Posts Tagged With: Kentucky Governor’s Awards in the Arts

2013 Governor’s Awards in the Arts: Lexington Children’s Theatre

I first became acquainted with Lexington Children’s Theatre when I was a teenager and attended the theater’s week-long Youth Theatre Arts camp at Midway College. It was there I met people who were very different from me but who I also easily related to because of our shared interest in theater and performance. I also met people who would influence my life for years to come.

Let me be clear without being too personal: My involvement with theater as a young person probably saved my life. I really hated being a teenager — not because I was bullied or had problems at school or negative experiences with friends. I just did not enjoy adolescence one iota. But being involved with theater, through two summers of camps with LCT and then being invited to participate in a youth theater through an instructor I met at the camp, gave me an outlet into which I could generate my terribly frustrating teenage angst. I also made a ton of new friends, and many of them I am still in touch with to this day.

All of the above to say: The arts are more important to young people than we can possibly comprehend. There are a million stories like mine, and there will continue to be children whose lives are made better through the arts as long as there are organizations like Lexington Children’s Theatre. I was very excited to conduct this interview with Larry Snipes, the theater’s producing director since 1979. I also think I should point out that it was important to Larry to recognize the entire staff of the theater and the work they do for Kentucky’s children when discussing receiving the Governor’s Awards in the Arts 2013 Education Award.

Talk a little bit about the theater when you started and how things have changed over the years.

When I came, it was a transition time for the theater. It was kind of a difficult time because, the children’s theater — for all of its life up until 1979 — had been a youth theater, a theater of young people performing for young people.

The board had decided we were going to work more toward becoming a professional theater, and that was something I was very excited about when I came. One of the things about the Discovery shows we do now, they give young people the same performance opportunities, but they are supported by a professional staff.

Our goal when I came in was to try to move the theater to a more professional company so that we could actually serve more young people. When you’re doing just the youth theater performance, you’re really focused on what those young people are getting out of the experience, not necessarily what the audience is getting out of the experience.

When I came in, the idea was really to broaden that experience so the audience was getting as good of a product as we could actually provide. That was really the driving force behind what we’ve been doing the last 34 years — to do the best quality work we can possibly do, and share it with as many young people as we can. That’s kind of what pushed us into a lot of different areas. We still do the youth theater component. We do three shows a year, plus the summer family musical where we try to encourage families to do shows together — parents and young people to participate in the shows as one. We didn’t abandon that hands-on experience for a young person in performance. What we did was enhance it and try to give them the support they needed to succeed.

Tell me a little more specifically about the work you do when you go into schools and the experiences the kids have and why they’re important for children in Kentucky.

For a lot of young people we reach we’re the first experience they have in live performance theater. To see a full production within their school and within their community, that’s the most valuable thing we provide. We provide that final product a young person sees for the first time — where they see an actor, a live person performing before them, in the same room. It’s different from watching on television and different from watching a movie. That immediate connection they get with an artist, that’s what’s important for us. In addition to the performances we provide, we offer residencies and workshops with young people, and with teachers so they can get professional development workshops. Our education department has really come a long way the last several years in arts integration, using the arts to teach other subject matter and to integrate the arts across the curriculum. All of these things we do to try to provide a complete experience. It’s not just the performance; it’s not just the residency. It takes all of it to get there.

We want to give children an opportunity to explore their creative side and to be creative. And hopefully, through this exposure and through this experience in participating in theater or seeing theater, they can look at the world a different way. They can look at themselves a different way, and they can become a more complete person by doing that. And that’s what our goal is.

Why is your work important to the children and their parents, the people of Kentucky?

The thing about what we do is, we tell stories. Throughout history, for as long as man has communicated, we’ve learned and told stories, and we’ve told stories to teach and help us learn. That’s the most important aspect of what we do, the storytelling. By participating in the storytelling as a performer or as an audience member — our audience members participate — it broadens your view of the world. I think that’s what we can do. We can give a young person a chance to look at what it was like to be a holocaust victim, or a king or a fairy or a princess. It gives them a chance to identify with someone in this theater, or the character or the story, and learn as that character learns. That works on every single level, whether you’re a child or someone that’s my age, or a grandparent. It works on so many levels, that experience of watching a performance or participating in a performance, or seeing something that makes you … not necessarily question, but understand something, a concept that you didn’t fully comprehend. I think that’s what storytelling has done for mankind through our history. That’s how we learn. That’s what we offer young people in Kentucky — a different way of learning, a different way of looking at things.

