Kentucky Arts Council to see Somerset's talent

Janice Turpen

You better now sing. You better now draw. You better now paint, and act, and all.

The Kentucky Arts Council is coming to town.

The state's preeminent organization dedicated to supporting and promoting the arts is making its way to Somerset this week, and the community is ready to put its best foot forward.

"The Kentucky Arts Council meets four times a year and they like to travel to different places," said Janice Turpen, a member of the council from right here in Somerset. "This is the first time they've ever been to Somerset."

The visit has been a couple of years in the making. After being appointed to the council by Gov. Matt Bevin in late 2016, Turpen said she came in and "immediately said, 'I want you all to Somerset and see how beautiful it is.'"

"Bill (Turpen, her husband) and I, we love showing off our town, our community, our home," she added. "... When I applied for the board, one thing I really wanted to do was promote the arts in the Lake Cumberland region. I've always worked in the arts. When I taught in school, I taught art appreciation and music appreciation. I've worked with Lake Cumberland Performing Arts, on that board, and on the board of the Cornelia Dozier Cooper Endowment. I've always had a passion for the arts."

The members of the council will be here Thursday, September 12, and Friday, September 13, and will take in a variety of performances and presentations by some of the community's best and brightest artistic talents while here.

That includes a reception at Congressman Hal Rogers' house at 5 p.m. Thursday, where operatic performer and McNeil Music Center instructor Amanda Balltrip will provide music along with youthful vocalists Madison Harmon and Chase Cimala, both of whom have already made a name for themselves at a young age performing at local opportunities. Meanwhile, Somerset High School drama instructor Heather Massey Foister will present highlights from the school's productions on the television screen.

On Friday, the council will visit the Carnegie Community Arts Center, drop in at the home of arts patron and accomplished painter Cornelia Dozier Cooper, see a dramatic work performed by Flashback Theater Company and check out McNeil Music Center, learn about Jarfly Brewing Co., Master Musicians Festival, and the new arts exchange effort between the cities of Somerset and Louisville, and take in the Wandering Elm Photography studio with a poetry reading, before having lunch at Serendipity at the Orange Door.

Finally, the council's meeting to be held in the city council chambers at the Somerset Energy Center. Turpen said that the meeting is open and the public is encouraged to attend.

Also on the list is a photo-op in front of the new Jordan Justice mural celebrating Somerset on the side of the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce building downtown. Other visual artists to have their work seen will include Peggy Sherry, Allie McGuire, Madison Harmon, Escape Artists, Carnegie Center artists, and Amanda Brooks. Other local artists are welcomed to bring their work to the Carnegie Center Friday morning at 8:30 a.m. or the Energy Center starting about noon.

The opportunity to see how Somerset is flourishing artistically couldn't have timed out better with the trip scheduled two years ago, noted Turpen. By sheer serendipity, it's happening the same week that Cooper will receive the prestigious Milner Award in Frankfort for her artistic contributions and patronage (to take place in the Capitol Rotunda at 10 a.m., open to the public) and just after local artists traveled to Louisville this weekend to partake in the first stage of the inter-city arts exchange.

"I am so pleased with our leaders showing interest and being supportive of the arts," said Turpen. "They've been so support of me in this endeavor."

Turpen mentioned that she couldn't have pulled this visit off without help from Mayor Alan Keck and Tourism Director Leslie Ikerd of the City of Somerset, Somerset-Pulaski County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Michelle Allen, and SPEDA and CEO Chris Girdler, and financial support from Forcht Bank (and Mike Noftsger) and Citizens National Bank (and Don Bloomer).

Regina Stivers, Deputy Secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet has confirmed she will be coming in, and possibly so will Secretary Don Parkinson.

Members of the council include very notable figures from the state including University of Kentucky Opera Theatre director and founder of the American Spiritual Ensemble Dr. Everett McCorvey; accomplished composer and president of Melodia Music Angela Rice; William H. Ford Government Education Center director Elizabeth Griffith; and visual artist Sallie Lanham.

The Kentucky Arts Council is publicly funded by the Kentucky General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts. Its aim is to be "responsible for developing and promoting support for the arts in Kentucky," according to its website,

For more information about the visit by the Kentucky Arts Council and participation, contact Turpen at 606-875-1097.

Turpen noted that the advantage of attracting the attention of the Kentucky Arts Council could come with many benefits, including the increased possibility of grants and opportunities once members put a face to the name they might have otherwise only heard about.

""I really want to feature local talent and artists," said Turpen. "This could be a big opportunity for some of our local artists to be noticed on the state level. ... It's a good opportunity for our community too, to show its best self."

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