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Kentucky Folk Art Center celebrates self-taught creativity

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MOREHEAD (WDKY)-- At first, you may not know what to think about the things on display in the Kentucky Folk Art Center. Some of it is child-like, some of it is silly and some of it is gruesome. Comical creatures are displayed next to images of demons and souls burning in hell.

"Some people come in expecting to see crafts and want to know where the quilts and baskets are," said Director Matt Collinsworth. " We send them to Berea for that sort of thing."

Collinsworth is used to explaining what defines folk art. The main thing to know is that it's by self-taught artists-- those who never had access to formal instructions or materials but found a way to be creative anyway.

"Folk artists were not typically born into easy lives and the art they make grows out of that challange of the culture they lived in."

You'll see a lot of religious images and things such as carved walking sticks or paintings of a coal camp. And you can read about the artists, many of whom now have pieces displayed in homes and museums around the world. In fact, this center at Morehead State University started out as a way for the artists to market their work and make sure they weren't being taken advantage of.

"It wasn't very kind of people to pay them $50 for a piece here in Kentucky and take it back to Chicago and New York as a dealer and sell it for a thousand dollars.," Collinsworth said.

The center has about 1,500 pieces in its permanent collection with only about a tenth of them on display at any one time so you can come here every three months and have a different experience.

"If the world is coming to an end and you can only save one museum, you save the Louvre or the Smithsonian," he said. "But if the world's coming to an end in Kentucky and you can only save one museum, you save the Kentucky Folk Art Center because it's so unique to Kentucky and across the nation."

If you go away with one impression, the people here want you to realize that folk art is fine art.

"It covers the gamut like all art does."

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Spirit of the Bluegrass is sponsored by Regency Memory Care.

Email story ideas to mbartlett@foxlexington.com



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