Posts Tagged With: folk art

An apprentice’s dream

When things “don’t go according to plan,” it typically invokes a negative thought. But my unplanned adventures with Grand Ol’ Opry star Bobby Osborne, through the Kentucky Arts Council’s Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, were quite the opposite.

What were going to be bimonthly mandolin lessons and history chats turned into performing with one of the most famous artists in bluegrass music history.

I was able to perform at venues and locations throughout the South including: the Ohio Valley Opry; Mount Airy, North Carolina; the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History; the Kentucky Coal Rally; and the highlight, the world famous Bean Blossom Bluegrass Music Festival.

Bobby and Cory perform during the “Makings of a Master” debut at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History.

My experiences with Bobby were not limited to just musical ones. I believe it would be safe to say that I learned just as much, or even more, about the history of the music I was playing than the music itself. I was able to learn about the history and source of some of the most popular songs in bluegrass and country music. Also, I learned facts, stories and legends about some of the most famous icons in music; all told from a first-person perspective by a man who was there.

My experience with Bobby Osborne, through the generosity of the Kentucky Arts Council’s apprenticeship grant, has been a literal dream come true. I was able to be a part of something that many young musicians only dream of, and I am humbly thankful.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to: Mark Brown, Bob Gates and everyone at the Kentucky Arts Council; Bobby Osborne and all the members of the Rocky Top Express, and all of the other countless friends and family who have supported me through the amazing twelve months of my apprenticeship. You all have my deepest heartfelt thanks and gratitude.

And to all the other young musicians out there, dreams do come true.

God Bless and keep on picking!

Still dreaming,

Cory May, folk arts apprentice 

To learn more about folk arts apprenticeships in Kentucky, visit the Makings of a Master exhibition when it travels near you. The next application deadline for the apprenticeship grant program is February 15, 2013.

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

What Happens To The Stories When The Project’s Done?

With three oral history/photography projects under my belt, I’ve been able to see that they don’t simply disappear into the archives. There is so much life left in them!

My first project I completed on my own simply because as a Michigan girl in Kentucky, I was fascinated by the subject. It took several years, in several places, as I followed tobacco farmers through the year as they raised their crops. My research wasn’t about the technical aspects of growing tobacco, nor did it focus on the history of tobacco or health issues.  It concentrated on family and community and how everyone became immersed in producing a crop that for generations had put food on tables, shoes on feet and sent children to school.  It wasn’t about smoking or big business. It was about survival and working together to help our friends and neighbors.  And it’s changing. Today’s growers want a way to show their grandchildren and future generations what they did to earn an honest living and provide for their families, often for five or six generations or more.

“Friends” by Carol Shutt

Some of the images from this research have been sold as art pieces. People either have fond memories of their years helping raise the crops, or they want nothing to remind them of the backbreaking work. Most people tell us they like the memories and owe more than we can imagine to the money raised from selling tobacco. These images and many others are going into a book so that families can share this heritage with family members. This research will live on for a long time.

My first official Community Scholars research involved quilters in a nearby county. The research didn’t focus on patterns or techniques. Instead, I looked at the quilters themselves, their quilting history, family quilting memories, why they quilted and what they did with their quilts.  No one had looked at it quite this way before.

Their stories were all very different, but they all quilted so they could give this symbol of love to friends and families. A few sold a quilt on occasion, but most had never sold a single one. Many made quilts from their children’s favorite clothes. Some turned tattered quilts made by loved ones into things like stuffed teddy bears for the family when the quilt could no longer be patched. Their gifts of love were handed down from one generation to another, even when they could no longer serve their original purpose.  The quilters said they were so happy that someone appreciated them and their history, rather than just the pattern or the skill. Each and every one held special memories of their quilting experiences. Their stories and pictures were made into a book, which was given to each quilter I had interviewed. The area arts council has the rest to sell, so the story can be passed on.

