UK Fine Arts Extension Agent Promotes Pike County Art

UK Fine Arts Extension Agent Promotes Pike County Art


From above, it’s easy to see why Pike County
is known for its natural beauty…but Stephanie Richards wants the place where she grew up…
to be known for more than the hills surrounding it. I would really love for Pike County to
be known as the arts destination. I don’t want it to be just stuff or fluff. I want
it to be quality, I want it to impact lives, I want it to change lives. I want it to fix
some of our social problems. Richards is somewhat of a trailblazer in her
role as an extension agent for fine arts. This program is the first county extension
program in fine arts in the entire nation. It started as a collaboration between the
College of Fine Arts and the College of Agriculture. So we started off in downtown Pikevill with
an artisan center, Pike County artisan center, and since 2006 or 2007 it has evolved and
moved and grown and now its in a new place. Its called the Arts House in downtown Pikeville.
Its this wonderful facility and its got gallery space, studio space, exhibition space. Space
featuring paintings by local artist Paula Smith…It just painted itself…who developed
a unique way to create her art. I thought well coal is so embedded in our lives, why
not embed it in the art? So I created a binder that will bind the coal with the watercolor
and when I began to paint the people with the coal itself, they came alive! Beyond giving
artists a place to showcase their work, The Arts House Richards hopes to demonstrate the
connection between the arts and economic development. The arts impact economy and community development
the same was as a local business would…a lesson she tries to teach local artists. One
of the reasons it is hard for an artist to think of themselves as a business is that
they take their own talent for granted. She’s a person I can go to, she can help me understand
the business end of things. if we can partner the creative side and teach them along the
way. One of the things we are doing in the upcoming future is that we are working on
an online art store. So any artist in the region can put their merchandise online and
let it go nationwide, worldwide, so that its out there for people to see…and they don’t
have to do the busy work. It is important for economical reasons, it gives people a
way to supplement their income, but more than that, it opens them up to the world, it allows
them to use their talent that they have and it also gives them some pride. A feeling fostered
thanks to an innovative program that grew out of UK’s long tradition as a land grant
institution. The big connection between the College of Agriculture and the Fine Arts Extension
Program is that we connect on the same idea of extending what the university of Kentucky
has out into our counties. I think for me it just makes us a part of the state. It makes
me feel like they recognize the wealth of talent that we have here.

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