arts resilience initiative

LexArts and the Blue Grass Community Foundation announce the creation of the Arts Resilience Initiative to provide financial relief for artists and arts organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The current health crisis is putting unprecedented pressures on Central Kentucky’s arts community. With strict guidelines to stem the spread of the virus, public gatherings are banned, venues are closed, and performances, shows, events, classes and gigs are being cancelled, resulting in hundreds of thousands in projected lost revenue for artists and arts organizations. 

LexArts, in partnership with Blue Grass Community Foundation, will address the urgent need of nonprofit arts organizations based in, and artists living, working, creating and/or performing in the LexArts/BGCF common service area (Fayette, Bourbon, Clark, Jessamine, Madison, Scott and Woodford counties) by taking immediate action to deploy financial resources through the Arts Resilience Initiative.

Focused on lost income, the fund will quickly provide one-time relief to eligible artists and arts organizations on a first-come, first-served basis. The maximum award for an individual artist is $500, while the maximum award for arts organizations is $2,000. 

Applications from individual artists will be accepted continuously, with grants made on a rolling basis. Applications from arts organizations must be received by April 24. 

Application information and eligibility

Application link

Leading the list of Arts Resilience Initiative donors is Knight Foundation Donor Advised Charitable Fund at Blue Grass Community Foundation, which is issuing a $50,000 matching opportunity to challenge the community to rise to the occasion and support local arts. 

Additional initial gifts include $15,000 from the Jenna and Matthew Mitchell Family Foundation, $11,111.11 from The Groovalution, $10,000 from the EE Murry Family Foundation, an anonymous gift amount from Stockyard, LLC, and $10,000 from The Fund for Greater Lexington, a community endowment at Blue Grass Community Foundation.

“The arts inspire and sustain us in good times and in bad. Theaters, studios and galleries may now be closed, but art has never been more essential,” said Blue Grass Community Foundation President/CEO Lisa Adkins. “Many artists and arts organizations need support right now to sustain them through this crisis. To help do just that, generous donors have stepped forward to help us create the Arts Resilience Initiative. Someday, hopefully soon, we will be able to once again gather to hear a poem, visit a museum, take in a performance and enjoy a concert. We need to make sure that when that day comes, there is something to hear and see and celebrate.” 

Thanks to the support of these generous donors, the fund is able to move swiftly and issue a first round of grants totaling $30,000 to the LexArts 2019/2020 General Operating Support Partners: the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning, Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras, the Lexington Art League, Lexington Children’s Theater, Lexington Philharmonic and the Living Arts & Science Center.

The Arts Resilience Fund is a resources-in, resources-out fund, and the fund will continue to provide financial relief to artists and arts organizations only as long as donations support it. It is projected that the demand for funds will exceed the available resources, so donations are needed to continue grantmaking to help our local artists and arts organizations when they need it most. 

“The need is high, and the issue is urgent,” said LexArts Interim President and CEO Ame Sweetall. “We invite those who appreciate and enjoy Lexington’s arts scene to join us in addressing the urgent needs of the artists and arts organizations in our community and ensuring the longevity of the creative sectors of Lexington.”

For more information about the Arts Resilience Fund, eligibility information and online applications for artists and arts organizations, visit 


Donate online

Donate by check: Make checks payable to Blue Grass Community Foundation and indicate that your gift should be directed to the Arts Resilience Initiative. Mail checks to: Blue Grass Community Foundation Attn: Arts Resilience Initiative, 499 E. High Street #112, Lexington, KY 40507

If your business or company would like to join the initiative and provide a corporate gift, please email Scott Fitzpatrick at

About LexArts

LexArts is a nonprofit community organization that works for the development of a strong and vibrant arts community as a means of enhancing the quality of life in central Kentucky. Through its annual Fund for the Arts, LexArts raises millions of dollars in support of local arts. In turn, LexArts underwrites the operating expenses for a variety of Partner Organizations, awards grants through its Community Arts Development and Professional Development programs, and offers affordable exhibition and performance space for arts organizations. To learn more about LexArts, visit or contact Interim President/CEO Ame Sweetall at 859.255.2951.

About Blue Grass Community Foundation 

Blue Grass Community Foundation creates more generous, vibrant and engaged communities, growing charitable giving throughout the Bluegrass and Appalachia Kentucky. To learn more about the Community Foundation, visit or contact President/CEO Lisa Adkins at 859.225.3343.  

Please follow and like us:

Essay Invitation: That Special Tree

Welcome to the UnderMain Invitational Essay Series! In celebration of Tree Week 2019  we invite you to write a short story or poem about that special tree of your childhood, your past, or in your life today. Why was it your “go to” tree? What species was it? How does it make you feel to recall it? What has become of it? The possible angles are limited only by experience and imagination. 

Please limit the word count to 500. UnderMain reserves an editorial prerogative to ensure that our content is a comfortable fit with community standards.

We can illustrate with stock photos (see Tom Martin’s There was this tree…), with a source-credited digital image of your own, or with your drawing (check out Christine Huskisson’s Twelve Trees.)

We’ll publish your essay on UnderMain so that you can share it (maybe with long-lost childhood friends who also recall that special tree and have stories of their own to contribute).

Check out this conversation for this week’s edition of Eastern Standard on WEKU with Tree Week core team members Bridget Abernathy and Heather Wilson:

Tell us about that special tree in your childhood!

Submit your essay to

Thank you and enjoy!

Please follow and like us:

Can Music Bring the Bluegrass State Together?

this just can’t go on. It’s ridiculous: Here are people living right next to each other who can’t have a meaningful dialogue, and who assume nothing will ever change. So I keep thinking, ‘what can I do about that?’

  • Teddy Abrams, Music Director of the Louisville Orchestra

Interesting, the way information gets around. It took a friend of a friend emailing the link to an article in the San Fransisco Classical Voice to call the attention of Kentuckians to the remarkable thoughts of an innovator within our midst. And who can argue with Teddy Abrams’ observation of the power of music to build bridges in divisive times…such as these?


