Posts Tagged With: Kentucky

2013 Governor’s Awards in the Arts: Actors Theatre

As a lifelong theater participant and fan, it was exciting to have the opportunity to visit Actors Theatre of Louisville and talk one-on-one with Managing Director Jennifer Bielstein. If you’re not especially familiar with the theater world, let me just say Actors Theatre is the gold standard in the world of regional theater.

As a former theater student, I can say with certainty the majority of young people who want to work professionally in theater rank Actors Theatre high on their lists of places they hope to someday work. One of the things I think is really superb is that the theater has a well-respected intern and apprentice company that helps train the next generation of theater professionals. And, of course, I have to give a shoutout to ATL for employing graduates of my former theater program at Morehead State University. It’s worth recognizing when regional theaters with presence on the national scene employ people from their own states. Kudos to ATL for recognizing quality talent in the Commonwealth.

This year marks ATL’s 50th anniversary of producing professional theater in Kentucky. While the theater has changed through the years, and continues to evolve, it remains one of the top theaters in the nation and is dedicated to keeping the spotlight on the Commonwealth for years to come. Congratulations to Actors Theatre of Louisville, the 2013 National Award recipient in the Governor’s Awards in the Arts.

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Give me the rundown of the work and programming produced by Actors Theatre each year.

We have multiple streams of programming. We want to, and feel we have a responsibility, to serve a broad range of people in this community. We have our main stage series which is sponsored by Brown Forman. That is a range of plays that are comedies, dramas, sometimes musicals, sometimes classics, sometimes contemporary. We also have some annual shows which are great holiday traditions for people. They bring their friends and families and they come year after year. We do Dracula, which is unusual in regional theater. This is our 19th year of running Dracula. People love it. We do A Christmas Carol and this will be our 38th season of producing A Christmas Carol. That’s a great entry point, often for children, whose families bring them. We see and have heard many stories from people who remember coming here as a kid and now they’re bringing their own children.

We do the Humana Festival, and that’s how we’re known nationally and internationally. The Humana Festival is like the Sundance of new plays. We produce six to 10 new plays each year during the Humana Festival. It takes place in March and people come from all over the country and all around the world to see it. This past year we had visitors from almost 10 different countries and from more than 30 different states.

How long have you produced the Humana Festival?

In 2014, our current season, we’ll present our 38th Humana Festival. One of the reasons we are so honored to receive the National Award in the Governor’s Awards in the Arts is, over our long history of 50 years, we’ve really been a pioneer. We continue to be a leader in our national field of theater. The Humana Festival was the first new play festival that existed amongst regional theaters in this country. Actors Theatre made a bold commitment and has really stood by that commitment and continued to invest in new play development. And that is to impact the canon of American theater that exists, to continue to feed new work into the American theater. We were a pioneer in creating the business models that exist today for theaters and for many arts organizations, the subscription model that really helps to sustain what we do because people commit to a full season and it allows us to produce a range of programming. Whereas, if we were to sell single tickets to each show, it would be a much bigger and challenging marketing investment.

How has the theater been a leader on the national scene among regional theaters?

Actors Theatre has been a leader over our history and today amongst regional theaters in new play development. We have hundreds and hundreds of theaters and individuals who come to the Humana Festival each year to see the work we are premiering and to either commit to produce it at their organization, to sign on as an agent for one of the playwrights, or to publish the work. We have produced more than 450 new plays for the American theater. One of our big goals each year is to insure they receive subsequent productions. Our current statistic on that is about 80 percent of them go on to subsequent productions. We think that is very strong.

We were actually early in terms of giving access to patrons and donors to our artistic process. We have an open rehearsal process. People can come in and watch rehearsals, whereas many theaters protect that and don’t allow people into the room. We give them access to reading scripts early on in the process.

I would say today we are doing some innovative things in terms of technology. One of the things I’m really excited about we started this past year is a series called The Balcony. For people who are really attached to their phones and need to be on Facebook and Twitter, we have opened it up on certain nights where any seat in the balcony you can Tweet and post to Facebook and interact during the whole show. One of the things I thought was so fascinating and delightful about it is that people who have come there to be on social media and interact with the show have said after intermission, “I want to put my phone away because I just want to watch the show.” We’re really willing to test new media, new technology, in terms of what we do.

Les Waters, who is our current artistic director, is renowned in the world of theater and is a hugely sought after director, one of the top directors working in the states right now. We’re really excited he is here and working with us.

How has Actors Theatre’s location kept Kentucky in the national spotlight over the years and why has that been important to the state?

We are thrilled that we are located in Louisville and in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. We get tremendous support in terms of people valuing what we bring to the quality of life and in terms of economic impact to this region. Through the Humana Festival, especially, but through other work, too. We bring great positive attention to the state of Kentucky in terms of truly being one of the best in the country and a leader in the arts in the nation. We also are bringing in the 150 artists we work with each year and employing them in the state. I think they learn a lot about Louisville and Kentucky, and they become ambassadors for this area when they return to their homes.

I’m a big believer that if any of the arts organizations thrive, it helps to elevate the entire sector. I do think because of the great support of this community and the state of Kentucky, Actors Theatre has been able to thrive and to remain strong. That helps the entire arts ecology in the state. We do have strong organizations and artists throughout the state. If we all can remain strong it helps the others as well.

Emily B. Moses, communications director

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

2013 Governor’s Awards in the Arts: Tom Eblen

Before beginning work in state government eight years ago, I was a journalist. I loved my work. I loved talking to strangers, asking questions other people never get to ask, having one-on-one interactions with interesting people. I loved condensing and sharing the knowledge I gained from those interviews and presenting it to a larger audience via the newspaper format. I’ll not lie: I miss it.

