Posts Tagged With: Kentucky artists

Uncommon Wealth

Kentucky is home to talented artists of all kinds, and the best part of my job is working with them. I have worked in arts administration for several years. My favorite thing is interacting with artists and helping them with their careers — whether that is by including their work in an exhibit; introducing them to other like-minded artists; talking or writing about their work; or helping them to find funding, get commissions or sell work. This is a generalized statement, but one that I feel is also true: Artists are a wonderful group of people to work with. They are, by and large, down-to-earth, kind and friendly people. They are hard workers and are vastly appreciative of any help they receive. They are modest when praised and untrusting of false compliments. They are interesting people to talk with and a pleasure to work with. It is very satisfying and fulfilling to know that I was able to assist an artist, because in an indirect way, that means more art will be added to the world. To this artist and arts administrator, that is always a good thing.

In 2006, I worked for the Lexington Art League as visual art director. We partnered with the Kentucky Arts Council to present an exhibit of work by recipients of the arts council’s Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowships. Uncommon Wealth, the exhibit, was on view at the Loudoun House in Lexington in the summer of 2006. It featured work by 73 artists who were past recipients of fellowships, and I was fortunate enough to personally meet many of them. The exhibit later traveled to venues around the state. Fast forward seven years later. Now, I work for the arts council and I am honored and pleased to have the opportunity to work with the same group of artists, plus the ones added to the list since 2006, on a new version of Uncommon Wealth, on view now through Jan. 11, 2014, at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center.

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In 2013, the arts council celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship Program. The fellowship program was established in 1983 to recognize creative excellence and to assist in the professional development of Kentucky artists. Since then, the arts council has awarded more than $2.5 million in funding to individual artists. This is hugely significant at a time when many other state arts agencies have cut funding to individual artists due to tight budgets. The arts council truly supports the work of artists.  But more than monetary support, the fellowship serves as a seal of approval of sorts, a validation of the work that artists do, which inspires and encourages artists. This program is all about assisting artists, so that they can continue to do what they do best: Add more art to the world.

Uncommon Wealth is a perfect example of the range of work that you find in Kentucky, from traditional crafts to conceptual work. The exhibit has painting, photography, prints and drawings. There are sculptures and furniture, ceramics and jewelry. Furthermore, the gallery at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center is a beautiful venue, with expansive walls and an abundance of natural light. It is an underused treasure of the Lexington art scene. To be able to feature 62 artists in this exhibit, in such a beautiful venue, is a joy.

Please join us Friday night during Gallery Hop, 5 to 8 p.m., to see the exhibit, admire the gallery space, and support the work of some exceptional Kentucky artists. Help us add more art to the world!

Gallery Hop at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center; Friday, Nov. 15, 5-8 p.m. The Lyric is located at 300 E. Third St., Lexington. Light refreshments will be served. Uncommon Wealth will be on view at the Lyric through Jan. 11, 2014.

Kate Sprengnether,administrative associate

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

2013 Governor’s Awards in the Arts: Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea

If you’ve never visited the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea, take my advice: Finish reading this blog post, then hop in your car and head on over. You will like what you find.

The Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea has been an economic oasis for Kentucky arts businesses of all sizes since it opened its doors in 2003. Ten years later, the artisan center now introduces travelers up and down the I-75 corridor to the wonderful world of Kentucky artists, musicians, writers and food producers. The artisan center also provides a unique experience for those of us who call Kentucky home.

The Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea is the 2013 Governor’s Awards in the Arts Government Award recipient. I felt very fortunate to spend some time with Victoria Faoro, the center’s executive director since the day it opened its doors.

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For people who have never visited before, describe the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea.

The Kentucky Artisan Center is really a taste of Kentucky. It’s meant to be a gateway to the entire state, so it includes all Kentucky-made products. We have visual arts, crafts, 2-dimensional art, music, books, and specialty food products. What’s unusual about the artisan center is it does have a dual focus. It’s meant to introduce people to the arts, but also we send people to other places in the state, so we’re promoting travel in Kentucky as well.

We offer a café that serves many Kentucky specialties. We offer traveler services. We are, in fact, the only mid-state rest area on I-75. The artisan center is a place you can get a feel for the quality experiences you can have in Kentucky, and we provide you with information to explore those experiences further.

How many Kentucky artists and artisan businesses are represented in the artisan center?

We work directly with more than 700 artists all across state. We also buy works from musicians and writers that we purchase through distributers, so we work with even more Kentucky artists that way.

We try to work with each business at the level they are on and provide the kind of support they need, that will be helpful for them. We’re really willing to work with them. We feel their success in business is the most important thing.

We work with them on packaging. We’ll work with them on things like quantities. We’ll work with them on price points and presentation that will help them and, often I think, it helps them in other places too.

How is the assistance you provide to artists beneficial to them?

A lot of times it can help them avoid some costly mistakes. If an artist is testing a new item they have a chance to try it in a small way, with someone who is not going to stop carrying them if it doesn’t work out. A lot of times we’re the first wholesale customer a Kentucky artist will work with. It gives them a little experience before they go to their first wholesale market or show.

The artisan center offers Kentucky artists an easy stepping stone to working with other wholesalers.

How is the artisan center different from other state government agencies?