(Top photo by Chris Witzke)

Please follow and like us:

An Experiment in Love

The way of nonviolent resistance … is ultimately the way of the strong man. It is not a method of stagnant passivity… For while the nonviolent resister is passive in the sense that he is not physically aggressive toward his opponent, his mind and his emotions are always active, constantly seeking to persuade his opponent that he is wrong.

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Six Pillars of Non-Violent Resistance and the ancient Greek notion of ‘Agape’

The full story from Brainpickings


Please follow and like us:
original works

Tell Your Story

Things happen. Things that are out of our control, barging into our lives totally out of the blue. And sometimes, these events are unforgettable. But over time, the details do become hazy, even forgotten.

As Gabriel García Márquez put it in reflecting on his own story, “life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it.”

“The best of our stories,” notes Brainpickings editor Maria Popova, “are those that transform and redeem us, ones that both ground us in ourselves by reminding us what it means to be human and elevate us by furnishing an instrument of self-transcendence.”

UM invites you to write it up for posterity. Describe some unanticipated, powerful event and, importantly, what you learned as a result of the experience. Send it to us for consideration. We’ll work with you.

For inspiration, read the first in our latest series, Mary Claire O’Neal’s It Came In Over The Bedroom Door.

To tell your story: write it up, attach it as a Word doc along with any related images (not required) and email to: If images are too large to email, DropBox them to same email address.

Please follow and like us:

Round 2: Artist Professional Development Grants


Due to the success of the inaugural round of Artist Professional Development Grants this past summer, the Great Meadows Foundation will now run this grant program three times a year. For the result of the first round, visit the UnderMain Post from August of this year. These grants are open for artists living in Kentucky and the counties of Floyd and Clarke in Indiana.

Additional information about the Shands’ collection can be found in the text Great Meadows: The Making of Here and Elizabeth Ann Smith’s You Are Here – a review for UnderMain when the text was released.

The next deadline for applications is November 20, 2016. Grants can be employed in the period January 6th through June 30th, 2017.

For further information go to
Information about grant cycles in 2017

Cycle 1. 2017
Grant Cycle January 6 through June 30, 2017
Application deadline: Midnight on Sunday November 20, 2016
Notification date: December 30, 2016
Report deadline: July 21, 2017

Cycle 2. 2017
Grant Cycle May 1 through October 31, 2017
Application deadline: Midnight on Sunday March 19, 2017
Notification date: April 24, 2017
Report deadline: November 21, 2017

Cycle 3. 2017
Grant Cycle September 1, 2017 through February 28, 2018
Application deadline: Midnight on Sunday July 23, 2017
Notification date: August 25, 2017
Report deadline: March 21, 2018

Please follow and like us:

Great Meadows Foundation Announcement


August 1, 2016

Great Meadows Foundation is pleased to announce the award of 19 grants to artists in the Kentucky region through the inaugural cycle of the Artists Professional Development Grants program. Supporting artists from across the state, the grants will enable recipients to travel to visit conferences, major exhibitions, art fairs and biennials, and to connect with professionals in the field whose expertise can help them develop their practice.

Speaking about the inaugural program, Al Shands, founder of Great Meadows Foundation, says: “we are thrilled that Kentucky artists are so ambitious in terms of what they want to see, who they want to meet, and how they see these grants benefitting them.” Julien Robson, Director of Great Meadows Foundation adds: “We received 36 very good applications for this inaugural program and are proud that, with these 19 grants, we will be able help a total of 20 artists fulfill travel projects that will expand their horizons, help them build new connections, and support their growth as artists.”

Grantees were selected with the advice of an external reviewer, a professional in the field from outside the region. The amount of support given in the 19 grants totals $40,768.-, with individual awards ranging between $1,000.- and $4,980.-. Grantee artists will be enabled to travel to American cities like Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Pittsburgh, as well as to Cuba, Denmark, France, Mexico, Italy, Korea, UAE, and the United Kingdom in pursuit of their proposals.

Grantee artists in this inaugural cycle are: Kayla Bischoff, Louisville; Mary Carothers, Louisville; Dave Caudill, Louisville; Valerie Sullivan Fuchs, Shelbyville; Brian Harper, New Albany; Kenneth Hayden, Louisville; Jacob Heustis, Louisville; Amira Karaoud, Louisville; Jonathan McFadden, Lexington; Elizabeth Mesa-Gaido, Morehead; Neli Ouzounova, Bowling Green; Letitia Quesenberry, Louisville; Stacey Reason and Andrew Cozzens (collaboration), Louisville; Kristin Richards, Louisville; Nathan G. Smith, Louisville; Skylar Smith, Louisville; James Robert Southard, Lexington; Richard Sullivan, Louisville; and Sarah West, Mount Sterling.

Artist Professional Development Grants is an ongoing program of the Great Meadows Foundation and will have deadlines three times each year. The next cycle will beannounced at the beginning of September, 2016 on the foundation’s website and

Facebook page.

Great Meadows Foundation is a grant giving foundation, launched in 2016 by contemporary art collector and philanthropist Al Shands. Named for the home that Al and his late wife Mary created, the vision of Great Meadows Foundation is to strengthen and support the visual arts in Kentucky by empowering our community’s artists and other visual arts professionals to research, connect, and participate more actively in the broader contemporary art world. Artist Professional Development Grants are focused on supporting and forwarding the careers of Kentucky artists. This grant program promotes the growth and development of visual art in Kentucky by helping improve the skills, resources, knowledge, and connections of artists. The grant program aims to further artists’ careers by encouraging them to engage with the broader art world and raising the bar for art being produced in the region. Developing artists’ awareness of and participation in the national and international art world, Artist Professional Development Grants aim to strengthen the level of discourse and practice among artists in the state.

For more information, visit:

Please follow and like us:

Running Where We Stand

Aaron Skolnick’s show at the Glacier Gallery – 1107 Harrison Gallery in Cincinnati’s Brighton district – is a must see says Jack Wood. See the review on AEQAI. Wood calls the exhibit ‘incredibly timely considering the Cincinnati Art Museum’s 30 American Artists.’ Wood sees a common theme in shows at The Art Academy and DAAP as well. This is a trip well worth your time.