It was all of those things I miss that led me to conduct interviews with each of the nine recipients of the 2013 Governor’s Awards in the Arts. It’s a project I’ll carry with me for a while.

It was an especially exciting prospect to interview a man who has spent his professional life as an interviewer himself. Tom Eblen, current columnist and former managing editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader, is this year’s Media Award recipient. It was great fun sitting down with Tom and learning about his career and lifelong interest in the arts.

Tom is originally from Lexington and is a graduate of Western Kentucky University. His journalism career took him to the Associated Press in Tennessee and then to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution where he was a reporter and editor. Eventually, he came back to Lexington to work for the Herald-Leader as managing editor for 10 years before settling into the position he holds now as a columnist. I hope you enjoy reading what he had to say when he was on the other side of the interview equation.

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How would you describe the kind of work you do in relation to the arts?

The columns I write tend to be about local and state issues. They tell good stories about interesting people. The kinds of things I like to look at are what is interesting, what makes Kentucky unique. But also, what does Kentucky need to be doing to position itself well for the future? We have such a rich history in this state. How do we leverage that to become a more successful state? And a big part of that has been arts coverage. Part of it is just because it’s something I’m interested in and have always been interested in. I’ve always had a lot of friends who were artists and writers and I liked their work. I think the arts in Kentucky are so important, because what they really are, are expressions of creativity. It’s really central to the thinking process, and to success, to be able to look at the creative process. The arts are such a great expression of that. You see it all over Kentucky.

When did you first become interested in arts as subject matter?

I’ve always been interested in the arts. My first cousin is an artist and his father was a well-known artist. I kind of grew up around it. I always liked to draw and liked art. I always had an interest in the arts and as a journalist I’ve always been interested in writing. In this job I try to write about what I think is interesting and what other people will think is interesting.

When you talk with someone, when you want to write a story, do you have specifics in mind or do you just want to learn about them?

I just want to know what their story is. As most people know a columnist is a storyteller. Having been a reporter for a dozen years, then an editor for 20-something years, I know what’s going to make an interesting story. Also, a lot of my best column ideas come from readers. Generally what I have done with artists is, if their work really intrigues me I figure their story will too. Most artists are really interesting people. A lot of them have very interesting stories about how they became artists and the thoughts behind their work. People who are driven to create art are driven by something. And that something is usually very interesting or they have a good story behind it.

How often are you thinking about your readers when you are writing?

I’m always thinking when I’m writing, what’s going to interest the reader? What’s going to grab them in and make them read all of the way to the end? The easiest thing for a reader to do is to stop reading. How can I answer the questions that will come to their mind when they’re reading and look for the things they’ll want to know about?

Why is it important for a newspaper to include the arts in their coverage?

Well I think one of the things newspapers are supposed to be is a reflection of their community and community life. In most vibrant communities, the arts are a really important part of it. It’s where a lot of segments of a community come together because of a common interest. My wife does a lot of volunteer work for the UK Opera Theatre and through that we’ve met a lot of people from all professions.

Do newspapers play a role in arts advocacy?

Editorials and columnists, I think they do. Newspapers are always careful about advocacy but I think generally they do. Part of that is explaining to people, especially in tight budget times when there are a lot of life and death issues going on, things like the arts are still important for quality of life. They’re an important part of what a rich community in this state is all about.

What makes Kentucky artists special, different, unique – part of our culture and heritage?

Kentucky has always been a place in transition. In the early days we were the frontier, and then we were the west, and then we were a border state. Then, in many ways, things were going on all around us and we were our own little island. Now as the economy is changing we’re kind of in the middle of the country. It’s always been a society in transition, a society in mobility. It’s also been a society that people have always been very proud of where they come from. Plus, we have a lot of very distinct regions and those regions produce a lot of different kinds of art.

I think the bottom line is it comes down to a sense of place. I don’t know many Kentucky artists or writers who don’t have a sense of place at the core of their work. You look at almost all Kentucky writers, and artists are the same way, the colors and the inspiration they get from the state really makes a difference in their art.

Emily B. Moses, communications director

Categories: Literary 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: , , , , , , , , ,

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: , , , , , ,

Participate in national arts standards public review

National Coalition for Core Arts Standards logoInterested in the future of arts education in Kentucky and across the nation? You should be. You currently have the opportunity to give feedback on proposed changes and updates made to the national core arts standards.

The national standards are available — in draft form — online. The standards haven’t been updated since the 1990’s and public input is being sought. You can make comments through July 15 as part of the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS) public review.

The coalition of national arts and education organizations and media arts representatives developing the 2014 National Core Arts Standards recently released the PreK-8 standards.

The new, voluntary grade-by-grade web-based standards are intended to affirm the place of arts education in a balanced core curriculum, support the 21st-century needs of students and teachers, and help ensure that all students are college and career ready.

The Kentucky General Assembly, as part of Senate Bill 1 (2009), mandated new academic standards in all subjects including arts and humanities. The legislature directed the Kentucky Department of Education, in cooperation with the Council on Postsecondary Education, to consider standards that have been adopted by national content advisory groups and professional education consortia.

Anyone with an interest is welcome to participate in the public review of one or more of the discipline drafts in dance, media arts, music, theater and visual arts.

For instructions, visit the NCCAS website.

For more information about the project, visit http://nccas.wikispaces.com, or the NCCAS Facebook page.

Don’t miss this opportunity to make your voice heard on this important subject, and consider sharing this information with others in the arts and education communities.

Emily B. Moses, communications director

Categories: Arts Advocacy, Arts Education, Literary Arts, Other, Performing Arts, Visual Arts | Tags: , , , ,

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