My third project is definitely my most unusual one. I received a grant to research funeral traditions in a county in southeastern Kentucky. The experiences with this research have been amazing!  It’s not a topic that many people like to talk about…or so I thought.  I carried this research out in an area that has often been stereotyped in the media and never in a good way. Again, as a Michigan girl who after 20 years in Kentucky still talks like a Michigan girl, I was an outsider and talking about an unpleasant topic. The first week we tried to do interviews, no one showed up even when they had an appointment. We tried again a month later and this time, through a great deal of help from my fiscal agents and some local people I had met the month before, we were able to find folks willing to talk to us. Over the course of a year and a half, we compiled interviews from a good representation of people from the area. Word spread that it was okay to talk with us, and we ended up with wonderful pictures and information. The project has since expanded beyond the area of my funded research, simply because it’s been so fascinating that I can’t stop. It’s now “Funeral Traditions of The South” and has turned into a touring exhibit shown in a college, two churches, to a camera club and in a public library. It is scheduled for other venues in the coming year, including the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park as part of a larger oral history event. This research will also become a book, simply because people really are interested in the topic. In this research, the goal was not only to preserve our heritage but also to educate. Across the board, we all seem to think everyone “does it” the same way. That is oh, so wrong!  There are as many different traditions as there are people!  This research will also be around for a long, long time and in this case, the research itself will never end until I do. I’m always finding new information to investigate and preserve.

Community Scholar projects document folklife in our state. We have many cultural traditions that differ from one group to another and need to be preserved and shared, to educate us about each other and to pass on to future generations. Understanding what lies behind our actions and customs helps us live better with our neighbors.

So what will I do now? I’m going back to the beginning, because the stories keep changing with the times! The projects may never be done.

If you have interest in learning more about any of this research, please contact me at or call 606-780-9440. Examples of my photography, and my personal blog can be found at

Carol Shutt, photographer and Community Scholar

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

A poor man’s guide to collecting art

When I first moved back to Kentucky in 1994 and took a job with the state as a craft marketing specialist, I was faced with a certain dilemma. My job was to help craftspeople market their work in regional, national and international markets. I came to meet so many fantastic artists and was exposed to some of the most beautiful artwork in the world, and I wanted to buy all of it.

I quickly learned that would not be possible. Even though I was gainfully employed, our two boys qualified for free and reduced lunches at their school. Things got better financially once my wife found employment, but the desire to buy art I could not afford didn’t leave.

I decided since there were so many beautiful things to choose from, the only way I could curb my desire was to choose one particular thing that I was most attracted to and limit myself to collecting one piece at a time. I decided on Kentucky folk art roosters. My first purchase was a rooster by Ronald Cooper, and I paid $40 dollars for it. As my colleagues and I went out recruiting craftspeople at local fairs and festivals I met many artists who created roosters, and I would buy one piece at a time. I also started buying at Kentucky Crafted: The Market. As years went on, I could afford larger pieces and have built quite a collection.  At last count I think I have 25 roosters.  I really have no idea of their value but they are precious to me. On one hand, I think they may have appreciated quite a bit. On the other, they might not be worth that much, because our boys did quite a bit of roughhousing growing up and more than one rooster fell flat on his face.


A Few of Ed's Roosters

A Few of Ed’s Roosters


As an art collector, I can proudly boast having the world’s largest collection of Kentucky folk art roosters…with broken beaks.

Most art collectors actually start before they have the means to do so. They collect because they love the work, not because they think it will be a good investment. Are there art collectors out there who would like to share their experiences with the readers of Creative Commonwealth? Are you ready to take the first step to start the collection you desire?

Ed Lawrence, communication director

Categories: Visual Arts | Tags: , , , ,

An interning folklorist in the field: documenting art cars in Kentucky.

Kentucky Art Car Weekend

Just before finishing up her hours as an intern here at KHS, Folklife Intern Jenn Jameson visited Louisville to document the unique tradition of art cars. With fellow folklorist Joseph O’Connell, she shares the end product of a few hours doing fieldwork for the Kentucky Folklife Program.


The Kentucky Folklife Program is an inter agency program of the Kentucky Arts Council and the Kentucky Historical Society.

Categories: Folk and Traditional Arts | Tags: , ,

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