Please follow and like us:

Why Arts Education Matters

DEFENDING ARTS and humanities is a hot topic among college presidents. Scott Miller, president of Virginia Wesleyan College, pays homage to the life and career advantages of a broad education in which Shakespeare resides compatibly with Steve Jobs.

Read on…

Please follow and like us:

The Great Meadows Foundation has launched!

Yes, it is here and yes, it is in support of Kentucky artists.

Great Meadows Foundation is a grant giving foundation, launched in 2016 by contemporary art collector and philanthropist Al Shands. Named for the home that Al and his late wife Mary created, the vision of Great Meadows Foundation is to strengthen and support the visual arts in Kentucky by empowering our community’s artists and other visual arts professionals to research, connect, and participate more actively in the broader contemporary art world.

The initial program, Artists Professional Development Grants, will provide visual artists in Kentucky with grants for travel outside the state, both nationally and internationally. This program encourages artists to engage critically with the international art world and thereby to enrich the art environment we live in. Awardees for the first summer cycle will be announced in August. While that deadline has passed, we hope you will stay tuned for an announcement of our next.

As the foundation develops, it will expand its scope with other types of grants and we look forward to keeping you abreast of these programs as they come on line. Future programs will be publicized through the GreatMeadowsFoundation website’s newsfeed, on Facebook and through Twitter.

We encourage you to forward information about Great Meadows Foundation, its website, and programs to colleagues and other visual arts professionals around Kentucky and help us raise awareness of this new support structure within the state.


Al Shands, Founder

Julien Robson, Director

Photo Credits: Verana Gerlach and Edward Winters

Read Also: A Review of Great Meadows: The Making of Here

Please follow and like us:

Firmly Rooted: Juried Exhibition 2016

An update from the M S Rezny Gallery…

M S Rezny Studio/Gallery is pleased to announce the finals in the national juried art competition Firmly Rooted 2016, addressing our ongoing symbiotic relationships with plants. Artists from 28 states submitted over 290 artworks of botanical interpretations in a variety of mediums. This year’s juror Stuart Horodner, Director of the University of Kentucky Art Museum, selected 29 artworks to be in the exhibit. In making his selections he “tried for some diversity of approach and simply responded to things that had a solid skillful or conceptual approach, favoring things that went a bit further than simplest of ideas.”  Cash awards will be presented at the artist’s reception. The public is invited to vote on their “people’s choice” award.

Marcia Hopkins, “My Garden Feet”

Firmly Rooted is the gallery’s annual juried national art competition. Each year the gallery selects a different juror who is well respected in the artist community to select the finalists from a blind jury process. To get the word out about this small arts competition the prospectus was distributed to all the State Art Councils and listed on several national artist list-serves, places where artist go to find information about upcoming exhibits. We were assisted locally by notices in the local papers and through LexArts artist registry. Nearly half of the finalists are regional artists which fits the demographics of the entries submitted.

Of his selection for the exhibit Mr. Horodner stated “Artists have for centuries have used nature to inspire them, and have found innumerable ways to represent it. In jurying this exhibition, I tried to recognize a diverse range of approaches and media, acknowledging solid skills and conceptual rigor. My hope is that the accumulated works offer lively encounters for viewers of all ages and backgrounds.”

A First Prize award of $500 and three $100 Honorable Mentions will be presented at the artist reception, July 15th, 5-8pm. To help with prize money, the gallery has the generous support of several local sponsors. A People’s Choice Award will be presented at the end of the exhibition where winning artist receives monies collected from votes placed at $1 each.

Gallery Hours are Tuesday-Friday11am-4pm,, Saturday 1-3 and by appointment.


Hosted by M S Rezny Studio/Gallery, Lexington Distillery District, Lexington, KY

Juror: Stuart Horodner, Director of the University of Kentucky Art Museum

Please follow and like us:

Slave Memorial Public Art RFQ

LexArts Inc. in association with the Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial seek artists to create public art that recognizes slave graves both marked and unmarked in the Lake Cumberland area.  This artwork will create a visual landmark within the community. The goal is to commission proposals by three experienced public artists for the site with the expectation of realizing one of the proposals next year, according to a LexArts statement.   There is no application fee to enter.

Project Description
The Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial board was created in an effort “To recognize and honor slaves and their burial sites in the Lake Cumberland area, to demonstrate that every person be regarded with dignity and respect.” Goals/Objectives to accomplish the mission include the following:

•      To recognize and honor those sold into slavery in our community.
•      To demonstrate to all that these lives are not forgotten, that these lives made a difference.
•      To bring dignity and respect to their final resting place.
•      To make every effort to learn the names of those buried.
•      To promote inclusiveness of everyone in the life of our community.
•      To develop an educational program that illustrates the daily life of a slave and the many contributions they made.


Project Budget
The project budget is $50,000.  The budget is negotiable but must include travel, research, design, execution, insurance, taxes, site preparation and materials.    LexArts will confirm the feasibility of completing the project within the estimated project budget during preliminary design.

Project Site
The selected site remains uncertain. Various sites have been proposed. The City of Somerset has offered multiple locations but the most logical site is on the grounds of The Mill Springs Battlefield Museum and Visitors Center.  The Mill Springs Battlefield Museum and Visitors Center board has identified three locations on the grounds of the museum. The selected artist will have the opportunity to suggest locations that best displays their work.


Deadline for Artist Qualifications                                      May 30, 2016

Artist Notification                                                                 June 8, 2016

Finalist Proposals Due                                                          July 15, 2016
Application Guidelines (Incomplete Submissions will not be accepted)
Apply here.
– A one page artist statement describing public art experience and interest in the project.
– A current resume (no more than three pages)
– Up to 6 digital images of past mural / art work in .jpg format no larger than 500 kb each. Each file must be named with the artist’s surname and image number to correspond to an image list (e.g. 01 Smith).

