Posts Tagged With: folk art

The dulcimer gets its due

The Homer Ledford Dulcimer Festival kicks off this weekend, Aug. 29-30. Then, get ready for the Hindman Dulcimer Homecoming, Nov. 6-9. What is all this festivity about, you say?

As stringed instruments go, the Appalachian mountain dulcimer is a recent development. The curvy, wooden instruments designed to rest on the player’s lap emerged in 19th-century Appalachia, borrowing characteristics from older European instruments. The dulcimer’s visual and tonal beauty, ease of tuning, portability and durability made it a popular vehicle for musical expression throughout the region. Kentucky has been a dulcimer hub thanks largely to the late-1800s dulcimer patriarch Uncle Ed Thomas of Knott County, and the 20th century’s innovative and influential Homer Ledford of Winchester. Today, enthusiastic communities of dulcimer players and listeners exist all around the world.

Master luthier Doug Naselroad just completed a Kentucky Arts Council Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship, teaching apprentice Mike Slone the techniques and culture behind dulcimer building.

Sit back a few minutes with this video and hear their story about discovering their personal connections to dulcimer history, and how their work together over the last year is having a big impact on Kentucky communities.

Mark Brown, folk and traditional arts program director

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

The Thanksgiving conundrum – deck the halls with menorahs?

With the advent of artificial Christmas trees, one of the Thanksgiving weekend traditions in many Kentucky homes is to decorate the Christmas tree. For those of us who celebrate Hanukkah, we can usually count on the eight-day festival of lights to start sometime later — maybe early December or maybe right in the midst of the Christmas holiday. This year, the first day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving, which means the first candle in the menorah will be lit after sundown the evening before. So if you happen to be looking for an exquisite Kentucky Crafted menorah, I have a few ideas for you. If you start decorating for Christmas on Thanksgiving weekend, I have more than a few Kentucky Crafted ideas for your tree. Incidentally, Christmas ornaments make lovely hostess/host gifts if you are invited to Thanksgiving dinner with friends.

Craig Kaviar Menorahs

Craig Kaviar Menorahs

These hand-forged menorahs created by Craig Kaviar can be family heirlooms for centuries. On the left is the “Curled Menorah” which is available at $245 and on the right is the “Menorah, Classic Style” at $380. They can be purchased at Kaviar Gallery in Louisville or ordered at 502-561-0377 or kaviargallery@gmail.com.

Berni North

Berni North Menorah

This elegant glass menorah will brighten up the window for every night of Hanukkah. Kentucky Crafted artist Berni North offers this menorah at $450 and carries many other glass decorative items for the holidays at HawksView Gallery and Café in Louisville. You can also blow your own glass ornament and dine at the café for a fun experience. For more details, go to www.hawksviewgalleryandcafe.com

Gavin Wilson Bells

Gavin Wilson Bells

Ring in the holidays with these charming bells made of solid hand-hammered copper. Each bell created by Kentucky Crafted artist Gavin Wilson measures approximately two inches across and comes with decorative Christmas ribbon or leather hangers. They are priced at $15 each or two for $25. For an additional cost, they can also be made with personalized lettering. To order, contact Gavin at mountainforge@windstream.net or 606-330-1657.

Dick Scheu Snowflakes

Dick Scheu Snowflakes

Each handcrafted snowflake by Kentucky Crafted artist Dick Scheu takes on a faceted jewel-like quality by the way he juxtaposes the grains of different woods. The delicately crafted snowflakes are about four inches in diameter and only one-sixteenth of an inch thick, making them lightweight and ideal for any Christmas tree. Prices range from $20 to $32. For more selection and to order, go to www.kentuckysnow.com.

Kellersberger Ornaments

Kellersberger Ornaments

These handmade metal twister ornaments come with different center designs and two tone colors. Kentucky Crafted artists Scot and Laura Kellersberger offer a wide range of colors and themes including sports, Kentucky and, of course, Christmas. Reasonably priced at $15 each you can see the full spectrum of designs at www.phoenixcreativemetal.com. To order, contact Scot or Laura at 859-866-8757 or info@phoenixcreativemetal.com.

