Traditional Arts Program Applies Arts Connect All, Part I

For the 2019-2020 school year, Hindman Settlement School received an Arts Connect All contract from the Kennedy Center VSA, the international organization on arts and disability. This VSA program is provided in 2019-2020 under a contract with the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. The Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, provides operating support to Hindman Settlement School with state tax dollars and federal funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. This funding makes it possible for a teaching artist to work with classes at each of the six elementary schools in Knott County for a five-day residency during the school year. Teaching artists plan these residencies to ensure that all learners can fully participate and enjoy creating art together. My colleague, Nicole Musgrave and I worked together to help coordinate these artist residencies, and one of our goals was to work with teaching artists who live in eastern Kentucky.  We are fortunate to have many excellent teaching artists living in this region, and I am glad to say that all six of the teaching artists we have worked with this year are eastern Kentucky-based.

I will share updates from the three artist residencies that have been completed, and in the next Traditional Arts blog post, we will share updates from the other three artist residencies planned for this fall!

Randy Shephard teaches 5th grade children at Hindman Elementary School the process of tanning a deer hide.

Native American Arts, taught by Randy Shepherd at Hindman Elementary

Randy Shepherd lives in Clay County where he farms and runs a beekeeping business. Hindman Elementary teachers Mrs. Parks and Mrs. Hall welcomed Randy to work with their classes who are learning about Native American cultures as part of the fifth grade social studies curriculum. During the five day residency, students learned the process of tanning a deer hide from start to finish, from scraping the hide (see photo right) to sealing the tanned hide with wood smoke.  Students also made hammers using rawhide, wood, and stone, ground corn with a stone pestle, used a bow drill as a firestarter, and learned to throw traditional hunting weapons such as rabbit sticks and the addle-addle. Randy’s son Will was an excellent assistant teacher in these classes!

Students at Jones Fork Elementary learning and applying play-party games, which use traditional songs to accompany social dancing!

Traditional Songs, taught by Jon Pickow at Jones Fork Elementary

Jon Pickow is a traditional Appalachian musician and singer who lives in Perry County. Jon continues to sing and teach the songs that he learned from his mother, Jean Ritchie, and other Ritchie family singers. During his week as artist-in-residence at Jones Fork Elementary, Jon worked with fourth through eighth grade classes taught by Mrs. Kidd, Mrs. Miller, Mr. Huff, and Mrs. Shepherd. Students learned about the role of singing in Appalachian cultures and how different types of songs served different functions in everyday life.  Students learned ballads, humorous songs, hymns, carols, and contemporary songs written by Jean Ritchie that document eastern Kentucky history. Students greatly enjoyed learning play-party games, which use traditional songs to accompany social dancing. Their favorite game was “Old Roger Is Dead,” a dramatic game in which one student must play the part of Old Roger, laying down on the floor while others circle around singing (see photo left).

Here we have students at June Buchanan School applying the artistic process and painting!

Painting, taught by Grace Henderson at Beaver Elementary

 Grace Henderson is a teaching artist who lives in Knott County.  Grace is part of the teaching artist rosters for the Kentucky Arts Council and Berea College Partners for Education, and she teaches art at numerous schools in the region, including the June Buchanan School. During her week-long residency, students in Mr. Hayes’ 6th and 8th grade classes each completed a painting. Students learned how to use color theory, how to use perspective, and how to plan and sequence the steps in the artistic process. Given the prompt to paint figures in a car on a highway with a city skyline background, students imagined stories that accompanied their whimsical paintings (see photo right).

If you would like to learn how you can support the Traditional Arts Program at Hindman Settlement School and its efforts in Appalachia, please email me, Traditional Arts Director Sam Gleaves, at!