Three questions for Chris Cathers

Published 2:01 pm Friday, January 29, 2021

BY BILL McCANN

Sun Columnist

The Kentucky Arts Council is the state arts agency and is responsible for developing and promoting support for the arts in Kentucky. KAC is publicly funded by the state legislature and by the National Endowment for the Arts, an independent agency of the federal government.

Among KAC’s wide range of programs are the Governor’s Awards in the Arts, Poetry Out Loud, Kentucky Poet Laureate, Kentucky Crafted, apprenticeships, Peer Advisory Network, Artrepreneur and educational webinars. For more information visit http://artscouncil.ky.gov/

Recently, KAC’s executive director Chris Cathers  took time to answer three questions for me. His answers have not been edited.

McCann: What effect has COVID-19 had on arts in Kentucky?

Cathers: The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a loss of revenue for many artists. However, in response, artists have established a web presence to sell their work, and some performance venues have shifted to virtual events to provide compensation for artists.

In an effort to support artists, the Kentucky Arts Council forged a relationship with a for-profit company, Artrepreneur, that helps artists set up a reliable e-commerce platform to exhibit and sell their work. With help from the non-profit Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, we have made Artrepreneur available to our Kentucky Crafted artists for one year. We have also hosted various educational webinars to help artists navigate the challenges associated with the pandemic.

BM: Last year the Kentucky General Assembly approved a one-year budget; this year it will approve another one-year budget. What effect did that have on KAC programming and funding?

CC: The shift to virtual programming combined with the allocation of federal funding has allowed us to successfully navigate the potential impact of last year’s budget. This past year, we were fortunate to have our state budget in place prior to the distribution of CARES Act funding by the National Endowment for the Arts. The Kentucky Arts Council was able to quickly distribute more than $400,000 statewide to support arts organizations impacted by the virus.

BM: Once the pandemic is past, whether this year or next, what permanent changes do you anticipate COVID-19 to have had on KAC grants and programs?

CC: Our day-to-day business has not been significantly impacted by COVID-19 as we were holding many grant and adjudication panels via teleconference as a cost-savings measure. Since COVID-19, we have adapted our arts education to include a new program, Teaching Art Apart, and we are collecting virtual lesson plans from members of our adjudicated Teaching Artists Directory. Lessons will be compiled in the Teaching Art Apart library, which will be available to all Kentucky teachers, and artists who create the virtual lessons will receive a stipend for their work.

In April, we saw a high level of engagement from Kentucky’s creative community when we asked writers to submit videos of themselves reading their own work during Poetry Month leading up to Kentucky Writers’ Day. We anticipate even more engagement during this year’s Arts Week in Kentucky, Feb. 22-26. COVID-19 has allowed us to build our virtual connection with Kentuckians, and we plan to carry these activities into a post-COVID world.

Approaching KAC grant deadlines

The Teaching Art Together Grant lets teachers collaborate with practicing, professional artists on the design and implementation of innovative one- to four-week residencies. The residencies provide teachers with the tools to continue to incorporate the arts into the curriculum after the residency is completed.

This year the Teaching Art Together grant has rolling deadlines of Feb. 1, March 1 and April 1. Residencies must all be done virtually. For more information, contact KAC at kyarts@ky.gov. To apply visit http://artscouncil.ky.gov/KAC/Applications.htm.

Bill McCann is a playwright, poet, flash fiction writer and teacher who writes about arts events and personalities. He can be reached at wmccann273@gmail.com.