Money Folk Art Ornaments

Money Folk Art Ornaments

If you love folk art, this is a great way to start collecting. These adorable critters by artists Lonnie and Twyla Money will brighten up any tree and be a keepsake for generations to come. Sizes vary, but most are about five inches in height and sell for $28 each. To order, contact Lonnie or Twyla at 606-843-7783 or gourdchicken@windstream.net.

Shambrola Ornaments

Shambrola Ornaments

These lovely hardwood ornaments are made by Mick Shambro with a scroll saw. Each ornament is dipped in natural mineral oil to seal the wood and bring out the color and grain of the wood. They come in two sizes and sell for $18 and $22 each. The ornaments don satin ribbons and a card to identify the type of wood and care instructions. To order, contact Mick at 859-576-2945 or shambrola@gmail.com.

Steve Scherer Ornaments

Steve Scherer Ornaments

Amazing glass sculptures within glass globes are the signature pieces of Kentucky Crafted glass artist Steve Scherer. In addition to the birds featured above, he also has a wonderful selection of ornaments depicting horses, dragons and life under the sea. The ornaments are priced at $98 each and come with a brass stand for year-round display. To order, contact Steve at 270-432-3615 or sscherer@scrtc.com.

Hobbs Goose Feather Trees

Hobbs Goose Feather Trees

Goose feather trees are an old German tradition that has been carried forth in America by Kentucky Crafted artist Joanne Hobbs. Each tree is created one feather at a time on a sturdy wire armature, making a wonderful display for your most precious ornaments. They come in antique white, burnt orange and pine green and are beautiful decorative items, even without ornaments. They are available in five sizes, from 12 to 48 inches and are priced at $52.50 to $400. To order, contact Joanne at 502-348-4257 or goosefeathertree2@yahoo.com. Ed Lawrence, arts marketing director

Categories: 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: , , , , , , ,

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: , , , , ,

The crowd goes wild – for dog sled makers

I was excited to join other state folk arts coordinators in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 4 for the National Heritage Fellowship Awards Concert. The night before the concert, the National Endowment for the Arts held an awards ceremony and banquet for the recipients in the Library of Congress. What a spectacular and fitting place to honor living national treasures.

Library of Congress great hall

Andy Statman of Brooklyn is a master klezmer musician. This emotionally charged music developed for generations in eastern European Jewish communities and nearly disappeared, but it made a comeback in the U.S. in the mid-20th century. Andy was invited to play a piece during the banquet in the Great Hall, where the reverberating tones of his clarinet fell on a rapt audience that included his children and grandchildren. 

In addition to klezmer, Andy has mastered a musical style familiar to many Kentuckians: bluegrass mandolin.  At the concert, he played several numbers with his band and with other honorees like accordionist Flaco Jiménez and slide guitarist Mike Auldridge. Together, they played traditional standards and some surprises, like the surf classic “Walk, Don’t Run.”

Fervent applause followed these performances.  Surprisingly, the non-musical artists were met with equal excitement. A shipwright, a basket maker and, yes, dog sled makers Paul and Darlene Bergren each got their moment in the spotlight with folklorist/emcee Nick Spitzer.

Several Kentuckians won National Heritage Fellowships in the past, including Bill Monroe, Lily May Ledford, Jean Ritchie and Eddie Pennington. Though no Kentuckians received an award this year, it was impossible not to feel some connection with the honorees.  Among this audience, many probably felt proud to live in the nation that produced these masters. The audience’s enthusiasm crossed cultural, geographic, ethnic and social boundaries we all live with most of the time.

The National Heritage Fellowship is the highest honor for traditional artists in the nation. As soon as I returned to Kentucky, I joined the arts council staff in coordinating the Governor’s Awards in the Arts ceremony, where the highest artistic honors in the Commonwealth are presented. The Oct. 9 ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda had the same energy I experienced a few days before in the nation’s capital: “These are our people, the bearers of our culture.” Family and friends of master basket maker Leona Waddell were thrilled to see her receive the Folk Heritage Award. In addition, people she had never met before were captivated by her presence, her sincerity and her gratitude at being recognized for her life’s work.

Maybe you or someone you know deserves one of these awards.  To learn more about the cultural heroes of Kentucky and the U.S., visit these links:

Mark Brown, Folk and Traditional Arts Program Director

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

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