The first thing I would say is, in order to balance our budget, we have to generate over 70 percent of that through sales. Conducting business efficiently and effectively is extremely important, especially when you realize the travel service section doesn’t earn any revenue.

I think we’re unusual in the fact that the majority of our space is public and our staff is working seven days a week, nine hours a day with the public. It’s also probably unusual for a state agency with a budget this size to be working with as many vendors as we are.

Can you talk about how the artisan center is important to introducing people to Kentucky and to our artists?

As the board and the planning groups were thinking about the center, they began to envision it as a billboard on the interstate. They really thought of the front of the building, what it would look like, and worked to make it something that would make people want to get off the interstate.

The limestone in the building is Kentucky limestone. The stonemasons who laid it were all Kentucky stonemasons. I sort of feel like from the minute a person sees the building and comes inside, they’re seeing Kentucky as a place of quality. I think the main thing we can do is give people the sense that Kentucky has quality businesses and quality experiences. When people come to the center they’re expecting a typical rest stop and I think they’re very surprised and happy when they find the center full of all kinds of art. We do try to have a range of price points such that any person coming in could afford to get something if they wanted to. We use the products in fun ways so people can enjoy the art.

A lot of times we have people say, “I didn’t have any idea Kentucky had these things or these places to visit. I’m going to plan more time here for my next visit.” For us, that’s a measure of success if people want to come back and spend more time in Kentucky.

Why is it important for the artisan center, as part of state government, to support artists economically, to provide economic opportunities for our artists; especially in conserving our arts and cultural heritage?

Kentucky is very fortunate to have a very vital and flourishing artist population. There are many arts still being made in Kentucky that just aren’t in other places. They’ve died out totally. During difficult economic times, a lot of artists were finding it difficult to continue making their art. Many artists found themselves having to consider quitting altogether because they didn’t have any assurances of income. One of the things we can provide as a center that has the visitation we have is some assurance of continued sales over a period of time. Many artists have said that, the fact that we order from them several times a year and we can be counted on to pay for our orders in a prompt way enables them to purchase the materials they need to continue making their art. We just think the arts are really important, not just for visitors, but for the people in the communities where these artists live. The quality of life is just better everywhere if our artists can continue to make work. We see it in people who come here. There’s something really wonderful about being able to purchase and make a part of your life something that’s connected with a community or an individual.

Emily B. Moses, communications director

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

Double your pleasure

This past weekend I decided to go to a couple of holiday open house/open studios hosted by Kentucky Crafted artists. I was able to combine two of my favorite things: shopping anywhere except in a mall and driving through the countryside.

The weather was crisp, cool and sunny. The leaves on the trees had dropped off just enough to reveal the peaceful pastoral landscapes and yet still had a splash of color to keep excitement in the air. The low light of fall was intensely beautiful.

On Saturday, I made my way to Lewis County to visit Judy Geagley at her shop, which is located behind her house. It’s a quaint building that her husband Gordie built, made of lumber recycled from an old barn that once stood on their farm. Judy gave me the warmest greeting and had story after story to tell me about building the shop and creating her stuffed animals, which are all made from recycled materials. Elvis was singing in the background (it must have been from his Christmas album), Christmas trees were adorned with ornaments designed by her nine-year old grandson Michael and a faint aroma of cinnamon was in the air. I couldn’t resist buying a little donkey made from cashmere. She had such a wide variety of stuffed animals appropriate as baby gifts that it was hard to choose. The next time I need a baby gift, I think I’ll get the octopus, but then again the giraffe was very cute. I was very impressed by the wide price range of items Judy had for sale–from little rag dolls at $5 to sheep made from recycled mouton fur at $325.

She also makes custom teddy bears from old military uniforms or bridal gowns, which I think is a neat idea that not enough people know about. There is something for everyone at Judy Geagley by Hand. All in all, her open house was a great way to get in the Christmas mood without being bombarded by commercial overkill.

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On Sunday, my wife and I ventured to Mercer County near Shaker Village to Kathleen O’Brien’s open studio, which she hosts in each of the four seasons. Her studio is in her home and her home is amazing. She designed it and her husband Greg built it, and it is a completely environmentally sustainable structure. The amazing part for me was the light. She studied ways to incorporate optimal lighting in the design and ,wow, does it show off her work. Kathleen is a collage artist whose work draws from many spiritual traditions with a focus on nature and the world around us.  (That’s the way I interpret her work, anyhow.)

It was wonderful to listen to her talk about her work and the inspiration of different pieces as visitors would come browse through her home filled with her art. Meanwhile, Greg was busy at the brick oven he built grilling vegetables, and the kitchen was filled with all kinds of noshes including bread he had baked the day before. We were the last to leave and I did buy a giclee print for our kitchen. That’s the way holiday shopping goes. Sometimes you buy for others, sometimes you buy for yourself. Then we went outside to join Greg at the brick oven. We leaned against the outside of the oven for warmth, reminisced about places we had lived and visited and watched one of the most spectacular sunsets ever. Yes, the experience was priceless.

It’s not too late for you to meet artists, do a little holiday shopping and have a wonderful ride through the countryside. The Kentucky Arts Council has placed on our calendar upcoming holiday open house/open studios. If the open studios are not in the country, maybe you can visit one in a city other than your own and take the back roads to get there. I highly recommend it.

Ed Lawrence, communications director

Categories: Visual Arts | Tags: , , , ,

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