Every year the Kentucky Arts Council awards professional artists Al Smith Fellowships to recognize and encourage artistic excellence in Kentucky. Artistic excellence is what visitors to the Actors Theatre Gallery will see in this thought provoking visual and media arts exhibit, which continues through January 29, 2005. All participants were awarded fellowships in 2002 or 2004.
“The piece I have in this show [Naika says, ‘See the invisible ink’] seems to put it all together,” says Cynthiana artist Ben Mansur. “It reflects on my career and it works well with the Fellowship show. See the invisible ink. The wooden Indian asks people to look at the other artwork, look for concepts that might not be easily visible. It asks you, it directs you.”
“The fellowship [award of $7,500] bought me some time to do artwork and not worry about the cash thing,” says Mansur whose regular stream of income is in making custom wooden doors. “It came right after 9/11 so I was able to concentrate on a piece that was included the American Spirit show that toured nationally for three years. That was the show that Phyllis George put together through the Kentucky Folk Art Center. It opened doors for me, it was an important show to be involved in.”
“I also got an invitation to be in the ‘Thresholds’ show as a result of being a fellowship artist,” says Mansur. “Transy has asked me to talk about my work and be a part of a round table forum.” Thresholds: Expressions of Arts and Spiritual Life is a visual arts exhibition produced by the Kentucky Arts Council along with the state arts agencies of Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee which includes contemporary works of art by 53 artists (10 Kentuckians) exploring spiritual inclinations and representing diverse religious traditions. The show opens this Thursday, January 20th in Lexington. Although the principal site for the exhibition will be the Morlan Gallery at Transylvania University, work by Kentucky artists will be shared among alternative art spaces like Art-at-the-Cathedral, Temple Adath Israel, Second Street Christian Church, St. Peter/St. Paul Catholic Church, Second Presbyterian Church and the Mission House.
“I think the state is really doing something right by supporting its artists, “ says Mansur. “They have similar things in other states but Kentucky is recognized as one of the top ones. I think this probably generates more tourism. For example, when art dealers in Florida look at a show like ‘Thresholds’ and see the quality of art represented, they may think… I should go to Kentucky. When you think of installation artists, you think of it as a New York thing; but it is here in Kentucky too. I remember the first time I set up at Kentucky Crafted: The Market. That’s how I first got involved with the Arts Council – through the Craft Marketing Program. Anyhow, I had a few small sculptural pieces and my handmade doors and I watched this lady unload her baskets and set up in the booth next to me. She only had a few and I didn’t see how the show was going to be worth it for her. The next day I watched her get a wholesale order for thirty thousand dollars.”
Now in it’s 24th year, Kentucky Crafted: The Market will feature over 300 exhibitors of Kentucky’s finest traditional, folk and contemporary crafts, two dimensional visual art, musical recordings, books and specialty food products. It will be open to the public at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center in Louisville, 9 a.m.– 6 p.m. (EST), Saturday, March 5 and 10 a.m.– 5 p.m., Sunday, March 6, 2005. The Kentucky Craft Marketing Program, a division of the Kentucky Arts Council, produces Kentucky Crafted: The Market.
The Kentucky Arts Council is a state agency in the Commerce Cabinet. Working in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the Arts Council invests in programs that develop vibrant communities, provide lifelong education in the arts and support arts participation. Every $1 in grant funds awarded by the Kentucky Arts Council helps grantees secure $15 in earned income and matching funds from individuals, philanthropic sources and other levels of government.