For more information, please contact Nathan Zamarron at 859-255-2951 or 

We are committed to a policy of providing opportunities to people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, age, veteran status, or physical disability.  Any artist may apply.
Selection Process
The submitted qualifications will be reviewed by a selection committee comprised of artists, arts professionals and community leaders. The images from the top artists will be exhibited in a gallery setting allowing the public to vote on their favorite works.   Using public input as one component in the selection process, the committee will identify three finalists.   The three selected finalists will have the opportunity to visit the site, meet with LexArts and community representatives.  Finalists will be paid $500 to develop a design and deliver a proposal of composition, concept statement and process.  A review of the final design will be conducted by the selection committee. One artist or artist team will be selected to realize their proposal.

Critical Selection Factors
• Resonance with the project description
• Artistic distinction
• Public Safety
• Low maintenance, durability
• Contextual integration into a specific urban site and its intrinsic character

The strength of the submitted images of past artworks demonstrating ability of the artist(s) to complete similar or related projects will be considered critical selection factors. In addition, the Committee is interested in a wide variety of creative solutions to the challenges of an outdoor public artwork.

Request for Proposals (Phase II)
Successful proposals will be expected to provide:

•A written document expressing the conceptual framework and artistic point of view that will guide development of the project ;

•One or more drawings of the proposed work of art; models are optional. Drawings and/or models should illustrate the conceptual relationships between the artwork and its environment.

•A timeline and budget (not to exceed $50,000) for production and installation;

•A detailed list of materials and construction requirements, with attention to issues of durability, maintenance and public safety.

Brief history of Lake Cumberland Area
Pulaski County was established in 1798, at that time the county went all the way down to the old Tennessee line between Wayne and Knox and the southern part of the county was Indian land.  In 1800 a part of Pulaski became Wayne and in 1802 there was no longer any Indian land.  Then in 1826 several acres of the southern part of Kentucky was now Tennessee with McCreary County being formed in 1912 from the Southern part of Pulaski and part of Wayne and Whitley.

The city of Somerset was founded in 1789 by Thomas Hansford and received its name for Somerset County, New Jersey, where some of the early settlers had come from. It was incorporated as a city in 1887 and made the county seat.  Point Isabel was on Lake Cumberland just south of Somerset, in 1890 and was renamed Burnside for General Ambrose Burnside, Union general during the Civil War.

Pulaski County is known as having a significant Civil War battle.  The battle of Mill Springs (also known as the battle of Fishing Creek {Confederate terminology} and battle of Logan’s Cross Roads {Union terminology}), was fought in both Pulaski and Wayne Counties, near Nancy.  It was the first win for the Union Army on January 19, 1862.  At the present time there is a Museum next to the National Cemetery in Nancy, Kentucky.  The Battle of Mill Springs Battlefield Association is at the present time working on the Museum, battlefield and other battlefield property in Wayne County becoming National.

Upon researching it has come to knowledge that Pulaski County had 149 slave owners in the past.  It was also found out that there are many of the cemeteries that have unmarked slave graves.  It would only be right that we recognize these slaves.  The slaves were in old Pulaski, McCreary, and Wayne Counties – hence Lake Cumberland Slaves.

Research Links
Information on Lake Cumberland can be found by visiting these sites:

Please follow and like us:

Proper English Y’all

Transylvania University senior Bridgett Howard has interned with UnderMain for the past year. We invited Bridgett to join the fun and she promptly rose to the occasion, penning an audio essay about her distinct Eastern Kentucky dialect and what she has experienced since arriving in Lexington.

Please follow and like us:

Proper English Y’all

Transylvania University senior Bridgett Howard has interned with UnderMain for the past year. We invited Bridgett to join the fun and she promptly rose to the occasion, penning an audio essay about her distinct Eastern Kentucky dialect and what she has experienced since arriving in Lexington.

Please follow and like us:

Deep Salon II: Raleigh Dailey, Where is She Now?

It was the musical version of coming upon a painter while taking a stroll in the park and, with his or her permission, observing as a blank canvas is transformed, becoming an image. You are seeing what the artist is creating and your mind is processing it, interpreting it – your way.

The latest UnderMain Salon provided just such an experience to a gathering of readers,writers and supporters at the home of co-publisher Christine Huskisson and her husband, Mike.

Lexington jazz pianist, composer, arranger and educator Raleigh Dailey gave many, if not most in the room their first glimpse at what goes into the creation of a song. He explained that for him, the sweet spot lies somewhere between the structure and confines of composition and the freedom and flight of improvisation.

As we listened and watched, Raleigh – assuring us that he had deliberately avoided thinking about what he would compose in order to produce in the moment – rendered a thing of beauty. He called for a suggested title and without pause, the artist Guy Kemper offered Where Is She Now? It fit. So well. Both in terms of meter and (you had to be there for this) mood.

We would like to share this work with you as an opportunity to support the mission of UnderMain. All you have to do is hit the YELLOW Donate button below.  All proceeds from your download of Raleigh Dailey’s Where Is She Now? help us properly compensate the fine work of our contributing writers, artists and designer. (UnderMain, you see, is intentionally ad-free. Call us crazy, but we’re serious about this.)

Please note that all you have to do is hit ‘Return to WarpWeft Productions, LLC’ once your donation is complete and you will be able to listen and download Where Is She Now?

Please follow and like us:

Water Power

The Low-Hanging Fruit of Energy Alternatives

by Zoe Strecker – Contributing writer

“Too good to be true,” might be your response if you learned that four million American homes could be powered by electricity from super-clean renewable energy sources. Yet, some 54,000 power plants poised to supply this energy are already under construction. They will have virtually no negative environmental impacts and the necessary technology is not new or experimental.

Ventures in hydropower are tapping into the tremendous potential sitting unused at dams that already exist for other purposes, like flood control, water supply, navigation and recreation.

According to the most recent study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (D. O. E.) Wind and Water Power Program, the United States can quickly add 12,000 megawatts to the electric grid by attaching hydropower turbines and generators to dams that already exist. This is not experimental pie in the sky. The equipment is old school, extremely reliable (based on decades of field-testing) and already manufactured worldwide by established companies like General Electric.