Emily B. Moses, communications director

 

Categories: Arts Education, Arts Organizations, Performing Arts | Tags: , , , , ,

2013 Governor’s Awards in the Arts: International Bluegrass Music Museum

When I went to interview Gabrielle Gray, executive director of the International Bluegrass Music Museum, I had not visited Owensboro, Ky., for at least 20 years. Wow, was I blown away. I can tell you honestly that if I were looking for a place to make a new home at this point in time, I would give serious consideration to Owensboro. The city is alive with the arts. Much of this links back to the enthusiasm for bluegrass music that the museum has created through its numerous programs since it opened its doors in 1991.

Bluegrass has become part of the city’s brand, and its citizens embrace the genre as part of their culture. The International Bluegrass Music Museum will receive this year’s Governor’s Awards in the Arts Community Arts Award. Read excerpts of my interview with Gabrielle below to find out more about what’s happening in Owensboro.

Tell me about the programming you provide in the community.

Just to give you an example, ROMP (IBMM’s annual bluegrass festival) has grown to 20,000 visitors a year, which is a very nice-sized festival. We just had our 10th anniversary. The first one was in 2004. It was held in Peter English Park down the river. We had Earl Scruggs, Ricky Skaggs, Doc Watson, Sam Bush. It was a great event, but it only drew a few thousand people. That’s how ROMP was for the next seven years in a row; it was an intriguing but small festival. We invited the pioneers of bluegrass to play. Because bluegrass is a pretty new genre as genres go, most of the founders of it, the early practitioners, were still alive when I came here. Now it’s been 10 years, a very vital 10 years in that echelon. So many of them are not alive now. But we have filmed them. First person, in-depth, professional interviews with professional interviewers; we’ve done 268 of these. We’re developing them each into an individual documentary. We’ve got the history. Lock stock and barrel, we have captured it. There is no music genre in America that has been able to do that except bluegrass. So it’s a really astonishing archive, and it really tells the story, especially of the southeastern quadrant of the United States, but also all over the country.

The bluegrass in the schools project is ginormous. We’re in year 11 of that. We’re in all of the elementary schools. In order to preserve and sustain bluegrass music, and to grow it here in the home state — this is Kentucky’s official state music and it’s this area’s indigenous music — in order to preserve that culture and further it and put it to work for us both educationally and in tourism, you have to grow it. You have to sustain it. Everybody in your community needs to know about it, be aware of it, embrace it and be part of the process. And so, in order to get all that done you have to start at the beginning, start when they’re growing up.

We have this sustained program where we spend eight days in each elementary school. And all of the kids have an instrument — we’ve had to buy hundreds of instruments — so everybody is holding an instrument, the same instrument at the same time. You’ll have a whole sea of violins or fiddles and they’re all learning at the same time. They learn the history of bluegrass, its importance to the state, and then they learn about the fiddle, the mandolin, the banjo and the guitar, those four instruments.

That’s the first thing we do. Then the second thing we do is we hire a national act that performs in every one of these schools. They put on a concert. And that happens every year. The parents are invited and the teachers come and the administrators come and it’s always a very big deal because a band is here in town for two or three weeks. They’re in all of these schools and then do a concert for the general public. So after that, if you want to, if you have been turned on by that and trust me they are, big time, then you can come down here (to the museum) and take lessons on Saturdays. We provide the instruments on loan; you take them home and keep them with you as long as you’re in the music program. These are group music lessons and right now we have 414 students and it’s people of all ages. There’s a tiny tuition. If you don’t have that money, you just write an essay about why you want to take lessons and you’re included for free. It’s gigantic. You can’t believe what it looks like here on a Saturday. It’s a small museum and there are back-to-back people.

What is it about bluegrass music that transcends cultures?

Well, it’s an amalgamation of so many genres to start with. If you look at the Scots-Irish, the Celtic music, the African — I’m a classical musician, I definitely see Vivaldi and Bach in there — it’s black gospel, it’s white gospel, it’s blues, it’s jazz, it’s Cajun. It’s friendly; it doesn’t put on airs. And yet, it is the most virtuosic of all the genres because the musicianship in a premium bluegrass band is higher than, or as high as, you will find anywhere on Earth. Not only are they playing to the top skills of all other musicians, and in most cases far better, they’re also composing on the spot just like jazz. Bluegrass is incredible. But it puts on no airs. That’s why it has become a worldwide genre. It’s like a musical exchange program.

How has the community embraced and supported the museum?

