Traveling Exhibit Panels Moving On

In early 2014, KFP began working on a set of exhibit panels discussing Kentucky’s white oak basketmaking tradition. Funded by a recently awarded NEA ArtWorks grant, these free-standing, 3′ x 7′ retractable panels incorporate images of basketmakers, their work, and the life narratives of these artists to help contextualize this important local tradition for a wide audience. To enhance the project and provide an even greater understanding of this important regional tradition, we have written additional funding into the grant to bring basketmakers into each library location for hands-on demonstrations and discussion about their work.

These six panels are currently at the Hardin County Public Library, but will be moving on to the Butler County Public Library in Morgantown on April 9. Beth Hester of Basket Maker’s Catalog will join the library at 11 a.m. on May 13 for a lecture and workshop. Contact Kenna Martin, director of the Butler County Public Library, at to sign up.


Kentucky Strings: Bluegrass & Beyond

In collaboration with the WKU Cultural Enhancement Series, the Kentucky Folklife Program is excited to host “Kentucky Strings: Bluegrass Music and Beyond,” a showcase of Kentucky’s traditional acoustic music, on April 16 from noon to 6 p.m. Featured performers include Dale Ann Bradley, Kentucky Wild Horse, Mt. Victor Revue, The Pennyrilers, The Carmonas, Becky & the Butler County Boys, and Kentucky Just Us.

Plans for the afternoon include two participatory narrative stages with musicians Dale Ann Bradley and John Harrod (Kentucky Wild Horse). From 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., Harrod will discuss his experiences documenting, teaching, and disseminating Kentucky’s traditional fiddle styles. From 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., Bradley, five-time winner of IBMA’s Female Vocalist of the Year award, will lead a discussion on women in songwriting.

Both the concert and narrative stages are free and open to the public. The main stage will overlook WKU’s South Lawn, directly behind the Downing Student Union. Visitors are welcome to bring camping chairs, blankets, and coolers, although WKU strictly enforces a dry campus policy. Narrative stages will be held indoors in the union’s auditorium.

Free on-campus parking will be available for attendees at Parking Structure 2, situated between the Houchens Industries L.T. Smith Stadium and Diddle Arena. Free parking is available everywhere on campus after 4:30 p.m. CT, with the exception of parking meters. Please refer to this campus parking map when planning your visit.

Above: From left to right, Becky & the Butler County Boys, The Carmonas, and Kentucky Just Us. All three groups successfully auditioned to perform for “Kentucky Strings: Bluegrass Music and Beyond.” Photos courtesy of William Kolb, special to Potter College.

Paddy Bowman Visits WKU

KFP and the Department of Folk Studies & Anthropology are excited to welcome Paddy Bowman, director of Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education, to Western for a short residency during the month of April. In addition to working with students and faculty, Bowman will give a public presentation entitled “Dress to Express” on Tuesday, April 14, at the Kentucky Museum. Details below.paddy

Photo courtesy of the National Endowment for the Arts

Spring 2015 Pioneer Cabin Concert

The Kentucky Folklife Program is excited to welcome 2001 NEA National Heritage Fellow Eddie Pennington and his son, Alonzo Pennington, to the cabin on Sunday, March 1, at 4 p.m. for this semester’s Pioneer Cabin Concert.

Recognized among his peers as one of the best living thumb-style guitarists, Eddie plays in the style of Western Kentucky’s own Merle Travis.

Hear Eddie play and explain the Muhlenberg County style in this video from the Kentucky Arts Council:

No tickets are needed for this performance, although seating is extremely limited. Please email us at to reserve a spot by February 27. There is a $10 entrance fee charged at the door to cover costs. Children 13 and younger do not need to pay, but please include them in your reservations.

Traveling Exhibit at the Allen County Public Library

We’re excited to announce that we just sent our traveling exhibit panel series on white oak basketmaking to its first destination, the Allen County Public Library in Scottsville. It’ll be displayed for a six-week period before it moves on. Stay tuned as we announce upcoming locations!

In addition to the exhibit, we’ll be hosting The Basket Maker’s Catalog‘s Beth Hester at the library on November 15th from 10 a.m. to noon to discuss and demonstrate her knowledge on Kentucky basketmaking. Participants will have the opportunity to make a woven ornament. Contact the library at or (270) 237-3861 to reserve a spot.

Kentucky Folklife Program at the Horse Cave Heritage Festival


The Kentucky Folklife Program and graduate-level public folklore class have collaborated to provide programming for and staff theHorse Cave Heritage Festival for almost ten years. From conducting narrative stages to surveys and interviews, students spend the day practicing the skills they’ve learned in class.

This year, we were excited to help the town celebrate its sesquicentennial. Hoping to capture Horse Cave’s communal story, the Hart County Tourist Commission enlisted our help to collect short video clips to share on Stay tuned for updates to the site — new videos will be uploaded soon!



Left: Tim Evans and his student, Katheryn Young, lead a discussion on the narrative stage with local woodcarvers. Right: Later in the day, a visitor looks at the interactive timeline, where festival-goers were invited to share their Horse Cave memories.

