So What Will the Reorganization of the Kentucky Arts Council Board of Directors Mean?

By Al Gorman

Entire contents copyright © 2016 Al Gorman. All rights reserved.



Lori Meadows, far right, with Rep. Derrick Graham and Jospehine Sculpture Park Artistic Director Melanie VanHouten. Photo courtesy of Josephine Sculpture Park.

Editor’s Note: On November 18, Governor Matt Bevin fired 12 members of the Kentucky Arts Council’s board of directors, with plans to reduce the number of serving board members from 15 to 11, and accepted the resignation of Executive Director Lori Meadows, although many sources claim that she was fired. The move is the latest such shake-up by the Governor since being elected one year ago, and follows cuts in the KAC budget by the Bevin administration. Al Gorman, currently Coordinator of Public Program and Engagement at The Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany, and active advocate for local and regional visual arts for over 30 years, shares his response:


Al Gorman

Like many members of our commonwealth’s creative community, I read with interest about Governor Bevin’s restructuring of the Kentucky Arts Council’s board of directors both online and in The Courier-Journal. First, I would like to express my appreciation to former Executive Director Lori Meadows for ably navigating the complexities of state government for as many years as she did. Through thick and thin times, the Kentucky Arts Council under her administration has been responsive to Kentucky’s growing population of artists who contribute greatly to the state’s quality of life.

What I’m curious to know, however, is what informed thinking went into this recent decision to shake-up the Kentucky Arts Council’s board of directors and what else will this affect? Were any of the markets studies that now exist illuminating how important the many contributions the art world makes to the overall business climate in Kentucky a part of this decision?

What we are learning from commerce studies is the economic impact is larger than expected when you factor in all the other businesses that benefit from the creative community. Obviously, travel and tourism benefits, but so do the many smaller businesses that provide services working in concert with artists. As a destination, I believe people want to experience what makes Kentucky an interesting and different place to visit and the arts does this rather cost effectively. We have unique cultural attributes…does the state understand what these are and does the reorganization of the arts council board mean the state will prime these resources more?

The Kentucky Arts Council already prioritizes art as a business for individuals through their Kentucky Crafted Program and visitor center/gallery in Berea and throughout our state park system. Will the new board of directors be inclined to increase funding here or are they considering a new program all together? Does this also mean that existing art related businesses (i.e.…galleries) that presently exhibit and sell art, will they be eligible for what sounds like an artistic/entrepreneurial stimulus package too? Will it continue to make a difference whether you operate a commercial or not for profit space?

2017 is the year visual artists are able to apply for the Al Smith Fellowship. The deadline for this award is in early February. Does the Kentucky Arts Council still intend to offer this grant to individual artists? Part of the criteria for winning one of these prized fellowships is originality and creativity…if the body of work in question has a small potential market; does this now disqualify it from a potential fellowship? Receiving an Al Smith Fellowship is more than just money. To an artist, the state’s imprimatur is validation for doing good work which also helps build a career.

What about all the small community art organizations across the state that are beneficiaries of Kentucky Arts Council funds? This is the group that would be hurt the most by any reduction in funding. I guess at the end of the day…the decision to revamp the board presents more questions than it answers. For the past year, we have wondered what was going to happen with the Kentucky Arts Council under the Bevin administration. So far, with eleven boards of directors gone or asked to leave, this is feeling more politically motivated than economic. Beyond extreme board removal, what else is will be happening with the Kentucky Arts Council?