Arts Council
7 complete Kentucky Arts Council Community Scholars Program

Press Release Date:  Wednesday, September 16, 2015  
Contact Information:  Tom Musgrave
Communications Director
502-564-3757, ext. 489

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Mary Ruth Isaacs has several short-term goals: she wants to pursue Trail Town status for her hometown of McKee; she wants to collect stories from local traditional artists; and she wants to position the Jackson County Historical Society to be competitive in applying for grants.

Each of these community goals has become more attainable for her now that she is a certified Community Scholar by the Kentucky Arts Council.

Isaacs is one of seven Kentuckians who completed the training Aug. 25 in McKee. She and her fellow graduates will join a network of more than 200 community scholars across the state who are qualified to identify, document, conserve and present living traditions, culture, arts and oral history of their respective communities.

The new Community Scholars are:

  • Erica Chambers, Madison County
  • Mary Ruth Isaacs, Jackson County
  • Susan C. Isaacs, Jackson County
  • R. Marlene Powell, Laurel County
  • Jamie Shepherd, Laurel County
  • Judy Schmitt, Jackson County
  • Christopher J. Smith, Jackson County

Community Scholar training consists of six three-hour sessions and occurs twice a year in different communities across the state. Certification as a Community Scholar opens up many opportunities for future research projects.

As part of her research for Community Scholars, Isaacs is interviewing traditional quilters who live at the senior living apartments her parents own and manage.

“The Appalachian tradition is so prevalent in this region, but there are so many traditions for which there are fewer practitioners, like quilting,” said Isaacs, a former education professor at three Kentucky universities. “My mother (Susan C. Isaacs, who was also in the Community Scholar Program) and I are interviewing the ladies who live here and who know those old-time traditions and old-time methods of quilting. A lot of their children and their grandchildren don’t know these methods.”

The Community Scholar credential will also boost McKee’s tourism efforts, Isaacs said. Two of the graduates, Isaacs and Judy Schmitt, are on Jackson County’s Trail Town committee. The Kentucky Trail Town Program is designed to help connect communities to trail systems and help develop them as tourist destinations.

“I think it will help us obtain Trail Town status,” she said. “We’re more informed. We’ve got better skills now. I think we can get a tourism department established here. Being Community Scholars will help us.”

The next Community Scholar training series will begin at the Appalachian Artisan Center in Hindman, Sept. 30, from 5-8 p.m. Anyone interested in attaining the Community Scholars certification, which ends Nov. 18, must show up at the first session.

For more information about the arts council’s Community Scholars Program, contact Mark Brown, arts council folk and traditional arts director, at 502-564-3757 ext. 495 or

The Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, fosters environments for Kentuckians to value, participate in and benefit from the arts. Kentucky Arts Council funding is provided by the Kentucky General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Click on thumbnail image to download a print-quality image.

Lori Meadows, Gabby Thompson, Cheyenne Carter, Lindy Casebier Seven Kentuckians recently completed the Kentucky Arts Council's Community Scholars Program in McKee. Front row, from left: Jamie Shepherd, Erica Chambers and Judy Schmitt. Back row, from left: Kentucky Arts Council Folk and Traditional Arts Director Mark Brown, Christopher J. Smith, Susan C. Isaacs, R. Marlene Powell and Mary Ruth Isaacs.

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