Fall Pioneer Cabin Concert

333349_308932812529372_889601742_oThe Kentucky Folklife Program and the Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology announce this fall’s Pioneer Cabin Concert. In continuation of our efforts to promote the work of traditional Kentucky artists and performers, we are pleased to welcome local neo-soul singer and guitarist Lauren Cunningham on Sunday, September 28th, at 4 p.m.

Cunningham’s stripped-down, feel-good performances combine gospel, soul, blues and jazz with her passion for social and political advocacy. Cunningham currently works as the community engagement coordinator for WKU’s ALIVE Center for Community Partnerships. For more information about Cunningham and her music, visit her Facebook page.

The Pioneer Cabin Concert Series is an ongoing series that provides a venue for the university and Bowling Green community to enjoy traditional and roots music in the intimate setting of the Pioneer Cabin on campus.

Tickets are $10 and can be reserved in advance by contacting the Folk Studies office at (270) 745-5295. Seating in the cabin is limited to 30 people.

This performance will be filmed by WKU’s PBS affiliate, WKYU.

Above photo courtesy of Cunningham’s Facebook page, Lauren Cunningham Music.

Ledford works on a dulcimer.

The Homer Ledford Award

Ledford works on a dulcimer.
Ledford works on a dulcimer.

This year the Kentucky Folklife Program at Western Kentucky University is joining with the Appalachian Center at Berea College to present the Homer Ledford Award at the Annual Celebration of Traditional Music in Berea on October 17th, 2014.

Since 2007, the Homer Ledford Award has been given to Kentucky luthiers who have demonstrated outstanding craftsmanship, mastery of making and setting up instruments for excellent tone and playability, and have been recognized by the communities of musicians they serve.

This award is given in honor and memory of master luthier, musician, and educator Homer Ledford. Known for his superb craftsmanship, impressive productivity, inspired innovations, generous spirit and willingness to teach anyone interested in his art, Homer had a profound impact on musical communities throughout Kentucky and far beyond. Many luthiers and musicians have fond memories of visiting his basement shop in Winchester, KY, where he immersed himself in his work while sharing techniques, wisdom and stories behind the rich cultural heritage he represented. Ledford’s legacy lives on among the current generation of musical craftspeople he inspired, and this award symbolizes that legacy.

“Homer was an inspiration to countless traditional musicians and instrument makers. ” shared Brent Bjorkman, Director of The Kentucky Folklife Program based at Western Kentucky University, “Berea College was the place where Homer and his wife Colista first met as students and began to develop so many of their deep friendships that have lasted over more than 60 years. The Annual Celebration of Traditional Music weekend will be the perfect place to present this award.”

Past Homer Ledford Awardees include Warren May of Berea, Art Mize of Lexington and Donna Lamb of Lancaster.

The Kentucky Folklife Program will be coordinating the award process. If you know of an inspiring Kentucky instrument maker and would like to submit their name as a nominee please visit the KFP website. For further details about the submission process contact Brent Bjorkman, Director of the Kentucky Folklife Program:

Deadline for submissions is September 8th, 2014.

KFP Begins Work on Traveling Exhibit

I am happy to share with you that the Kentucky Folklife Program has recently begun work on a new traveling exhibit panel series that will feature the White Oak Basketmaking tradition!

Funded by a recently awarded NEA ArtWorks grant, these free-standing retractable panels will incorporate images of basketmakers, their work, and the life narratives of these artists to help contextualize this important local tradition for a wide audience.  The panels will begin their journey traveling to six libraries located in the home counties of the artists beginning this summer. To enhance the project and provide an even greater understanding of this important regional tradition we have written additional funding into the grant to bring basketmakers into each library location for hands-on demonstrations and discussion about their work. In addition to documenting and presenting the rich traditions of the state the idea of validating and celebrating the individual creators of this regional art form remains central to our mission.

Strength in Numbers – Our Partners

I would be remiss to not mention all the important partners who are helping to make this project take shape. Our new home at WKU gives us the opportunity to work directly with Folk Studies students and our university colleagues.  As part of their Museums course led by Michael Ann Williams, the Folk Studies graduate students will begin crafting the initial design layout incorporating appropriate text and images for each themed panel.  WKU’s University Publications led by Tom Meacham will be assisting as the project’s final design and printing partner and the Department of Library Technical Services headed by Dean of WKU Libraries Connie Foster has agreed to coordinate and underwrite the shipping of panels from library to library for the duration of the project. University photographer Clinton Lewis and his staff have been enlisted to shoot additional images of baskets and basketmakers as needed.  I cannot thank these individuals and partners enough for their gracious assistance.

Be looking back for updates on this project as it takes shape.

NEA Logo

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Art Works.


Community Scholars underway in Allen County


We have officially completed four weeks of the Community Scholars training in Allen County!  The 12 soon-to-be Community Scholars have been hard at work interviewing family and community members and developing projects.  Since the program’s kick-off in August, Mark Brown of Kentucky Arts Council and the staff of the Kentucky Folklife Program have been meeting with the participants every-other week to delve into the worlds of folklore, oral history, and community research.

Continue reading Community Scholars underway in Allen County