Well, I think what happened is that ROMP turned the lake over, putting the programming in there that was broader than traditional bluegrass and opening it up to more people. One thing we did, anyone who was involved in a college bluegrass program throughout the country was invited to come for free, provided they brought their instrument and jammed, and stayed all three days. So, we were changing the atmosphere of the festival, making it into a jam session of really good musicians from all over. It’s creating a culture and creating a milieu and a place where everybody is comfortable. The festival is green. It’s well organized, the food is excellent. There’s a wonderful arts and crafts fair. We have tremendous arts all over the place.

So when the population of ROMP exploded like it did overnight, the city took notice and said “Wow.” What you’ve been saying to us all along, that this could be like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is to Cleveland, like the Country Music Hall of Fame is to Nashville, this could be an international center. This could be the biggest thing in Kentucky. They saw it.

How has the community supported the museum?

There is bluegrass being played everywhere now. It’s for weddings, it’s for funerals — it’s everywhere you go. It has changed the entire cultural landscape of this community.

The ROMP budget has grown to over a half a million dollars. With the exception of ticket sales and earned income, all of that money comes from support. Think of that. It’s enormous. We have close to $200,000 donated by businesses. Everybody’s coming. We’re in a $10 million capital campaign. We haven’t even gone to the bluegrass community yet. This has all been raised out of Owensboro, $8 million already. That’s gigantic. The city pledged $3 million to the new museum. How many cities do that?

Let’s get down to the grass roots level. Every single music teacher in the city and county and in the parochial school systems here, every single one helps us with the bluegrass in the schools program. We bought a set of instruments for every school. They teach them. They have after-school programs set-up. They’re teaching the kids how to play the instruments; they’re working with us, all of them. They all come and perform at ROMP.

And they’re part of it. That’s the key to everything — inclusivity. Making people part of a project, then it belongs to them. Then its success becomes integral to their being.

Emily B. Moses, communications director

Categories: Performing Arts | Tags: , , , , , , ,

2013 Governor’s Awards in the Arts: 21c Museum Hotel

From a personal perspective, the 21c Museum Hotel is one of my favorite arts-related venues to visit. From its interactive artworks that engage the visitor with the work, to its cutting-edge gallery exhibits that address the hottest topics of the day, every step taken on a visit through the 21c is compellingly art-driven. And, as you’ll read in my interview with 21c co-founder Steve Wilson, that was the intent from the start.

Pairing the desire to renovate existing structures in Louisville for a hotel property while making contemporary art a part of more peoples’ daily lives, philanthropists and contemporary art collectors Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson set out on a journey to create the 21c Museum Hotel.

Much more than just a place to spend the night, 21c is an innovative union of genuine Southern hospitality, thoughtful design, and culinary creativity — all anchored by world-class contemporary art by today’s emerging and internationally acclaimed artists (hence the name, paying homage to the 21st century).



21c Museum Hotel, Business Award

Kentucky Arts Council: What role do the arts, artists and artwork play in the 21c business model?

Steve Wilson: As I have said many times, we are first an art experience and second a hotel. Our architects understand that we design our spaces to better exhibit art, and we commission artists to collaborate with the architects to come up with unique elements that our guests have come to love and look forward to experiencing.

We say that the art brings people in, but the hospitality brings them back. It’s a simple, yet surprisingly unique model.

KAC: What role has the 21c played in creative placemaking as a community development tool in Louisville?

SW: I think this is a question that might better be asked of the mayor or some of the Convention and Visitors Bureau staff, but we are very proud of what we have done for the community.

21c has played an important role in the revitalization of our downtown, proving that art can be an economic driver. Four empty buildings at the corner of 7th and Main Street have turned out to be a cultural center with programming provided free and 24 hours a day. The foot traffic on our block is markedly increased and our parking garage is always full. Obviously, these two simple facts translate into more business for all our neighbors. Our red penguin has been adopted as an icon for the city as it appears in tourism and downtown development advertising, and city officials make reference to our success to visitors and potential prospects. Art invigorates, it stimulates and it illustrates the genesis of the creative mind. All these feelings, emotions or experiences enhance and energize the business community and draws more customers and clients to downtown.

We have 180 employees in Louisville alone, and those are all new jobs and new taxes being generated.

KAC: How has the community responded to the 21c since it opened, and were you surprised in any way to that response?

SW: Since the first day we opened seven years ago, we have been overwhelmed and humbled by our success. The readers of Condé Nast Traveler magazine have voted 21c Louisville the No. 1 Hotel in the U.S. twice. This tells me that people are responding to our efforts and have embraced the experience of 21c. We never expected to be opening more than one property, but many people from lots of different cities have encouraged us to come to their hometowns and do this all over again. Our hotels compete against some of the best brands in the best cities in the U.S. and still come out on top. It’s truly inspiring to see that kind of reaction to contemporary art.

