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State Of The Arts

Growing art show signals
bright future for Oldham Co. artists

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

(June, 2002) LA GRANGE, Ky. – With plans for a new Arts and Education Center under way in Crestwood, Ky., and a growing arts festival in June in La Grange, the Oldham County arts community is on a fast track.
The new Crestwood building will enable the association to expand by giving it a permanent home and the opportunity to establish a basic networking system with professional associations, according to Debbie Cherie Joplin, a member of the Oldham County Arts Association.

One major undertaking of the association is its second annual Arts on the Green festival, scheduled for June 1-2 in La Grange. Both local and non-resident artists will have booths set up on the courthouse square and around the Oldham County History Center from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Such programs rely heavily on community support for their continuation. “The city has been working beautifully with us,” said Joplin of the juried art show.
After last year’s success, the association has added a second day to its art show. “People in the community were very encouraging last year,” said Joplin.
There are approximately 40 artists scheduled to display their art. Joplin said that this year the number of artists was limited so that quality could be kept high.
The Merchant’s Extrava-ganza Sale, formerly known as the April Street Fair, was moved to June 1 to coincide with Arts on the Green. That event is sponsored by the La Grange Business Association and previously took place the weekend before the Kentucky Derby. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., shoppers can “spend the whole day in town,” said Karen Eldridge, owner of Karen’s Book Barn and an association member.
This event originally started as a sidewalk sale. “This year we’re going back to that idea,” Eldridge said. No special events are planned such as last year’s ballroom dancing activities, because organizers decided that the arts are the entertainment, she said.
“We want people to come and find all kinds of things to shop for,” said Joplin. These events will work in conjunction with one another to expand the county’s reputation “as a center where all artists can gather,” said Sandra Graves, Arts Association president.
Another effort by the Arts Association to attract more visitors to La Grange is its sixth annual 2-D indoor art exhibit. The exhibit will be housed upstairs in the Oldham County History Center from June 1-13. On May 31, an opening reception will be held.
This exhibit will by judged by John P. Begley, gallery director at the Hite Art Institute of the University of Louisville. The Hite Art Institute is the largest Kentucky university art department, with 21 fulltime faculty plus established annual endowed positions for visiting scholars. Its three gallery spaces occupy more than 3,250 square feet in Schneider Hall on the Belknap Campus.
The Hite Art Institute offers hands-on art instruction in 10 different studio areas, such as painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture and art education. In addition, the Institute also provides research and creativity resources through its well-established cooperative programs.
For 19 years, Begley was the director of the Louisville Visual Art Association. During that time he became acquainted with David Thurmond, an Oldham County Board of Education employee who is spearheading the Arts and Education Center project in Crestwood.
Begley said he was aware that Thurmond had been working with the community to establish a center similar to the Artopia concept in Louisville that combines visual arts, dance and drama.
“It is a great idea, and I’m sure the county will both benefit and support such an integrated approach to serving the public with arts programs,” Begley said.
Begley also teaches curatorial studies as part of the new Masters of Arts program at U of L.
He is a practicing artist as well, working in a variety of media, including printmaking, which was his major in college.
Begley also paints and recently became involved in mixed media, including electronic forms.
A Salem, Ind., native, Begley said he juries three to six shows annually and has served as a panelist for arts councils in Indiana, Kentucky Florida and Ohio, as well as the Institute for Museum and Library services of the federal government.
Fifi LeFan Grattis is an established artist in Oldham County who believes the proposed Arts Center can stand on its own laurels after creation. “It doesn’t need to compare with the Louisville Visual Arts Association.”
Grattis views the center as a great idea, especially for children. She has taught art camps at her home and said art training is a hard thing to find unless individuals are willing to travel to Louisville.
Having no art training until high school, Grattis said, “If given good quality instruction, children will do more than adults, because they will not be inhibited by fear.”
Grattis said that such a center would be “an asset to the personality of the community.”

• For information about Arts on the Green, call Joplin at (502) 243-2642. To inquire about the art exhibit, call Graves at (502) 225-0752.

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