April 8, 2005 | By: Aimee Heald-Nielson

Local musicians entertained the crowd at the fine arts celebration.

Kentucky Cooperative Extension agents have been including fine arts in their programming for a long time to celebrate the talents of artists and encourage new artists to emerge. With the addition of the United States’ first Extension agent for fine arts, Pike County is paving the way to a better understanding and appreciation of fine arts in the commonwealth.

“Think about this – there are 50 states in the country,” said Robert Shay, dean of the University of Kentucky College of Fine Arts. “On average there are 50 counties in each state, and on average each county has maybe four Extension agents. That means there are approximately 10,000 county Extension agents and only one works in fine arts, and that one is in your county.”

Shay recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Larry Turner, UK College of Agriculture associate dean and director of the UK Cooperative Extension Service, and Larry Dotson, vice chairman of the Extension District One Board. The three agreed to cooperate and support fine arts education and programming in Kentucky. Pike County Extension Agent for Fine Arts Stephanie Richards hit the ground running in December and is committed to fulfilling the dreams planners have about her role.

“A lot of people who, even before me, entered into this picture really went out onto limbs stating and staking themselves in the belief of what art can do,” she said. “I know that they have a lot of belief in that process and that journey and I promise to do everything in my power to make it all happen.”

Richards organized a celebration and reception for fine arts in late March at the Pikeville Extension Office. A packed house was treated to performances by dancers, singers and instrumentalists. Filling the hallways of the office were more than 200 displays of artwork from local artists including paintings, photography, quilting, sculpting, pottery and much more.


Dancers and singers also joined in the festivities to showcase eastern Kentucky talent.

“How many of our eyes lit up when we were watching these performances?” said David Adams, UK Cooperative Extension district one director. “Art is so much a part of our daily lives, it’s almost like breathing. The more we bring it into our lives on a daily basis, the better we feel.”

Turner emphasized that Kentucky has focused on fine arts in Extension for a long time.
“Even though there’s only one fine arts position in the country, we’ve been doing fine arts as a part of Extension for a long time. This is a great opportunity to really build on the talents here in Pike County.”

State Sen. Ray Jones attended the celebration and said he was proud of the path Extension is taking in eastern Kentucky.

“We have talent here that just needs to be developed,” he said. “We need to let people across the nation know that eastern Kentucky has a rich culture and a rich heritage that needs to be explored.”

Others in the United States are taking notice of the new fine arts emphasis in Kentucky Extension. Arts in Education Program Director for the Kentucky Arts Council John Benjamin said he’s been hearing nothing but positive comments about the new agent position.

“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,” he said. “And you wait till I tell them what’s going on down here (Pike County).”


Writer: Aimee Heald-Nielson 859-257-4736, ext. 267

Contact: Stephanie Richards 606-432-2534