’re rejected or don’t get the job, it is vital, it is extremely vital to success. Because, if you don’t experience that negativity or that rejection, you won’t have as much gratitude for the good things that come into your life.

— Paula Abdul

This time of year is hard on many of the arts council staff. We do our best to make sure our jury process is fair and equitable. Nonetheless, no one likes to send a rejection letter; no one wants to receive a rejection letter. Just remember, next year is another application, another jury and another chance.

I didn’t choose to make a living at art, but I have met with some successes in my pursuits with painting, surface design and most recently photography. I enjoyed selling my work, not because of the money as much as for the affirmation.

Getting my work out there has entailed entering many shows. If I had to count, I would say the rejection letters came more often than the “congratulations, please get your work to us right away” letters. For a while I would get a little despondent when those letters arrived, but I kept plugging away. Every once in a while I would be accepted to a show, but the rejection letters seemed too abundant. Then I went through a period of being angry when those ugly letters came. Actually, that was back in the day of submitting slides. You didn’t even have to open the envelope to know if you got rejected, because you could feel the slides. (If you were accepted, they kept the slides to use your images to promote the show.) At some point I realized it was ridiculous to be angry at someone I didn’t even know.


"a envelope full of slides" - This is what rejection used to look like.

This is what rejection used to look like.


So, if I got rejected from a show after that realization (and I still did) I just shook it off. There were  so many reasons for not being accepted that had nothing to do with the quality of my work and most certainly had nothing to do with my artistic soul. Every juror has their own perspective, so that can just be the luck of the draw. I tried to enter the same show the next year and hoped to have a juror or jurors who happen to be attracted to my work. Judging artwork is subjective at best.

There are other factors that go into the rejection of work. There are only so many spaces available in a show and you may be competing against throngs of artists. If it is a theme show, your interpretation could be diametrically opposed to the curator’s interpretation. Sometimes exhibiting galleries try to get representation of artists from a wide range of geographic areas or balance out different media or techniques and you just happen to be in a crowded field.

But when I did get accepted into a show it was sweeeeet. And fortunately, more often than not, my work sold. I’m not even a fan of Paula’s, but that’s where her “gratitude for the good things” comes in.

I sold calendars featuring my photography online, and one day I got this e-mail out of the blue. A woman from London, England bought my calendar and sent me a beautiful message describing how she loved every photograph and how she had placed it in her kitchen so she could see it everyday. When I received that e-mail I was overwhelmed with joy. It made every rejection letter I had ever received go away from memory. Like, Paula Abdul, I embrace rejection because it makes me appreciate acceptance so much more.

Ed Lawrence, arts marketing director

Categories: Literary Arts, Performing Arts, Visual Arts | Tags: , , , ,

If you can’t walk, then crawl — an artist teaches me a lesson

In 2011, I wrote my little heart out for the Kentucky Arts Council — it was and is something I am glad to do. However, I took a break for the holidays and found it hard to get back into the habit. I felt out of ideas and overburdened with a lack of wherewithal. There are so many blogs out there, a good portion of them deal with arts topics and people are just inundated with information in general. I thought, “Why try so hard for my agency’s blog to sit unread in the Internet ether?” As a result, I decided to extend my definition of “holidays” to include the great Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday celebration.

I was in the artists’ business workshop we held at the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea on Jan.12, still with no inspiration, dreading the upcoming deadline and resigning myself to failure when potter Mathew Gaddie presented an artist testimonial. He inspired the piece of my brain that writes blogs to pack up the pity party and send the obnoxious guests home.

Mathew Gaddie carafes

These bourbon shot carafes make MUCH better party guests anyway.

The title page of his presentation included the start of the MLK quote, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl….” The timeliness (considering the upcoming holiday) was coincidental, but no less effective on the audience of fledgling artists and me.

Basically, Mathew started as a day-time plumber who fired pots in a barely-functioning kiln relegated to a corner of his girlfriend’s garage. Today he is a full-time artist with his own wood-fired kiln, studio and gallery. Many people would say he is “there,” he “has arrived” or he “made it.” He would not say that, and the incredible part is that Mathew fully admits that his journey is not a straight line, and he sees no true end point. “There” changes everyday. He isn’t blazing a trail, clearing a path or leaving breadcrumbs. He’s just stomping straight through the wilderness. Don’t even try; you won’t be able to follow him — he is already gone. He confesses to “gambling on himself” more than once.

Mathew Gaddie vessel

This is Mathew’s 401k. There’s a little more to it than filling out forms and setting up an automatic withdrawl.

Mathew’s lesson was brilliant and simple for the New Year, and it illustrates the completion of MLK’s quote, “…but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” All artists (and arts organizations for that matter) have different resources, challenges and opportunities. We can and should get together from time to time in solidarity, find overlaps and share tips. Mathew is no lone wolf — far from it. He regularly fires with friends and associates, and he looks to Laura Ross as a mentor. But attempts at replication and jealous comparisons are a waste of time. Quitting because you don’t have someone else’s resources or fortune means you didn’t really want it. The journey is yours, and you just have to advance any way you can. 2012 is time to start crawling, walking, running and maybe even flying.

Sarah Schmitt, arts access director

Categories: Visual Arts | Tags: , , , , , , ,

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