KAC: How important is community support of the museum-hotel, and why is that support important?

SW: Community support is the lifeblood of 21c! What makes 21c so unique as a hotel is that our properties are in many ways as much for local residents as they are for travelers. We offer artist lectures, yoga with art, film nights, poetry readings and other live performances. And most importantly, we collaborate with arts organizations around Louisville to help enrich the cultural life of the city.

KAC: Why do you feel it is important to exhibit contemporary art, specifically?

SW: Contemporary artists are usually dealing with the issues with which we as a society are struggling. This is our way of allowing people to talk about subjects that may be uncomfortable or to laugh together at a work that they find comical. It’s about shared experience. All art was at some time contemporary. Artists are often also history documentarians.

KAC: In its role as an art museum, what experiences and opportunities does the 21c provide to visitors they won’t find elsewhere, especially in Kentucky?

SW: Who can say what a person will experience or remember from a visit to a 21c? I know that photography can take you around the world while standing in one spot … painting can take you deep into rich color and often create a mood or emotion with color alone … video can elicit anger, awe, compassion and even tears.

One of our artist friends said that art is only the paper or paint or wood with which an object is made. The reaction to the work by people who are observing, be it elevating or even embarrassing, is really coming from within the person. So, we like to provoke and stand back and let the public determine what they choose to take away.

Emily B. Moses, communications director

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

2013 Governor’s Awards in the Arts: Laura Ross

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I love my job. My job as communications director at the Kentucky Arts Council allows me to integrate my personal interest — the arts — with my work, in a way that I get to do what I love. I have the opportunity to talk with and write about artists, arts supporters, leaders of arts organizations and people who just generally love the arts. And I get to do it every day!

In the next three weeks, I’m inviting you to read excerpts from the conversations I had with recipients of the 2013 Governor’s Awards in the Arts. I conducted these interviews to obtain information for the event program and wanted to share bits and pieces that didn’t make the program but were equally important.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading about the recipients’ work in the arts, in their own words. I certainly enjoyed interviewing each and every one, and feel I learned a lot along the way about how art can influence the world. And to think – I didn’t even have to leave the state.

The Governor’s Awards in the Arts ceremony is at 10 a.m. Oct. 29 at the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort. We hope you’ll join us. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to read extra quotes you won’t find here.

Laura Ross, Artist Award

Laura Ross, of Prospect, Ky., has shared her work as a potter for nearly 30 years with the American public through exhibits and shows, as a college and high school educator, and as a successful professional artist. Ross’ sense of design, composition, use of color and pattern has influenced many of her contemporaries throughout the southeastern U.S. and beyond.

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Kentucky Arts Council: What has influenced your work over the years?

Laura Ross: I guess just looking at other potters whose work I like so much. I do like that Asian aesthetic, that very minimal aesthetic. And the longer I work the simpler I want my forms to be, my pieces to be. So I’m drawn to pots and potters with focus on pure forms, very simple forms. Potters that have strong bones to their pots. Structural integrity to their pots. Not pots that are really brightly colored or have cutesy things all over them. And to me those quiet, simpler pots are like that. I like very circular round lines and shapes. I think that reveals a love of nature. I think because most of everything in nature is rounded or curvy, linear, or asymmetrical. I like the accidental. That bit of imperfection in a pot. I guess that’s fairly Asian — the beauty and the imperfection.

KAC: Obviously your work is well-known throughout the country and the southeast United States especially. Can you talk about your early successes and how it changed your career?

LR: I think that’s what led me toward quitting a full-time job as a teacher and being an independent potter. I had quite a bit of success in those first shows I went out to. And those are national shows. That’s when people from all over the country come into these craft shows, it’s all American craft. Everything in the show is handmade. I did that for 13 or 15 years. Your name does get out there when you’re on that national level. You’re selling to 50 states plus some in Europe. When I was doing that, a lot of people in Louisville didn’t even know what I was doing. I was out all of the time. When I stopped I wanted to create more of a regional presence, and that’s what I’ve been focusing on the past 10 years. I think there’s a lot of merit to being rooted right here in this state, this region, this city. We have a lot of pottery lovers right here. We have a huge amount of artists in our state. So, it’s kind of an about face in many ways.

KAC: It sounds like you did it backwards.

LR: It does. I probably did. I probably did.

