Arts & Culture

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.

Rhonda J. Miller

Small museums across Kentucky are a vital part of the state's tourism industry. Like so many other institutions, these specialized museums are facing the challenges of remaining open and serving the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Small museums across the commonwealth spotlight a numbers of Kentucky’s favorite activities, such as motorsports, basketball, and music. 

On a recent morning at the Muhlenberg Music Museum in Central City, Freddie Mayes played some of the most popular songs of Everly Brothers on the jukebox, including Wake Up Little Susie and Dream.

"This is a 1953 model jukebox that’s been restored," said Mayes. "It’s loaded with the 45s of the Everly Brothers music, all of their gold records are there." 

Amanda Balltrip

An opera singer who lives in Somerset, Kentucky is offering six months of voice lessons for two young people who would not be able to afford the vocal training. The deadline to apply to Lift Every Voice is Aug. 22.

Singer Amanda Balltrip, who is from Harlan and lives in Somerset, said the program is open to any student in grades 6-12.

“They do not have to be interested in classical music. They can be interested in any genre. It can be pop, it can be rock, it can be country," said Balltrip. "Whatever speaks to their heart, that’s what we want to pursue.”

The National Quilt Museum

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically reduced the number of visitors to popular tourism destinations in Kentucky, and across the nation. Since the shutdown of most Kentucky businesses and cultural sites in mid-March, and the gradual reopening, museums are among those that have been hit the hardest.  

In the first of a two-part series, WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with Frank Bennett,  CEO of The National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky, about how museums are maintaining a presence during this time of limited tourism.

Bennett is also a consultant to other museums, and has a blog called

During the conversation, Bennett said the museum follows all the safety guidelines required during the pandemic. He added that Kentucky’s statewide mandate to wear masks has made it easier to keep visitors safe when they come to the National Quilt Museum.

Owensboro Multicultural Festival Facebook

The pandemic has forced the cancellation of countless arts and cultural events throughout the region.

One event that’s persevering is the annual Owensboro Multicultural Festival—although it’s going to look radically different this weekend.

The festival will be online only, with all events streamed Saturday through the festival’s Facebook page.

Festival Committee Chair Debbie McCoy said Owensboro is home to people from many different backgrounds, due in part to the local refugee resettlement center. She hopes the digital festival promotes understanding of local refugees and immigrants.

“It’s not a matter of them fitting in, it’s a matter of them being able to flourish in whatever way they feel is important,” said McCoy.

Rhonda J. Miller

The Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Owensboro is reopening on June 17 after being closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the museum's annual four-day outdoor music festival, ROMP, which was scheduled for the end of June, won't be held this year. 

WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with Executive Director Chris Joslin, who said visitors will find things a bit different now, with the museum's Wednesday through Saturday schedule and 'Healthy at Work' precautions in place.


Arts for All Kentucky

A nonprofit group that sends artists into Kentucky classrooms is adapting to the reality of schools being closed because of COVID-19.

The arts inclusion program has transitioned to 'virtual learning' and is available to anyone who wants to expand their creative skills.

Arts for All Kentucky works with about a dozen artists who bring music, drawing, painting, quilting and other creative experiences into classrooms.

The activities are developed with the priority of engaging those with disabilities, but the classroom experience includes all students.

Stephanie Wolf

The National Endowment for the Arts has awarded nearly $30 million to state, regional and territorial arts agencies across the country from CARES Act funds. 

The grants include $454,100 to the Kentucky Arts Council and $473,900 to the Indiana Arts Commission, according to the NEA. Additionally, the regional organization South Arts, with Kentucky a member, will receive $784,200 and Arts Midwest, which includes Indiana, will receive $757,100.

In Indiana, restaurants and bars are shuttered, schools are closed, and like much of the country, people are being ordered to stay home.

The Indiana Historical Society is trying to document what it's like to live in this time, and have asked the public to help.

"We thought, this is a period of time people are going to study for centuries," says Jody Blankenship, president of the Indiana Historical Society. "And we need to collect the voices of our community right now."

John Prine, a wry and perceptive writer whose songs often resembled vivid short stories, died Tuesday in Nashville from complications related to COVID-19. His death was confirmed by his publicist, on behalf of his family. He was 73 years old.

Arts for All Kentucky

The response to the coronavirus has caused closing of schools and community organizations across the state, including Arts for All Kentucky.

It’s a statewide organization based in Bowling Green that sponsors art programs for children, youth, and adults with disabilities. 

One project in suspension is the Side by Side program based at the Kentucky Museum at Western Kentucky University that partners children with disabilities with a local artist. 

Arts for All Kentucky Director Delaire Rowe said it’s one of the many programs in limbo.

Brandon Woempner

Art can take many shapes and forms. Describing a spectrum of emotions, concepts and ideas, Western Kentucky University Art Professor Yvonne Petkus drew upon her experience visiting Bosnia to create original works for an exhibit on display in Bowling Green.

That exhibit, Responding to Bosnia, is on display at the Downing Museum, and also features photography by WKU photojournalist James Kenney.

"As an artist, I deal with dark content and difficult content regularly," said Petkus. "And part of that is because just like a philosopher use certain philosophy and words, the written language to further philosophy and looking at the harder parts of who we are as human beings.

People have been playing music together in the small Appalachian town of Hindman, Ky., since it was founded in the late 1800s. Today, one of the few businesses still open in the town is the Appalachian School of Luthiery, which teaches people how to build wooden stringed instruments. Now that school is playing a role in helping the local community overcome drug addiction.