Arts & Culture

Julie Bowles

“I'm a firm believer that we have to tell our story; it has to be told as thoroughly and honestly as possible.” 

Black narratives coming from African Americans are important when working to liberate the mind. Recently, I spoke with Derrick Simmons whose childhood love for reading and writing materialized into several self-published book titles. His first book, Message To The Little Homies, was inspired while Simmons was incarcerated, having a phone conversation with his son.

“The overall message in the book is to change the way that you see yourself, to change the way that you think, and by doing so, your behavior will automatically change. The book opens with a letter where I'm actually [writing a letter] “dear little homie” and I'm letting the little homie know that I know you are out in the streets, you [are] wilding out. But change is necessary! You need to change your life. So [in] the first chapter it actually deals with a brief lesson in history.”



Colin Jackson

A new mural on Western Kentucky University's campus is honoring the legacy of a historic Black neighborhood in Bowling Green. Currently on display at the Kentucky Museum, the opening coincides with the return of students to WKU for the beginning of the fall semester.

The fresco-style installation is a collaboration between WKU Professor Michael Nichols, local artist Alice Gatewood Waddell, and students Aisha Salifu and Riley O’Loane.

It's a time-honored way of working that artists have used in classic works like the Sistine Chapel.

"It requires that artists paint into wet plaster, and if they do that the pigment they put on to the permanently locked into the plaster. And it lasts as long as the wall does because it’s not a skin on the wall like most paint, like that’s just latex on metal that will eventually peel off, it’s actually part of the plaster,” Nichols said.

The Bonnaroo music festival will require proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID test to attend. In a series of Tweets, organizers of the popular music festival strongly encouraged full vaccination, reminding attendees that the last day to receive the second shot of Moderna or Pfizer, or a single dose of Johnson and Johnson, will be Aug. 19th.

Festival organizers are requesting that unvaccinated individuals wear a mask at all times. Indoors, masks will be required regardless of vaccination status.

Kentucky Museum

An exhibit at the Kentucky Museum on the campus of Western Kentucky University reveals how women in the Bluegrass State expressed their artistic and patriotic vision more than 200 years ago.

The unique collection is called "Whitework: Women Stitching Identity” and features pieces created between 1790-1830.

The white bedcovers with hand embroidered designs were made from cotton and flax fibers grown in Kentucky. 

Textile researcher and one of the curators of the exhibit, Laurel Horton, said the bedcovers have intricate patterns, usually with flowers and vines. 

Bill Sheckles

A new museum in Bardstown is intended to help fill in some gaps in the town’s history. The Bardstown-Nelson County African American Heritage Museum opened June 10.

In his work as a truancy officer for Bardstown City Schools, Bill Sheckles realized that many young people don’t know about the contributions African Americans have made to the city in all walks of life. 

Sheckles is a city councilman and former Bardstown Mayor who coordinated the development of the Bardstown-Nelson County African American Heritage Museum. 

The museum is located in an historic building constructed circa 1812 that’s currently the First Baptist Church.

Public Theatre of Kentucky

As arts organizations across Kentucky struggle to rebound after the pandemic, a theater in Bowling Green is now dealing with one more annoyance.

The side of the blue building that houses Public Theatre of Kentucky has been spray painted with what Producing Artistic Director Amber Turner describes as childlike faces with big eyes.

She said the graffiti is "frustrating." 

We recently received a grant and we redid our dressing room. And then, because we were making the inside look so wonderful, we decided to freshen up the outside," said Turner. "That included painting the front of the building and we did some touchups on the side of the building, but now we’re going to have to completely repaint the whole side of the building.” 

Simon & Schuster has scrapped its plans to distribute a book written by one of the Louisville police officers who shot Breonna Taylor, after news of its publication ignited widespread criticism.

Arts of Southern Kentucky

Arts of Southern Kentucky (ASK) is gearing up for a return to in-person performances this summer in downtown Bowling Green.

The new arts group is the result of the recent merger between the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center and Orchestra Kentucky.

Like many arts groups across the country, SKyPAC has focused on virtual performances during the pandemic.

ASK Development Director Denise Lubey says the lifting of certain COVID restrictions, and the recent merger, give everyone a chance to start fresh this summer.

Lamont Collins Owner and Operator of Roots 101 African American Museum in Louisville, Kentucky.

Located at 124th N. 1st St. in Louisville, Kentucky, Roots 101 African American Museum is an incubator for African American history.

Its mission statement is, “To promote understanding and inspire appreciation of the achievement, contribution, and experiences of African Americans using exhibits, programs, and activities to illustrate African-American history, culture and art,” and that’s what they do.

The brainchild of Lamont Collins, who saw the need and urgency to exhibit the story of Black history, Roots 101 has taken Louisville and the museum world by storm.

Music festival season seems ready to go on in 2021. The Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival has posted its lineup, scheduled to run September 2-5. This year's event marks the 20th year of the Manchester, Tenn. festival, which, like everyone else, cancelled last year because of the pandemic.

How do traditional arts organizations respond to turbulent times?

Apollo High School

Kentucky students involved in the performing arts have been forced into a long and unwelcome intermission during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But theater students at Apollo High School in Daviess County are back on stage in a virtual play being presented this weekend called Everything Seems Like Maybe.  It’s about – what else? – teenagers dealing with the pandemic.

One of those teens offering perspective on living a year alongside the pandemic is Meg Zuberer, a senior at Apollo High.

"The reason I chose this monologue is because I felt like out of them all, it fit me the most," said Zuberer. "During these terrible times, these days of people risking their lives to save others, I find myself questioning the normal. Like why? You know, it’s all made me wonder, 'What do I really want to be doing?' I think the main theme of everything going on right now, I mean when you really boil it down, I think it’s love’.”

Kentucky Arts Council

The Kentucky Arts Council has expanded its annual Arts Day to a weeklong event, and it will all be done virtually due to the pandemic. 

Traditionally, the event has brought Kentucky artists and arts leaders to the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort for a celebratory day of performances, demonstrations, and a photo opp with the arts community and lawmakers. 

But this year, Kentucky Arts Council executive director Chris Cathers said they wanted it to be about more than simply celebrating the arts.

“As we began to talk about it as a staff, we kept coming up with workshops and ideas and performances and connections that we can make,” Cathers said. “And we were like, this is more than what we can do in one day.”

Jessalyn Brown

Jessalyn Brown met Kyra Higgins through theater. 

“I saw her on stage and I was just like, ‘This girl is so good!’ She was just amazing.” 

So when it came time for Brown, 21, to direct a play for her senior project at Kentucky’s Georgetown College, she knew she wanted Higgins, 22, to be in it. 

The play was “Blackademics,” a 2018 piece by Black playwright Idris Goodwin. In it, two Black women, both college professors, visit a new, exclusive restaurant to celebrate one of the women getting tenure. The celebration turns strange, however, when the restaurant’s server makes the women fight to “earn” a table, a chair or a glass of water. 



Jessica Mason / Bowling Green International Festival

The 30th annual Bowling Green International Festival is taking place this weekend in a way unlike ever before.

Keeping with the 2020 tradition of social distancing, this year's festival will take place for free online via live stream on the event's website and Facebook page.

Leyda Becker is the international communities liason with the city of Bowling Green, as secretary for the festival's board of directors.

She said planners looked at similar events around the nation that also went virtual, in an effort to figure out how to best convert the experience of walking around Circus Square Park and learning about different cultures to an online-only medium.