The transmission grid already exists and many of the dams are already public property. The engineering continues to evolve in search of ways to improve efficiency, squeezing more energy out of each site. Jobs would be created for construction and maintenance of the plants.

Proponents contend the environmental impact of hydroelectric power generation is tremendously positive because these plants would offset the use of fossil fuels, especially in states like Kentucky that depend on coal for over 90 percent of electricity production.

The same D. O. E. study cited earlier estimates that our state’s total potential hydro capacity at currently non-powered dams is over 1,700 megawatts. One of Kentucky’s most respected renewable energy experts, David Brown Kinloch, has a more conservative estimate for the state, 849.54 megawatts, or enough hydropower for about 425,000 homes. Compare this to the 250,000 homes served by a large coal-fired plant like Kentucky Utilities’ E. W. Brown generating station in Mercer County.

Although the 850 megawatts of hydro represents only about 5 percent of the total amount of electricity generated by coal-fired power plants in Kentucky, every megawatt of generating capacity supports the energy needs of about 500 standard homes and reduces the need for coal and natural gas.

By offsetting the use of coal, these projects would immediately prevent hourly emissions of over a million and a half pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. And they reduce the toxic cocktail of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury, chromium, arsenic, combustion sludge (fly ash, bottom ash, scrubber waste), ozone, soot, fine particulates and droplets of acids being released into a global environment that is becoming fragile and endangered at a disturbingly quickening pace.
One need only read the most recent conclusion of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to appreciate the urgency. A summary asserts that ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct. The report warns of escalating violence in conflicts over resources.


In Kentucky, two hydropower companies are developing plants capable of producing 263 megawatts at four retrofitted dams. The renovation of the Mother Ann Lee Hydroelectric Station at Lock and Dam number 7 on the Kentucky River has been completed by Brown Kinloch’s company. And three new facilities are under construction by American Municipal Power at existing large lock and dam structures, Cannellton, Smithland, and Captain Anthony Meldahl, on the Ohio River.

These projects are important as models for two reasons; building public confidence in hydropower’s feasibility, and helping the government agencies that own the dams and control river issues, i.e. the Kentucky River Authority (KRA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE), establish protocols for future projects in which private entrepreneurs want to retrofit dam sites. The smooth success of the Mother Ann Lee project helped convince the Kentucky State Legislature in July 2008, to make the development of low-impact hydropower part of the operational mandate for the KRA.

Preliminary permits have been issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for twenty-one other projects on the Ohio, Kentucky, Salt, Licking, Barren, Green and Nolin rivers. These could provide an additional 586.5 megawatts of generating capacity. A number of these existing dams, like those on the upper Kentucky River, also have defunct lock chambers that would be used to temporarily dewater space in the river for construction and maintenance, and, therefore, significantly reduce costs.

The cost of retrofitting these lock and dam structures is about $2.5 million per megawatt of capacity. Thus, for a total of $2.125 billion, Kentucky could boast 850 megawatts of perpetual renewable energy. Once construction is complete, there would be virtually no expenses beyond predictable maintenance costs and efficiency upgrades. Most importantly, there is no fuel to purchase, ever.

Contrast this with a plant like E. W. Brown in Mercer County that burns about a million and a half tons of increasingly expensive coal a year. With hydropower, consumers’ energy bills would be lower and more stable because they would not be vulnerable to the market volatility associated with fuel and transport contracts or to rate increases as coal-fired generation plants pass along costs to customers of emissions scrubbers and toxic waste processing and storage.

Hydropower is exempt from the hidden, “externalized” costs of fossil fuel-fired power plants that are passed on to everyone and are not reflected on consumers’ electric bills or on the power utility’s bottom line. The list of damages is long (and well-documented elsewhere) including the health costs to miners (black-lung, silicosis, mining accidents, poor work conditions, job-insecurity etc.), significant quality of life costs to coal-field residents (devastated property, ruined water supply, poor air quality, hazards from slurry impoundments, road damage by mining and conveyance vehicles, etc.), damage to the environment, and to the world at large (rapid climate change caused by carbon dioxide emissions, toxicity of soil and water resulting in high levels of mercury and other toxins released by mining and combusting fossil fuels, loss of valuable ecosystems, topsoil, and habitat).


Hydro technology in the meantime continues to improve. For example, Soft Energy Associates received a prestigious 2011 D. O. E. grant to evaluate the efficiency of variable speed, permanent magnet generators for low-head hydropower at their Weisenberger Mill project near Midway, Kentucky. Their goal is to enable small sites to generate more energy from the same amount of water.

Because the transmission grid is in better condition and is more accessible in Kentucky than in many other states, renewable energy developers of all kinds, including wind, are eager to invest in generation facilities here. A surge in sustainable energy would set a powerful example in a state dominated by the coal industry.

Another Appalachian coal state, West Virginia, has developed very little hydro power capacity, despite the fact that several large, federal flood control dams in the region were originally designed to produce hydro power. Penstocks were built into the original structures at the Bluestone and Tygart dams but were never put into service because of resistance from the state’s historically domineering coal industry.
Five percent is not enough cheap, clean, renewable power for all of Kentucky, but proponents see it as a solid start and a point of potential pride.

Please follow and like us:

Documentary Explores Hillbilly Stereotype

These are the words of Barbara Ellen Smith, the author of three books and many articles on Appalachia. A Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, Department of Sociology, Virginia Tech, Dr. Smith counts herself among an impressive list of advisors for a documentary on how media has perpetuated negative, repressive and downright hurtful stereotypes of the people of the Appalachian region. It comes at a time when initiatives such as SOAR (Save Our Appalachian Region) are making intense efforts to bring opportunity, prosperity and respect to a long repressed corner of the United States.


Ashley York and Sally Rubin.

Hollywood Hillbilly* is the work-in-progress of Ashley York and Sally Rubin. In the wake of Proper English, Y’all, Bridgett Howard’s illuminating essay on stereotyping mountain culture, UnderMain invited York and Rubin to tell us in their own words how Hollywood Hillbilly came about and what they hope to accomplish.

