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Spotlight on Morehead: The Kentucky Folk Art Center helps preserve rich history

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Posted at 4:53 PM, Aug 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-10 19:22:30-04

MOREHEAD, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Kentucky Folk Art Center is continuing to find ways to be innovative.

The museum was established in the 1980s in Morehead. It is now housed in a unique building which itself is about 100 years old. It was once the grocery depot located along the railroad tracks. The Folk Art Center moved in here in 1997.

So what does folk art mean?

"I think some people think often that it's basket weaving and quilt making, and it is those things," said Dr. Julia Finch. "But it's also a very rich, especially in Appalachia, there's a very rich tradition of storytelling, visual storytelling through folk art."

Dr. Finch is the interim director at the Kentucky Folk Art Center. She's also an associate professor of Art History at Morehead State University.

She explains that folk art is about visionary artists, who aren't necessarily trained in an academic capacity, like fine arts.

"They're untrained for the most part, but they're intuitive," she said.

The Folk Art Center has about 1,500 pieces in its permanent collection which are always displayed on the first floor. And they have rotating exhibitions upstairs which are displayed for a couple of months at a time.

"We feature a lot of contemporary folk artists, so a lot of artists who are still making work today," said Dr. Finch. "You'll find their work in our rotating exhibitions."

Right now, work from wood carver Minnie Adkins is featured.

"Our current display is called 'Minnie Adkins Story Carvings,' Dr. Finch said. 'Minnie Adkins is really one of the foundational artists. She was here in the 1980s when this whole project was getting started.'"

She's a native of Elliott County and the wood carvings she created were made to be featured in children's books written by author Mike Norris.

"This is a really unique opportunity to see all of the hundreds of small carvings that she's made for his books over the years," said Dr. Finch.

The Kentucky Folk Art Center helps preserve the materials and stories behind the art. A mission of the museum... and art lovers like Dr. Finch.

"I grew up with this love of art and of history, and of spaces where you can experience those things," she said.

And the center helps share that love and appreciation.

"I think people are often surprised how they connect to the pieces they see because it comes from a very kind of regional identity. A lot of work is from Eastern Kentucky. We also have Western Kentucky artists and we also have urban Kentucky artists from Louisville and Lexington."

While part of the Folk Art Center's mission to is share the quality of the art in a physical sense, they're working right now to digitize their collection. The hope is to continue to reach more and more people and allow people across the world to experience folk art unique to Kentucky.