Fine Arts Extension Is First in Nation

Contact: Whitney Hale

Photo of Dancers performing at a reception in honor of the new Fine Arts Extension Program in Pike County
Dancers performed at a reception in honor of the new Fine Arts Extension Program in Pike County

Photo of Musicians who also entertained the crowd at the Fine Arts Extension Program  reception
Musicians also entertained the crowd at the Fine Arts Extension Program reception

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"We believe the program is important because it demonstrates that a core value of the College of Fine Arts is its dedication to the land-grant mission of the University of Kentucky. Through this program, the college will be able to utilize its resources in the arts in serving Kentuckians, honoring the ideals of a land-grant university.”

-- Robert Shay,
dean,
College of Fine Arts,
University of Kentucky

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 12, 2005) -- The University of Kentucky announces the nation’s first Cooperative Extension Service program focusing on the fine arts. By pooling the resources of UK’s College of Agriculture and College of Fine Arts , the university has created an innovative program to strengthen the arts in rural communities.

A couple years ago, two colleges at UK were independently hoping to make changes in their programs that would enhance their college and benefit Kentucky’s citizens.

Recognizing the opportunity and need to revitalize art in rural communities, Robert Shay, dean of UK’s College of Fine Arts, was looking for a way his college could enhance its outreach services. He wanted to find a way to reach rural Kentucky and assist in developing local artisans.

At the same time, UK’s College of Agriculture was embarking on a “re-envisioning” plan. The college’s leaders were actively pursuing new ways to collaborate with UK’s other colleges.

In an effort to establish new ties with the College of Fine Arts, Shay was asked to take part in the annual College of Agriculture State Conference. At the conference, Shay communicated his ideas for assisting the development of the arts in Kentucky’s rural communities by placing individuals in those communities to do programming.

Utilizing Shay’s concept, Scott Smith, dean of the College of Agriculture, saw a way to enhance service to rural communities through the successful County Extension Service model housed in his college.

They hope the program they created will meet the needs of the artisans in Kentucky’s rural communities, which often lack arts programs due to the absence of central organizations to support the fine arts.

One community was already championing that same cause. Pike County has a large population of artists and a population yearning for cultural events and activities, but no central organization to bring them together. By hiring an Extension agent in the fine arts, the county hoped to expand and promote an already thriving arts community while leveraging the arts' potential to enhance the area's economy.

With the concept of a fine arts Extension agent in demand in Pike County, UK moved forward. Shay recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Larry Turner, associate dean of the College of Agriculture and director of the UK Cooperative Extension Service, and Larry Dotson, vice chairman of Extension District One Board, agreeing to cooperate and support fine arts education and programming in Kentucky. Pike County now has Stephanie Richards, the first fine arts Extension agent in the nation.

Upon the placement of Richards in Pike County, Shay commented, “As far as we know, Stephanie Richards is the first County Extension Agent in the United States with a fine arts focus.  She will function in a manner no different than the traditional Extension agents, but will address quality of life issues of the county’s citizens through the fine arts. We believe the program is important because it demonstrates that a core value of the College of Fine Arts is its dedication to the land-grant mission of the University of Kentucky. Through this program, the college will be able to utilize its resources in the arts in serving Kentuckians, honoring the ideals of a land-grant university.”  

In commenting further on the Extension Service network and its contribution to the program, Smith said, “The Fine Arts Extension program is the first of its kind, yet it is representative of a wide range of new initiatives that use the Cooperative Extension network in new and important ways. Such partnerships offer a wonderful opportunity to connect the university with the entire Commonwealth.”

On the job since December of 2004, Richards is bringing together the artisans of her community. She has scheduled numerous events and activities highlighting the arts and providing arts education. At a recent reception honoring the program and her position, a packed house was entertained with the performances of dancers, singers and instrumentalists alike. They also enjoyed over 200 paintings, photography, quilting, sculpture, pottery and more created by local artists.

The pilot project is already enjoying success and growing interest across the state and the nation, portraying Kentucky on the cutting-edge of Extension Service and arts education service. John Benjamin, director of the Arts in Education Program for the Kentucky Arts Council, recently said, “You've got to believe me when I say people think Kentucky is way out in front in arts education and in their appreciation for the arts. And you wait till I tell them what’s going on down here (in Pike County).”

For more information on the Fine Arts Extension Program, contact Stephanie Richards at (606) 432-2534.


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