View the trailer

Where did you grow up?

Ashley York: I love that this film gives me the opportunity to tell folks that I grew up at Meathouse Holler, which is located in Kimper, Kentucky about nine miles east of Pikeville in eastern Kentucky. I lived at Kimper until I was 18 when I moved to Lexington to study journalism at the University of Kentucky.

Sally Rubin: My mom is from the mountains of East Tennessee, and much of my family lives in North Carolina, but I myself grew up in suburban Boston, lived there for the first 25 years of my life. Since then I have lived on the West Coast, first San Francisco and now Los Angeles. Along the way I also lived in France for about three years total, off and on, and I spent a year in Israel. We spent lots of time in New Hampshire growing up– my parents loved getting out of the city, and we headed to the hills as often as possible.

Where is home now?

SR: I live on the East Side of Los Angeles, in a neighborhood that is primarily Latino, mostly Salvadorean and Mexican immigrants. My home is 1000 feet up on a mountain, and feels very much like the mountains of New Hampshire and even, sometimes, Kentucky.

AY: Even though I’ve lived in Los Angeles for the past 12 years, I still refer to Kentucky as my old Kentucky home and feel quite connected to the place – perhaps even more than I did when I lived there. I speak about Kentucky almost daily because so many people I interact with ask me within minutes where I am from because of my accent. Despite my 12 years in Los Angeles living in a neighborhood just east of Hollywood called Silver Lake, I still have an accent and make an effort to hold on to it.

What are your “day jobs?”

AY: I have been on the film festival circuit with my film Tig, a documentary about the very funny and lovely Tig Notaro. We premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in April. I also teach digital storytelling and documentary filmmaking in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California

SR: I am full time documentary filmmaker and professor. I teach at Chapman University in Orange County, co-running the documentary film program there. I also edit documentary films and I make them, working as a producer, editor, and director.

What inspired “Hollywood Hillbilly?”

AY: It’s been a lifelong journey for me. Since I began writing as a young journalist at the University of Kentucky, I have been intrigued by stories about marginalized and vulnerable people and communities. I think that desire comes from growing up in such a homogenous place for most of my life. The tipping point for me in wanting to dive into a film that examines media representations of Appalachia and Appalachian American people came in 2013 when “Buckwild” aired on MTV. MTV describes the show as “an authentic comedic series following an outrageous group of childhood friends from the rural foothills of West Virginia who love to dodge grown-up responsibilities and always live life with the carefree motto, ‘whatever happens, happens.’” I was fully immersed in teaching and my filmmaking career when the show came out and had worked on a number of social issue documentary projects that taught me how to make socially provocative films that challenge mainstream media and offer unique points of view. “Buckwild” was so troubling for me because it was using those young people basically as non-union actors to participate in a highly produced television program (designed by corporate media executives and producers) that in my opinion perpetuated stereotypes (both positive and negative) and was exploitative of the people in the show and their community. I don’t necessarily believe the makers of that show had bad intentions but I do feel confident in saying that the show lacks critical consciousness and probably did little, if anything, to involve the community in the making of the show, outside of “casting” the young people who star in it.

The Farmers Wife, screen capture.

The Farmers Wife, screen capture.

SR: I’ve always wanted to make this film. I’ve been shooting in the Appalachian region since high school, filming mainly with my family at that point. During college I worked with filmmaker David Sutherland on his film about rural farm country, The Farmer’s Wife, and I became passionate about activating my politics through documentary film. I associate produced Country Boys, filmed in Prestonsburg, and that introduced me to Kentucky. After film school I went back to the region to make a documentary about mountaintop removal coal mining called Deep Down – and all along I wanted to make a film about the Appalachian stereotype in film and television, which I always viewed as hypocritical and incredibly damaging. When “Orange is the New Black” came out a couple of years ago featuring the character of “Pennsatucky,” who was completely two dimensional and stereotypical while the rest of the show was progressive, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I decided it was time to make this film.

Have you encountered the hillbilly stereotype? Please share an anecdote or two.

AY: My first memory of feeling like an outsider was when I went on a class trip with the speech and drama team to New York City when I was a sophomore in high school. I remember feeling like I should say as little as possible so that I wouldn’t be teased about my eastern Kentucky dialect. I must have learned that there was a stigma from the books I read and from the portrayals of mountain people in movies and on television – I don’t know where else that would have come from. That was my first memory of learning to keep my Kentucky accent secret. Fast forward a few years and I found myself in a similar situation although this time I was in Kentucky a couple hours west of where I grew up in Pike County. I often tell folks that the greatest culture shock of my life was moving to Lexington when I was 18 and being told bluntly that I needed to lose my accent if I wanted a successful career as a journalist. That was a transformative moment and when I realized that I was perceived as different – as an other – because I grew up in the mountains. I made a huge effort to divorce myself of my accent and it wasn’t until many years later when I moved to Los Angeles that I was able to embrace, accept, and not work so hard to hide it.

SR: In the media almost every day, most particularly with redneck reality tv, the latest smash hit that is blowing up the airwaves. But more personally, I always felt that my friends in New England were hypocritical and I never understood it. The very same people who would never say the “N” word, or other slangs aimed at disadvantaged groups, took pride in putting down poor, rural folks. Why? The double standard has always infuriated me.

Why is the stereotype misguided or inaccurate?

AY & SR: We have the great fortune of working alongside so many wonderful advisers on this project, including Silas House, an Appalachian author and Berea College professor; Tony Harkins, author of Hillbilly: A Cultural History of an American Icon; JW Williamson, author of Hillbillyland, What the Movies Did to the Mountains and What the Mountains Did to the Movies; Barbara Ellen Smith, a women’s and gender studies professor at Virginia Tech who has written about whiteness and the complexities of race in Appalachia; and Lora Smith, a community advocate from the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation and the Kentuckians for the Commonwealth.


