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Craft Luminary Project

The purpose of the Craft Luminary Project is to document and preserve through video history interviews the personal stories of individuals who have made significant contributions to Kentucky’s craft movement and impacted Kentucky craft history.

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The Craft Luminary Project represents the expansion of a project by the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen's (KGAC) oral history committee. The KGAC interviews became the basis for KCHEA's efforts and interviews are continually being added to the over 40 that were initially conducted. 

In FY 2010, work on the Craft Luminary Project included development of guidelines, an application form, and the establishment of a committee that reviews oral history recommendations for the board. In follow up to a 2009 Oral History Commission Grant, transcriptions of the interviews were completed and edited and are now maintained at the Kentucky History Center. You can view the indexed interviews along with their transcripts at Pass the Word, a discovery tool for oral history collections throughout the state of Kentucky. Over 100 archives participate by contributing their collections information. 

KCHEA added four video histories in FY 2010 which were conducted with several Eastern Kentucky folk artists: Minnie Adkins, Tim Lewis, Ronald Cooper and Calvin Cooper. Assistance for the interviews was provided by the Kentucky Folk Art Center, Morehead, Kentucky. 

In 2011 KCHEA received a $3,000 matching grant from LexArts to support video oral histories of Kentucky instrument makers. The project focused on 17 individuals who have been influential in the crafting of stringed instruments and who are a special part of Kentucky’s heritage. During the personal on-site studio interviews, luthiers discussed how they learned the trade and explained the artistry of building a string instrument. In addition to the makers' individual stories, the use of video also documents the processes of creating and playing the instruments. More Info here. 

In 2013, KCHEA directly funded and completed interviews with it's own founding board president, Susan Goldstein and board member Nancy Atcher. Additional Kentucky artists interviews were conducted with two Louisville fiber artists, Mary-Stuart Reichard and Anne Barnes Bird. Also, the outgoing director of David Applachian Crafts, Ruth Ann Iwanski; woodworker, Terry Ratliff of Martin; and Ed Brinkman, an original Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen member involved with the Guild Train project were interviewed. In 2013, another Kentucky Oral History Commission grant funded the transcription and indexing of 17 interivews previously conducted with 17 luthiers. 

As part of a 2016 LexArts Program grant, Interviews have been conducted with Leona Waddell, as basketmaker from Cecilia; Basket Collector, Dr. James Middleton; Quilter Rebekka Seigel of Owenton; Tim Hall, a duck carver from Ravenna, and Basketmaker, Jennifer Zurick of Berea. Additional interviews conducted since have brought the total number of people interviewed to over 90. In 2016 and 2021, KCHEA received additional grants from the Kentucky Oral History Commission to complete transcriptions and indexing for the balance of the Craft Luminary interviews conducted to date. 

Craft Luminary Oral Histories Listing (PDF)

Craft Luminary Videos

These video excerpts featured below are a sampling  from just three of more than 90 interviews KCHEA has conducted since 2008. Production of the videos has been supported, in part, with funding from LexArts. Video editing by Joanna Hay Productions. All excerpts are available on KCHEA's YouTube channel, KCHEAORG. KCHEA's fully indexed video interviews and transcripts are part of the Kentucky Historical Society's digital online collection and can be found at the Pass the Word site (Luminaries and Luthiers). Or, the KHS YouTube Channels, Craft Luminaries, and Kentucky Luthiers.

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Linda Fifield

Linda Fifield was raised in rural Kentucky with her extended family engaged in functional crafts. She began  her exploration of beading after being inspired by an exhibition at Chicago’s Field Museum. Linda has developed a unique method of beading. In these excerpts she talks about influences of place and family in the development of her career, her beading techniques, and design influences. She discusses the benefits she has derived from participation with many different craft programs in Kentucky and the region.

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Crit Luallen

Crit Luallen was extremely instrumental during the administration of Martha Layne Collins in support for crafts programming in the Department of the Arts. She initiated the first-ever-in-the-country economic impact study on craft through an Appalachian Regional Commission grant. Through the position of Arts Commissioner and later as secretary for the Department of Tourism she advanced crafts through many programs.  In these excerpts, she talks about the importance of craft and how it impacts economic development in Kentucky and the many different ways that she encouraged crafts as worthy of government resources.

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Art Mize

Art Mize was raised in rural Kentucky in a religious environment that did not allow the playing of instruments and limited singing to religious hymns. In spite of this, his family quietly obtained string instruments and played together in their home. In the sixth grade his dad was transferred to northern Illinois where he had private violin lessons and played in the school orchestra. Later the family moved back to Kentucky where he encountered bluegrass, jazz and other diverse types of music.  Art discusses his personal history, his admiration and apprenticeship with JB Miller and shows samples of violins from various European countries.

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Walter Cornelison

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Richard Bellando

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Lila Bellando

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Minnie Adkins

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