KAC: Did that surprise you, your success at the national shows?

LR: It did. It really did. All you do is work. You just work, work, work to get all those orders out. But it was exciting. I was much younger then. People would be standing in line at the shows. It was a different time. The economy made a lot of difference. The aisles would be full of buyers. I really loved it. I loved it for a long time. And you gotta go when it’s there. You gotta go with it.

KAC: You wanted to focus on the region more. Why was that important to you to do that?

LR: I wanted people to know who I was and what I’m about and what I’m doing out here. In pottery you’re making hundreds, if not thousands, of pots a year. I’m a pretty fast worker, probably from all of those years of wholesaling. You’ve got to do something with them. You’ve got to move them out. It depends on what avenue you choose to get them out there. So that would be one thing.

I just want to make pots and make the best pots I can. I like the process of working. And I know from being in somewhat of a national setting, I know what it takes to keep all that going. It’s a lot of traveling around and making appearances and I didn’t want to do that anymore. I wanted to stay home and stay in the studio. You have to figure out how to make that work. And what made it work for me was teaching classes. Teaching classes, having a few regional shows, so I can stay home. I mean, I live on the river. It’s enjoyable being right here.

KAC: Do you have a favorite of your work?

LR: I like the soda-fired pots I make now. I think my work is conducive with the firing. To me they’re melding better. My forms, with the soda, they complement each other. With this type of firing I can get a little brighter colors. I kind of was ready for a little brighter color and I can get that with the soda kiln. I can’t woodfire anymore, (the work is) just too hard. That’s a young person’s firing. This is all I can handle and I’m very pleased with it. So I’m going to stay here for a while.

I’ve thought about this quite a bit. I’ve been living on this river for almost 20 years now. You have to probably live on a river to understand this. The river does play a big, important part of my life. I can’t imagine not living on the river. There is a steadiness – the river is moving all the time, it’s a constant moving, so there is a constancy in that moving all the time. And there is a rhythm and a pattern. And I relate it to the rhythm of working in clay, my rhythms in the studio. I’ve got a certain way of working. You come in, you’re making pots, you’re letting them dry, you’re trimming them, you’re glazing and you’re firing. There is a constant rhythm there. Plus, the river is very peaceful. There is an incredible peacefulness living on the river. It’s bigger than we are. You’re more connected with nature, I think. It sounds trite, but it’s very true. The river is a big part of my life.

Emily B. Moses, communications director

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

Tikki Tikki Tembo No Sa Rembo

Both my boys are grown men now, but I do remember a summer when they went to camp at the Lexington Children’s Theatre and became immersed in the play “Tikki Tikki Tembo.” We would get up very early in the morning so I could drive them from Frankfort to Lexington before work. My sister, who lives in Lexington, would pick them up from the theater in the afternoons, and then I would bring them home in the evenings.

Since this was almost 20 years ago, my memory fails me when it comes to exact logistical details. But the experience for me and my children is fondly remembered. In a period of two weeks, I heard lines being read and recited over and over again with that familiar chant — “Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo.” When it came time for performance, I think I was more impressed with the way the program worked than with my boys’ performances.

First, when you went in the theater there were no chairs. Carpeted risers were the norm and it put adults on the same level as children. Also, every child got a chance to participate and every child was a star. Of course, I thought my boys were the best. But I’m sure every parent, grandparent, aunt and uncle in the audience was made to feel that their child was the best also. I was so amazed that a full-scale production could be put together in such a short time.

Let me be clear, I did not sign my kids up for this because I thought they had great potential to be the next Johnny Depp or Russell Crowe. I wanted to give them something to do and let them see what live theater is about. But most of all, I just wanted them to have fun. Mission accomplished!

I’m quite sure that the Lexington Children’s Theater can still do that for your children this summer. I just checked their website and Summer Theatre School 2013 still has two sessions before summer ends.

Not near Lexington? The Kentucky Arts Council has put together a list of summer arts activities for kids across the state. Check it out at: http://artscouncil.ky.gov/Resources/pdf/KAPSummerPrograms2013.pdf.

Beware! If you send your kids to theater camp, you might just find yourself 20 years later reciting some ridiculous lines from a children’s play and not remembering the context at all.  I’m just saying…

Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo.

Note:  Lexington Children’s Theatre celebrates its 75th anniversary this year and is the oldest continuously running children’s theater in the nation.  It is also the 2013 recipient of the Governor’s Awards in the Arts Education Award.

Ed Lawrence, arts marketing director

Categories: Arts Education, Performing Arts | Tags: , , , ,

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