Left to right: Sally Rubin, Bell Hooks, Ashley York with Silas House in Berea.

Barbara Ellen Smith speaks powerfully about stereotypes and in her interview with us said that “Stereotypes are ugly. They do vicious cultural work and suggest that these people are not like us. We have nothing in common. And not only do we have nothing in common, but their behaviors and their traits are so deplorable that we don’t want to have anything in common with them. We need only make fun of them. We need only neglect them. We need only degrade them. That’s all they deserve. There’s a viciousness in that that is so inhumane and also justifies so much harm to the region and its people.”

We are grateful to these folks for sharing their work and inviting us to explore a vibrant discussion taking place in the fields of Appalachian, cultural, women’s, and gender studies. Their work helps us navigate this very complicated discussion about identity and identity politics; understand the social, cultural, and political nuances therein; and shine a light on the interconnectedness of race, class, gender, and sexuality.

We also had the great fortune of interviewing Bell Hooks, a native Kentuckian who has written extensively on feminism, popular culture, and media representations. We are greatly inspired by her discourse about mass media representations of poverty and the poor, which she writes about in her book, Belonging. “Mass media representations of poor folk in general convey to the public the notion that poor people are in dire straits because of the bad choices they have made. It pushes images that suggest that the poor suffer because of innate weaknesses of character. When mass media offers representations of poor mountain folk, all the negative assumptions are intensified and the projections exaggerated.”

Can you elaborate on the socio-economic impact(s) of the stereotype?

AY&SR: The main socio economic impact of the stereotype, we believe, is that people internalize what they see. Silas House, our Executive Producer, says “The thing that I have seen time and again from these media portrayals is that it produces shame and self-hatred in a lot of young people.” This shame has socio economic ramifications, and serves only to bring the region down.

How have the Appalachian people been represented in the media and why do you think that is?

The_Beverly_HillbilliesAY&SR: There are many representations and interpretations to consider when we talk about media representations of Appalachian people that go back to the late 1800s and the work of John Fox, Jr. to the silent movie era to the television era of the 60s that saw great success with shows such as “The Beverly Hillbillies” to the movies of the 70s – Deliverance being the classic example – and now what we refer to as the redneck reality television genre.

AY: I’m going to speak from my own personal experience on this one because of the impact these media representations have had on my sense of self. I am 34 years old and was born in 1980. Growing up it was a common occurrence to see eastern Kentucky featured on the national news. I remember so clearly one program that aired when I was in third grade. I remember not wanting to watch it because I knew it wouldn’t feel good. At school the next day everybody was talking about the show and there was this shared sense of shame because of the way our eastern Kentucky community was portrayed. In a contemporary context, I have similar feelings about all of these reality shows that are being made in Kentucky and rural America. Perhaps the most complicated part of all is that those journalists and producers may not even understand that the work they are making is harmful.

Ashley York, Josh Kun (cinematographer) and Billy Redden on location in Rabun County, Georgia. Redden was the young boy who played the banjo in Deliverance.

Ashley York, Josh Kun (cinematographer) and Billy Redden on location in Rabun County, Georgia. Redden was the young boy who played the banjo in Deliverance.

It’s not all bad though! When I was an undergraduate student at the University of Kentucky I remember watching Barbara Kopple’s Academy-Award winning film Harlan County USA (1976) in a sociology class. That film moved me deeply. It tells the story of a coal miners’ strike in Southeast Kentucky and portrays its subjects with complexity, dignity, and grace. The film is as journalistic as it is cinematic. It’s personal, political, and emotional — a film that demonstrates social issue filmmaking at its finest. Seeing that film was an ‘aha’ moment because it was the first time I saw the people of east Kentucky be portrayed in a way that was nuanced and complex and it was unlike so many of the mass media portrayals of rural people I saw growing up, which were ultimately negative and hateful. This film, along with Anne Lewis’ Fast Food Women (1991) and Elizabeth Barret’s Coalmining Women (1982) show the power of documentary film to address significant social issues of our time. Their portrayals of Appalachian folks inspire us greatly.

What do you hope to achieve with your documentary?

AY&SR: Our intention in making this film is to create a diverse portrait of Appalachia, mountain, and rural people that inspires a new perception of Appalachia and its people into American public discourse. The film incorporate the points of view of Appalachian residents and scholars in an effort to portray Appalachian people as nuanced, multi-dimensional, and complex. The film also profiles a number of young media makers from Berea College and students from campuses all over the Appalachian region. Part of the goal of the film is to empower young people growing up in the mountains to make their own art and tell their own stories. We are building out the film over various social networks in an effort to engage and collaborate with rural communities all over the United States and eventually the world.

Ashley York and Sally Rubin on location.

Sally Rubin and Ashley York on location.

The film promotes tolerance and seeks to provide solutions for counteracting stereotypes on a broad level. We want to increase awareness and sensitivity around the use of two-dimensional language and humor that depicts the rural working poor negatively. We intend to expand viewers’ notions of the concept of “othering,” so that audiences think critically about societal behavior in separating, disconnecting, and ultimately critiquing other, less familiar social groups. The project takes on social goals that extend far beyond the re-conception of Appalachians, becoming an impetus for change on a broad and personal scale.

When does the artist (producer, director) cross the lines of observation/portrayal and into voyeurism?

AY&SR: Documentarians in all genres– the written word, the visual image– all walk the line of observation and voyeurism. It is an easy one to step over. This is no different in The Hollywood Hillbilly. Our effort as filmmakers is to capture our subjects and their central conflicts and to portray those with dignity and grace, all the while telling a compelling and cinematic story. Sometimes this is not so easy. One of our subjects articulates the challenge of a documentary storyteller this way: “Media of a place will inevitably be biased. How can the [documentarian] take apart archetypes, demystify stereotypes, represent culture, sum up experience, and interpret memory and history? We must not overburden [our work] with something it cannot do. Instead, we must acknowledge the maker’s hand, and our reactions.” We agree with this, and utilize this principle as a guide in our creation of The Hollywood Hillbilly.

