Teaching Traditional Arts

As autumn slowly brings its changes to our surroundings here on Troublesome Creek, the Traditional Arts team has been working closely with neighbors here in our community. Though he claims to have recently retired, Randy Wilson continues to organize a weekly dulcimer group, lead group singing each week at a local senior center, and teach square dancing throughout the region. Music, storytelling and dance have been circulating around the hallways of Knott County elementary schools as Traditional Arts Director Sam Gleaves has been visiting their classes each week.  

We also just completed our first round of artist residencies for the 2018-2019 school year. Jessica Evans of the Appalachian Artisan Center, with assistance from Kim Patton and Eric Lawill, led a week-long ceramics residency with students at Beaver Elementary. In the upcoming months, Jenn Noble will lead a painting residency with students at Jones Fork Elementary, Jill Robertson will lead a metalworking residency at Cordia School, Lacy Hale will work with students at Emmalena Elementary to create a mural, and crew from the Higher Ground Theater Project in Harlan County will lead Carr Creek Elementary students through a week-long theater residency. We’re so excited to be able to bring these talented individuals into the Knott County schools with the support of the VSA at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

In October, Pick & Bow After-School Mountain Music and Dance programs were launched in Knott County and Floyd County. The programs offer weekly hands-on lessons in Appalachian stringed instruments, including mandolin, fiddle, guitar, banjo, and dulcimer, along with group singing, square dancing and flatfooting. Public school students and home-schooled students are already participating and thanks to the generous support of South Arts and gifts from several D.A.R. chapters, the program is offered at no cost. Musicians Scott Napier, Lauren Price Napier, and Ashley Smith are inspiring students in the program at Hindman Elementary School and the program at May Valley Elementary School boasts talented instructors Melanie Turner, Stephanie May Rose, and Meghan Bryant.  The goals of this music program are for the students to immerse themselves in Appalachian music and to celebrate the value of these local arts. Our hope is that students in the program will become teachers who are passionate about sharing old time music and dance with the coming generations.

Also in October, our Traditional Arts VISTA, Nicole Musgrave, launched a new radio program called Now & Then. Now & Then explores stories from the past and present about the history, culture, and folklife around Knott County.  The show airs each Sunday morning from 10:00-10:30, and again each Thursday night from 6:30-7:00 on 88.7 WMMT-FM out of Whitesburg, Kentucky. The show can also be streamed live from www.wmmt.org. And if you can’t catch Now & Then live, each episode will be available through Soundcloud soon. Recent episodes have explored different frozen dessert traditions, the importance of horses to community members, and the historic connection between gingerbread and politics here in Knott County.