October 27, 2004 | By: Aimee Heald-Nielson

Students learned about important historic sites in Johnson County.

For many years, the old Oil Springs School in Johnson County served its purpose in the public school system. Now the old building is again open for learning, but this time it is a place for artists to teach and display their crafts to the community.

The Oil Springs Cultural Arts and Recreation Center (OSCAR) was created to transfer traditional skills to the next generation. OSCAR is a place to teach important concepts through song, music, dance, drama and culinary and visual arts. 

Johnson County Cooperative Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences Brenda Cockerham spearheaded the planning process for OSCAR and secured grant funding through the Kentucky Arts Council to get the project going.

“This really is an educational center; it’s about learning skills,” she said. “The structure itself is important to this community because it played a role in their history. Extension helped define a mission and come up with a strategy. Now we’re working on a business plan as the center edges into economic stability.”

Cockerham said OSCAR now has a leadership team and it is working to incorporate and start planning for the future. They hope for it to become a “mecca” for the arts and a place for community fun and involvement.

Recently OSCAR played host to a kick-off event for Johnson County’s annual Heritage Day. Artists set up representations of 10 historical sites in the county. School children came to tour the center as a way to gain background knowledge before they visit the actual sites during the next six months. The Extension service will sponsor tours of the historic sites as a way for students to learn about different time periods in the county’s history in greater detail.

Pauline VanHoose from the Big Sandy Resource Conservation Development Office in Paintsville spent time teaching children about some historic places in the county.

“It’s important to let children know what happened in their area and to teach them about their heritage,” she said. “You just never know if one of them will be our next artist or maybe the one to restore some of our historic places, so they need to know their heritage.”

Some students have been coming to classes at OSCAR each week to learn skills from local artists. Linda Daniel, who is on staff at Johnson County Christian School, has invited a few artists to come to the school and talk about their crafts and teach students the basics.

“It’s wonderful to bring back some of the old crafts,” she said. “We’ve brought some of them [artists] to the school to teach and two of our students come here each Monday night to take sewing lessons. They are also learning to crochet and knit. I just think it’s wonderful that someone is bringing these skills back.”


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

Contact: Brenda Cockerham 606-789-8108