Please follow and like us:

Review: LAL’s Luminosity

Review: LAL’s Luminosity

by Zoé Strecker

Valerie Fuchs’ three video-based projects are, for me, the most affecting works in the Lexington Art League’s Luminosity exhibition, running now through April 6 at Loudoun House. In order to experience the piece titled on the one hand . . . and the other you have to plunge both of your hands into beams of light flickering from below a curious photograph printed on a metal plate. On the left hand side of the photo is a “normal” view of a woodland scene with trees mirrored horizontally by the reflective surface of a still pond; when you put your outstretched palm under that side, a video projection plays the same image on your hand though it is blurred and stretched beyond legibility. On the right half of the photo, the same scene is mirrored in nine directions, like a trippy snowflake and in the corresponding video that plays in your right palm, the image spins and mutates frenetically as it would through a rotating kaleidoscope. I was startled to experience physical sensations like changes in pressure and temperature flickering across my skin as the video played.

In another Fuchs work, Futura Falls City: The Infinite Loop the familiar is made unfamiliar in a captivating and provocative way. A flat-screen monitor plays a six-minute video that loops through a set of Louisville, Kentucky landscapes–a bridge, a traffic cloverleaf, a skyline. All of the images have been mirrored horizontally, vertically and sometimes both ways. A slight camera wobble makes images pulse, even when they’re almost still. And looping audio of traffic and water sounds adds to the general throbbing sensation. Traffic flows into itself, steel bridge supports are transformed into geometric lace, and truncated buildings float behind a line of mirrored tree silhouettes to create a futuristic city of airborne, symmetrical pods. The third artwork by Fuchs is a dye sublimation print of a video still called Radical Bridge, of an oddly ominous piece of architecture floating among clouds that, again, suggests the structure of a future world of disembodied connections and engineered beauty. The future is, after all, an imaginary projection built from what we already know.

In an adjacent, darkened room is Caitlind R. C. Brown and Wayne Garrett’s installation, Bellwether. Hundred of glass bottles, cut open to resemble bells, are suspended near the ceiling. As viewers walk through and disrupt the dense forest of chains that dangle from the bells almost to the floor, electronic clappers strike the glass and briefly produce tones and flickers of light. The work has the potential to be gorgeous but is profoundly flawed in this iteration. Although there was a firefly-like character to the effect, the “path of light and sound” was not convincingly created because the tone and the corresponding light were not sustained long enough. The mirroring on the windows meant to block exterior light and, possibly, to make the space feel infinite, was some kind of reflective sheet material that buckled, warped and generally looked cheap. The fact that the bottles are “discarded” materials is only mildly interesting and does not add anything new to a cultural conversation about sustainability.

The same critique can be leveled at Brown and Garrett’s other commissioned sculpture New Moon, installed downtown in Triangle Park; it merely re-uses defunct light bulbs to make the skin of the sphere. Blue and gray bulbs are clustered in small circles across an otherwise white field to suggest the shaded depths of the “real” moon’s craters. The fact that residents of Lexington donated the bulbs points to the best feature of this project– local community involvement. Welding students from Bluegrass Community Technical College (BCTC) constructed the steel frame and worked with Art League volunteers to fill the chicken wire surface with the bulbs.

The thin, black, support frame diminishes the already not-very-impressive scale of the sculpture, however. During the day, the piece looks like a dandelion puffball caught in a birdcage. During the night, the structure disappears somewhat and allows for more magic. There was some fun to be had by the public on the night of the Triangle Park unveiling when people could interact with the sculpture by rotating a hand wheel directly underneath the orb that changed the phases of the moon by tilting the internal light source. Unfortunately, the wheel broke almost immediately and, after being repaired a couple of times, was removed entirely. Every time I drive by, there are new guy wires added, presumably, for stabilization. Fabrication and transportation mishaps, reported on the project blog in a humble and honest way, speak to the artists’ limited experience but also to the sponsors’ willingness to be nimble.

The Art League has been working to expand their exhibition zone into public space by doing projects like this one and the OFFsite projects last summer. The spirit is admirable, but because New Moon is amateurish and not visually intriguing, it is not clear why LAL continues to promote it in local radio spots and in the pages of an internationally respected periodical, Art in America, where they bought a half-page ad.

Inside the Loudon house are works by two more artists. Chandelier Harp by Jen Lewin is the most truly playful and interactive piece in the exhibition. Appropriately named, the piece actually is a large musical instrument with “strings” made of red laser beams that are oriented in a vertical column. To trigger the reverberating tones you have break the beams with a hand or foot or head; in other words, it insists that you dance. It would be exciting to have a composer create a work for a dancer / musician to perform or to place the piece within an orchestra. It wants a crowd. Alone in an empty gallery space, the open black framework is a bit ominous, like a medical scanner. The form, however, is practical; flaring legs accommodate movement around the ring of light and gramophone-shaped feet add stability and, simultaneously, provide subtle suggestions of music. One technical disappointment is that the machine seems to become overwhelmed and plays a grumble of dissonant sound if one stands in the center for very long.

Finally, Rune Guneriussen’s large photos of domestic light fixtures placed in natural environments in Norway were the least interesting works in the show, despite their polish. Arrays of lamps hanging from a tree, emerging from foliage by a waterfall, or trailing across the beach at sunset, make romantic, charming, images, but one is enough. By exhibiting these prints in a group, the idea becomes a gimmick. The work certainly did not provoke “unsettling questions about human impact on the natural world,” as the curatorial statement suggests. Instead it left me with nothing much to think about except where the extension cords were hidden and how much noise the generator was making off-screen.

Most exhibitions are mixed in terms of the quality and sophistication of the artworks, and Luminosity is no exception. Despite its flaws, the interactivity and playfulness make the show worth exploring. Go, at least, to allow the elegant and truly luminous work by Valerie Fuchs catalyze your visual imagination of the future and surprise your skin.

Luminosity – Loudon House, through April 6th. See The Lexington Art League’s website for a schedule of associated projects and events.

– By Zoe Strecker, contributing writer/reviewer

Please follow and like us: