Get with it and move on: A desegregation story

Before Bonita Watson agreed to be interviewed about her memories of leaving the all-black Banneker School for Cynthiana High School in 1957, she issued a blanket disclaimer.
<div class="source">Josh Shepherd</div><div class="image-desc">Bonita Watson</div><div class="buy-pic"><a href="http://web2.lcni5.com/cgi-bin/c2newbuyphoto.cgi?pub=081&amp;orig=bonita_watson_2703.jpg" target="_new">Buy this photo</a></div>

“It’s been over 50 years since I was in high school. I’m getting on toward 70 now. If I get anything wrong, you just keep that in mind,” she said, smiling and settling into a low seat at the Charles Feix Annex, the temporary home of the Cynthiana-Harrison County Public Library in Kentucky.

She came bearing a program for the only Banneker School reunion ever held. It was in 1988 and she was one of its organizers.

She also brought along her keepsake history of the Cynthiana High School. She leafed through the pages to her graduation year in 1959. In her lifetime, Watson has been witness to the closure of two high schools, both of which are clearly very dear to her heart.

In the spring of 1957, Watson was a freshman at the Banneker School. In the fall, she enrolled as a sophomore at Cynthiana High School just off of Bridge Street overlooking downtown.

She was among the first generation of black students in Harrison County to be integrated with the city school. At the same time, of course, the black county students began attending Harrison County High School.

Over 50 years removed from the event, a discussion of school desegregation naturally conjures up images of the civil rights movement, of protests and resistance and racial violence.

Watson admits to feeling apprehensive in those first few weeks at Cynthiana High School, but there weren’t marches and police lines in Harrison County. It was just kids walking to school.

“I was leaving what I knew. Of course I was nervous. It was a new school with a lot of people I didn’t know very well,” Watson said.

But she also pointed out that she was a teenager in a small Kentucky town. Watson’s concerns were teenager concerns. She was only vaguely aware of the “big picture” politics that surrounded the issue of school desegregation.

The most significant thing she knew was that she would no longer be going to Banneker School. If she was going to go to school — and her parents didn’t give her much choice in that matter, Watson joked — she would be walking across town and up Bridge Street hill to Cynthiana High School.

But this is where the narrative departs from the typical images one has of desegregation. As many point out who also experienced the closure of the Banneker School and the subsequent integration of the Harrison County and Cynthiana schools, there wasn’t much in the way of resistance or protest at the local level.

“One thing that helped is that Cynthiana is a small town. We all knew each other,” Watson said.

However, Watson wasn’t naive either.

“Sports had a lot to do with speeding up integration around here. Banneker School had a lot of good athletes,” Watson said. “Football and basketball was a big key.”

She points to pictures of Sammy Custard, Kenny Page, Baldwin David and Donald Holland in the two classes ahead of her. “They were some of the athletes,” she said, then added in a softer tone. “Most of them are gone now.”

But when thinking about the significant difference between Banneker School and Cynthiana High, Watson touches on something a bit unexpected.

The Banneker School catered to all grades – elementary, middle and high school. The school was not composed just of students from the west side of Cynthiana and in sections of Harrison County. Kids from Pendleton County attended the Banneker School as well.

“You have to remember that there weren’t that many schools for the black population,” she said. “When my father [Jesse Watson] went to school, he couldn’t even graduate in Harrison County. He had to get up early every morning and drive to Western High School in Bourbon County.”

But for her, the Banneker School was just a natural extension of her immediate neighborhood.

Most of her teachers were also her neighbors and fellow church members. And in those days, she said, their authority did not end when the Banneker school bell rang at the end of the day. Nor did it end just because you were no longer a student in their class, she said.

Watson hesitates about naming just one teacher, because they were all good and had an influence on her life. But the first teacher to come to mind was Miss J.T. Gaddie.

Miss J.T. taught grades 1 – 3 and in addition to lessons in reading and math, she had expectations that kids learned manners and what they could say and what they couldn’t say.

If kids smarted off or misbehaved, the parents were called to talk about the problem.

“Anyone who knew her will tell you, it didn’t matter if it was in class or in public Miss J. T. would correct you if you were doing wrong,” Watson laughed. “That was true of a lot of teachers, but especially her. But you know, we could use a few more Miss J.T.s in the world today.”

Watson also mentioned Mary Bryant, the home economics teacher who taught everyday life skills to their kids. And Mary Ann Adams, who may be one of the last living members of the Banneker School faculty.

Having kids from every class in the same school was a bit different from going to Cynthiana High where it was just the older kids.

But even though there was a change in school, the sense of community and of belonging continued.

Even now, she identifies herself closely with the Cynthiana High class of 1959.

“We have always been a tight class. We have reunion events every year,” she said.

When studying the history of school integration in Kentucky and the rest of the country, it is easy to appreciate just how big a change it was and the upheaval that came in areas of the country as a result.

But it was something a bit different for Watson, at least, who was right in the middle of it.

“I’m sure that there was some planning behind the scenes and there were people who were scared about what might happen,” Watson said. “But speaking for me, it was just something I had to go right on and just do.  No one asked us. We just had to get with it and move on.”

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Nobody calls Kentucky Christians wimps … least of all New Jersey.

I was confused last week when the Letter to the Editor below arrived at the Cynthiana Democrat. It was critical of our Kentucky legislators and admonished Kentucky Christians for not reacting at the state’s refusal to grant tax incentives to a development group that wanted to only hire professed Christians at their tourist site.

To the editor:

Where are the Christians? How come they are sitting by watching the Kentucky legislators renege on their rebate incentive program offered by the state’s tourism office with Answers in Genesis’ theme park, the Ark Encounter.
If AIG doesn’t get thrown out of this agreement with Kentucky, then they are required to hire atheists and all sorts of non-Christians to work at their theme park. That’s like hiring an atheist as your head pastor.
What’s wrong with you Christians in Kentucky? That wouldn’t even fly in New Jersey. There would be a flood of people in the streets before we would let that happen. AIG wouldn’t be able to give the Gospel at the Ark theme park  either.
What’s wrong with your Kentucky legislators? Don’t you know that AIG is a Christian organization? What do they expect?
You Kentucky Christians are looking like wimps. Stand up for yourselves. Get out there and demand that your legislators do what’s right instead of bowing to pressure by atheist groups outside your state.
We here at the Creation Science Hall of Fame are hoping that we could construct our building somewhere between the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum. Just think of the revenue these projects will bring to the state of Kentucky. Your gas stations, lodging, stores and restaurants would be booming  with tourists.
Get with it, Kentucky. Do what is right and don’t be afraid  to give an answer for your beliefs in our Lord.

Nick Lally, Chairman,
Board of Directors
Creation Science Hall of Fame
Tranquility, NJ

Thank God for you, Nick Lally, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Creation Science Hall of Fame in Tranquility, New Jersey, for showing me the tough, no-nonsense side of my brother New Jersey Christians.

For those readers who are not aware, the Answers in Genesis (AIG) group, which is responsible for the Creation Museum in Erlanger, Kentucky, is breaking ground on a new tourist attraction, the ARK project, which will be a representation of Noah’s Ark. The ARK project will be a little closer in design to a Disney-influenced amusement park. However, the installation, located about 10 miles south of the museum in neighboring Grant County, will also be an extension of the world view represented by the Creation Museum. The organization also has developed a hiring practice of asking potential employees to not only be Christian, but also to accept their cosmological view of the beginnings of our Universe to the rejection of rival theories of evolution and other heresies.

Now, I was aware of the decision by the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet to turn down a tax rebate application from the Answers in Genesis (AIG) group for their multi-million dollar ARK project in Grant County because the organization was using discriminatory hiring practices and it was espousing ideas that ran counter to the separation of state and church.

I was also aware of the highly coordinated outcry and protests from AIG when their application was denied.
One wonders how much AIG spent on the billboard advertising alone. I find it quite an odd reaction from a group so concerned about losing money when the cabinet’s decision just cost them an estimated $18 million in tax incentive money, according to the news coverage from the Courier Journal.

But this letter wasn’t from the AIG.
It was from the Creation Science Hall of Fame?
Who are these guys?

Well, I haven’t had much time to do any deep digging on the group. But it wasn’t hard to come up with one fact that sheds light on the keen interest the Hall of Fame had in AIG qualifying for a tourism cabinet tax incentive.
The following is from their website: www.creationsciencehalloffame.org.
“We will build the Hall of Fame as a brick-and-mortar structure in northern Kentucky, between Answers in Genesis’ Creation Museum and the new Ark Encounter park.
We also expect all creationists to support this project collectively and with neither bias nor regard to politics or past disagreements.”
Such erudition on the website is quite a contrast from the tone of the letter from the Hall of Fame’s board of directors’ chair.
In response to the reasonable expectation that qualifying for state tax incentives require non-discriminatory hiring practices, Lally writes, “…They [AIG] are required to hire atheists and all sorts of non-Christians to work at their theme park….What’s wrong with you Christians in Kentucky? That wouldn’t even fly in New Jersey … You Kentucky Christians are looking like wimps…”
Lally’s tone sounds, to my ear at least, like some ridiculously cheesy New Jersey goombah stereotype — which is not helped by the fact that New Jersey’s governor is none other than good old fence-riding Chris Christie.
Of course, Lally is attempting to raise the hackles of a particular brand of Kentucky Christian: those that subscribe to the organization’s purported philosophy and world view.
Since this is also a non-profit company that’s looking to piggy-back their planned tourist attraction onto AIG’s Northern Kentucky Creation Science wonderland, I am naturally skeptical of the purity of their faith.
But that’s the journalist in me.
As the letter is addressed to Kentucky Christians in general, and since I consider myself an ardent member of that group, I am moved to respond to Mr. Lally’s challenge.
It should be noted, however, that I do not entirely subscribe to the world view that the Creation Science Museum champions.
Nor am I much bothered by it either.
My faith is based on being raised from infancy in the United Methodist Church, on a critical study of the Bible’s Old and New Testament teaching (NIV and King James versions, mostly) and a personal relationship that I have developed with Jesus Christ and God.
It has nothing to do with anyone else’s relationship with the Almighty and it certainly doesn’t extend toward helping a private developer earn millions in tax incentives while engaging in practices that run counter to state and federal laws regarding discrimination.
Why worry about hiring atheists anyway?
If the Christian mandate is to win new souls to Christ, would not the act of exposing doubters to the tenets of our faith not increase the likelihood of a conversion?
It’s been known to happen in my neck of the woods, Mr. Lally.
Personally, I think the greater act of a wimp is one who prefers preaching to the choir than to the unconverted. I won’t even mention profiting from it and claiming income tax exemptions based on religious grounds.

Or maybe I just did.
This Kentucky Christian does not fear atheists and I have serious doubts that they’re likely to take over the world any time soon. Although, with the major Abraham-based religions at each other’s throats almost constantly, they could probably win the globe by attrition alone.
But with regard to the point of view expressed in the letter last week, I have but one concern. It has been my experience that the act of demonizing a group of people in order to get a tax break is, in itself, the act of a demon.

From “Troubled Youth” to Ebenezer Scrooge: An Interview with actor Gary Sandy

From “Troubled Youth” to Ebenezer Scrooge: An Interview with actor Gary Sandy

Early in his professional acting career, Gary Sandy said he specialized in portraying “troubled youth.”

c.Gary Sandy

“Those were the best roles to have,” the actor said, though he understands that fact may be difficult for casual fans of his former television series, WKRP in Cincinnati, to grasp. But it was because of his “All-American Boy” looks, combined with his considerable skills as an actor, that made him so effective in villain roles in “As The World Turns” and “Another World.” It will also serve him well on the Rohs Opera House stage in Cynthiana, Kentucky this Friday and Saturday night, Dec. 12-13, when Sandy takes on Ebenezer Scrooge for “A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Play.”

Sandy is excited for a chance to put his spin on the Scrooge character. “I’ve been looking at what other people have done with the role and deciding what elements I’d like to steal,” Sandy joked during a phone interview last week.

But given his professional history, be prepared for some surprises. Sandy built his early career on people underestimating the character types that fit him as a performer. Right out of school at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York in 1970, Sandy was put in touch with an agent. “I told the agent, ‘you set me up for something acting-wise and I’ll get it,’ which was a pretty naive statement at the time, but I was young,” Sandy said. Nevertheless, he credits his hubris for his chance to read for the character “Thomas Hughes” on “As The World Turns.” On meeting Sandy, the soap’s casting director’s first impression was that he was too much of a nice guy for the role. “The character was just getting back from Vietnam and they wanted someone to play the role as ‘troubled.’ I convinced her to let me read the part. After the reading, she said, ‘In 30 years of casting, I’ve never been more wrong.’ “But I still didn’t get the part because then she said I was too ‘troubled’.”

“Even when we went to live tape, the shows were always just a day ahead of the broadcast. Writers were cranking out scripts like mad, so you can imagine the hokey lines that actors had to make convincing. That’s why I loved the bad guy roles so much. We got these great evil lines to say.”

But she also told Sandy to wait three months because there was a character for which Sandy would be perfect — the role of drug dealing Randy Buchanan. From this start, Sandy continued to play bad guy roles in soaps. His final daytime television role was in the short-lived series, “Somerset,” a spin off of the popular series “Another World.” Sandy’s evil character was last seen crying in a jail cell — the narrative thread was left unresolved, Sandy said.

“When I was in soaps, we were live. Even when we went to live tape, the shows were always just a day ahead of the broadcast. Writers were cranking out scripts like mad, so you can imagine the hokey lines that actors had to make convincing. That’s why I loved the bad guy roles so much. We got these great evil lines to say.

“Bad guys were just the better roles to play. They were the better roles!” he exclaimed.

After four seasons of playing Andy Travis on WKRP, where Sandy was ofttimes asked to play the straight man to the ensemble of comic characters, he earned guest spots in television and occasional movie roles. But the theater is where his career has flourished and where he has avoided being pigeon-holed in “Andy Travis”-like roles.

“The stage has given me the chance to take on all sorts of complex characters.” His most notable successes include a starring role on Broadway in “The Pirates of Penzance”; the lead in a production of “Billy Bishop Goes to War”; and a co-starring role with Ann-Margret in a national touring production of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”

In the latter days of his career, Sandy has found a niche performing in live radio plays.

He was recently part of the cast for a well-reviewed performance of the live radio drama “The BBC Murders” by Agatha Christie in Florida. “These are very entertaining productions. They combine the experience of live theater with a look into how old-time radio dramas are produced,” Sandy said. The production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol: A Radio Play,” which will be revived at the Rohs Opera House in Cynthiana, Kentucky will feature radio sound effects and advertisements from radio’s golden age. “People are going to come out to the theater and they are going to have a ball with this play,” Sandy said. In addition to playing Scrooge, Sandy is also proud to offer his support to local theater in Cynthiana.

“My mother and a lot of my family live in the north central Kentucky area. There are a lot of good memories for me here,” Sandy said. It’s been a long time since those days – almost an entire professional career. But Sandy has always had a special place in his heart for this area of Kentucky and he feels honored to be a part of this holiday event.

An expressive newcomer – The art of Ray Duke

An expressive newcomer – The art of Ray Duke

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When asked to talk about the subject matter in one of his paintings, local artist Ray Duke prefers to turn the inquiry back to the questioner. He enjoys it when his work evokes a response from viewers.
“It’s not important to me that people get what I intended in a painting. I like hearing what my images make them think about,” Duke said.
Duke has converted a small bedroom at the back of his home on Wohlwinder Avenue in Cynthiana, Kentucky into a studio for his painting.
He has sold a few of his works here and there, but the majority of his paintings lie against each other against the rear wall.
Thumbing through the collection, one is struck by the range of subject matter that he has painted. One of the pleasures of looking through these works is tracing Duke’s development as a painter.  

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Even to people who do not have much of a background in the visual arts, it is still possible to recognize the development of a highly individual style. There is a great deal of movement and energy captured in these images. Thick strokes invite viewers to touch the canvas and appreciate the tactile sensations in the paint itself.

“I like the way the paint dries on the canvas,” he said. He has re-purposed some of his old canvases, with images he was not satisfied with, to new work. An unexpected benefit of this practice was the way his oils interacted with the older paints, creating a work that invites touching as much as it invites viewing.
Duke has been a practicing artist for decades.
“Growing up, I have always been able to draw and work in clay,” Duke reflected. Yet, he is a relative newcomer to oil painting.
When he first began applying himself as an artist in his spare time, his first devotion was to sculpting, which he had begun in earnest as far back as 1996 while he and his wife were living in San Francisco.
In his living room are impressive examples of his skills as a sculptor. Among them is a detailed scene of two baseball players falling over themselves to catch a fly ball. He’s a fan of baseball, particularly of the San Francisco Giants.
Another is an almost mythic depiction of a beautiful woman with her arms open, an inviting expression on her face, and a scorpion’s tail and pincers seemingly ready to strike.
Duke would have happily continued creating bronze sculpture, but it is a very expensive endeavor.
“It’s not just that bronze sculpture requires a lot of money in materials to create the molds, it also costs a lot to reproduce the works for people who like them. Bronze sculpture is cost prohibitive as a hobby,” Duke said.
He started to take painting seriously around November 2006. From an economic standpoint, it made better sense. A 4 x 5 canvas can run anywhere from $20 – $100.
If the subject matter calls for it, Duke uses wood canvases which are also not very expensive.
But in 2006, when he decided to switch his preferred medium to oil painting, there was one small hitch. He really didn’t know that much about it.
But things were going okay for he and his wife, Karen, – enough so that he decided to leave his job and spend 17 months with a friend in Mazatlan, Mexico to teach himself to paint.
The city proved to be fertile ground for inspiration. The rich culture gave him numerous subjects to depict on campus.
Carnivale in Mazatlan, Duke said, is one of the best known in Mexico. Though it does not have the tourist crowds associated with those celebrated in Rio De Janeiro or New Orleans, it is a vivid spectacle.
One of the works inspired by the celebration occupies a space in their master bedroom.
He has several others in hispersonal collection in the studio. What captures the attention most in his work is the individual detail in the faces.
One of the more vivid examples of that work is one of his early paintings of a struggling family. The fatigue in the face of a mother raising a family alone stands in contrast to the belligerent expression on the face of her son, a toddler who is already adopting a sense of the false machismo that is a bane of male culture in that part of the world, Duke said.

Mazatlan family
“I found that there was a steep learning curve when it came to developing skills as a painter. It took some time before I produced anything that I thought was worthwhile,” Duke commented. “It may have leveled out a bit more, but the curve continues to go upward.”
His development is like leaping from one rock to another to cross a stream, he said. “I can see the shore ahead of me, but I never get there. It always recedes.”
The 2008 recession was an economic setback for Ray and Karen Duke. Relinquishing their home in San Francisco, the Dukes came to Cynthiana to where his wife’s family resides.
“We’re like Okie’s from the Grapes in Wrath, but in reverse. We’re economic refugees from California,” Duke said.
But even in the midst of re-establishing themselves here in Cynthiana, Duke has found plenty of material to inform his paintings in Kentucky.

Portrait of Amber Philpot
Portrait of Amber Philpot

A source of enduring inspiration has been a series of nudes that he has interpreted in numerous ways. Recent experiments, which found their way to his living room wall, cast his nude model in the forms of two famous marble statues — Venus De Milo and Michaelangelo’s David.
Two other works that have been displayed in regional art shows are powerful images of a female boxer preparing for a bout.
As with many artists, he hasn’t sold many of his original works. But then again, he describes his work as more an avocation than a profession.
“It’s something that I enjoy doing,” Duke said.
Interestingly, the pleasure that he derives from painting is in the completed work, not in the process itself.
“I find that the work can be enervating. It saps a great deal of energy. I usually just work about two to three hours – about the length of a playlist on my iPod – then I stop and rest,” Duke said.
But when he finally comes to a point where a work is complete, there is a sense of release.

On occasion, Duke enjoys the way that his art can make a powerful statement.
On occasion, Duke enjoys the way that his art can make a powerful statement.

He’d like to sell more of his work, but the market is not the reason he commits time to creating  his art.
Ray Duke is always glad to meet new people and share his art with them. During art shows in the region, he is glad to break out a few examples from his growing body of work for people to see.

“I have known that I have talent to draw and create. I don’t want to live my life knowing that I have an ability and never used it,” Duke said.

Kentuckyana Jones and the Cave City Wax Museum

****** Note to Readers of this story: Since this story’s publication in August 2014, I have endeavored to verify the developments that Michael Todd Barrick, aka Kentuckyana Jones, outlined in our interview. I make frequent trips to Cave City, Kentucky and often journey the highway which runs right by the former Cave City Wax Museum. To the best of my knowledge, nothing has been done to rehab the property, though I have received unconfirmed reports that its contents, whatever they may have been, were removed at some point. Who knows when that could have happened. Furthermore, there is no indication that Mr. Barrick has followed through on his grand plans for Patriot trees. So, visitor, take what you read in these next paragraphs with only a few grains of salt. There seemed at the time, to me at least, a good faith effort on Kentuckyana’s part to realize a dream of reality TV stardom on E, A&E or some other ailing television channel desperate for original material. But the dream has, as yet, not materialized. So enjoy the following not so much as factual information, though the events of that Thursday afternoon did happen, but rather as fictional entertainment featuring an also-ran in the sweepstakes for a place in contemporary Kentucky folklore.****

At Battlegrove Cemetery Thursday morning, 2014, people may have witnessed an unusual sight — a camera crew at the military memorial with their lenses fixed on Bob Owen and a smiling, bearded stranger gathering a soil sample from beneath a veteran’s plaque.

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Or, on Thursday afternoon, people might have seen the same camera crew entering the Maysville Community and Technical College, Licking Valley Campus’ Art Gallery following the bearded stranger with one arm draped around the shoulder of local artist Herby Moore.

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People didn’t have to look far to find out the name of the stranger. It was written in florid script on three large vans out in the parking lot.

Kentuckyana Jones, The “Extreme” Treasure Hunter.

Jones, a business entrepreneur and trader in antiques, treasures, and rare collectibles, was a featured guest star on an episode of “Barry’d Treasure,” a reality show on the A&E channel starring celebrity antique dealer Barry Weiss.

The episode, “Kentuckyana Jones and the Emperor’s Vessel” aired in March 2014.

But it wasn’t for another person’s television show that brought Jones to Cynthiana last Thursday.

The Bowling Green native was in town shooting footage for a potential television series of his own.

Jones said that a part of the show  would chronicle his adventures searching for valuable artifacts. The objects that he sought in Cynthiana, however, were not hidden or even remotely hard to find. The sample of Herby Moore’s paintings, which Jones wanted, were all in plain sight in Moore’s space at the LVC Art Gallery.

Unlike other places he plans to visit, Jones did not choose Cynthiana at random. He has a very special connection to Moore and, therefore, to this community.

“I bought Herby’s wax museum in Cave City,” Jones said.

Jones has been friends with Moore since the sale of the wax museum. Growing up in Bowling Green, Jones was very familiar with the tourist attraction in Cave City. But he never thought anything else about it until one day when he saw that the building was for sale. It was a spontaneous decision to make an offer for it, Jones said.

“It may not be the way most people do business, but I like to fly by the seat of my pants sometimes. I like taking risks. America was built on the shoulders of entrepreneurs who’ve done the same thing,” Jones said.

Moore’s paintings will feature prominently in Jones’ long-term plans to transform the wax museum into a new area tourist attraction. He intends to create a museum dedicated to America’s veterans, a subject that Jones is as passionate about as he is negotiating a good price for an artifact.

Honoring veterans will also be a critical part of the show that Jones and his film crew are currently shooting.

“We’re dedicating a large chunk of our show’s time talking with the families of veterans who have already gone on. At the end of every show, we will have a ceremony where we go to the veteran’s gravesite with a family member and gather a soil sample,” Jones said.

Jones paid a visit to local Cynthiana resident Bob Owen on Thursday morning to talk about Brig. Gen. Jack Henry Owen, Bob’s uncle, who passed away about a year and a half ago.

During his military career, Gen. Owen flew a B-17 bomber in the European theater of World War II and survived two years as a prisoner of war, Bob Owen said.

There was no particular reason that Gen. Owen was selected over any other veteran, Jones said. “Herby is a friend of Bob’s and suggested he be a good subject.”

Jones has been to seven other states so far and done the same thing.

The soil sample taken from Battlegrove Cemetery will be stored in a vault for the time being. It is Jones’ ambition to get soil samples from all 50 states.

When he has accomplished that goal, he plans to donate those samples to the Patriot Soil Project, a national effort to honor veterans which Jones ardently supports.

The Patriot Soil Project is accepting donations of soil samples from the graves of veterans across the nation.

When completed, the project’s organizers will combine the soil from the gravesites of fallen veterans from all 50 states and used to plant a living memorial, a “Patriot Tree,” on the White House lawn, Jones said.

Other Patriot Trees will be planted on the grounds of the governors’ mansions throughout the nation.

For those interested in donating funds or soil samples to this effort, visit the website Patriotsoil.org for more information.

If all goes well, Jones has one more idea in mind:

He wants to plant a “Patriot Tree” on the grounds of the veterans’ museum in Cave City when renovation work is complete.

In the meantime, though, Jones will be traveling and meeting with folks, saving the memories on film and in the charateristic “thumbs-up” pictures he is taking with his guests and friends.

Put a bluegrass instrument in your child’s hand and become president

 I want to take a moment to present inarguable proof that Yale University stands head and shoulders above all other Ivy League schools.
I offer in evidence this picture of Yale President Peter Salovey presenting an honorary doctorate to Bluegrass music pioneer, Dr. Ralph Stanley, during Yale’s 2014 graduation ceremonies.

The picture is courtesy of photographer Michael Marsland and Yale University. Thanks for allowing me to use it.

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I am a bluegrass music fan so the obvious first reason this news is cool is that Yale is honoring Stanley for his decades-long musical career. It’s not the first honorary doctorate that Stanley has received, but it’s special for another significant reason.
I have had the honor of seeing Stanley and the 2000s version of The Clinch Mountain Boys perform live at the annual Carter County Shriners Bluegrass Festival in Olive Hill.
But I have also had the pleasure of watching the guy on the left, Dr. Salovey, slap the stand-up bass with his bluegrass band, The Professors of Bluegrass, that he and an other Yale faculty member formed at Yale.
Though his advanced degrees are in psychology and sociology, combined with an obvious track record of outstanding leadership in higher education, I can personally attest that this man plays quite well on the bass.
The Professors perform frequently at the annual River of Music Party (ROMP) bluegrass festival at Yellow Creek Park in Owensboro, Kentucky. The event is sponsored by the International Bluegrass Music Museum, another of Kentucky’s great treasures.
Almost every year, the Professors makes the trek to Owensboro, Kentucky to perform.
That’s quite a powerful testament to Kentucky’s rich musical heritage.
If you’re curious, the Professors of Bluegrass have released their first collection of music called “Pick or Perish.”
There are also plenty of tickets available for ROMP in Owensboro. Check out rompfest.com for more information.
In the meantime, consider this an object lesson in proper child raising. Put a musical instrument in your child’s hands and maybe they’ll grow up to be President….OF YALE!!

Claire Muller: Finding beauty in paper colors

Claire Muller: Finding beauty in paper colors

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The Maysville Community and Technical College – Licking Valley Campus (LVC) in Cynthiana, Kentucky has an art gallery in it. It shares space with the job placement center in a strip mall at the Harrison Square Shopping Center. For such a small space, though, it features a surprisingly wide variety of local artists and their works.
One such artist is Claire Muller, whose work in paper mosaics frequently captures the attention of gallery visitors.
One of her most striking works is a portrait of a white horse looking over its stable door. The entire image is made up of carefully chosen bits of  torn paper arranged in such a way as to convey the image of the horse.
This image, as it is with all of her work, is unique in that the paper she chose to create  the image was from maps.

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It is tempting to infer a meaning from the intentional use of maps in the portrait, but as with most of her paper mosaics, the images on the paper are incidental.
There are two noteworthy exceptions to this rule in her past work. One is portrait of Abraham Lincoln, a print of which is on display in the LVC art gallery. In that portrait, Lincoln’s face is made up of important figures in Lincoln’s life while the background is made up of events in his life.
The other is on display in the dental office of Dr. Neil Rush. It is a pastoral scene of a farm fence. Some of the papers she uses intentionally depict farm animals enclosed by the fence.
Most of time, though, the torn bits of magazine merely provide the color palette for her images, she said.
The portrait of the white horse presented her an unforeseen challenge, she said.
White magazine paper does not conceal the print or the color on the reverse side of a sheet. The colors “bleed” through the white.
In her search for opaque white paper, she found her answer in maps.
“I was surprised to discover the vivid colors used in printed maps,” Muller said.
Maps of the sea come in shades of sea-foam or turquoise. Road maps have patches of yellow to contrast populated urban areas from the countryside, which are in shades of white.
The black maps that provide such a vivid contrast to the horse’s face are all taken from star maps and charts, she said.
The only significance in the images are in her initials. In keeping with her medium, she “signs” her work with strips of paper.
For the white horse, the pieces of her name are from a map of Verdun, France, where Muller was born and where her father, now a retired lieutenant-colonel, was stationed for a time.
As an army brat, Muller said it is difficult to say that she is “from” anywhere. She has lived in several places in the U.S. and abroad, including a brief stint from eighth to ninth grade in Kentucky.
Muller is neither a native of Harrison County nor a lifelong resident of the Bluegrass state. But for all the places she has lived so far, there is no finer place on Earth to live than central Kentucky’s horse country, she said.
“Horses are one of my first loves. My parents told me that ‘le cheval’ was the first word I ever spoke,” Muller said. “I consider France my home and I love returning there from time to time. But I’ve always felt at home in Kentucky,” Muller said.
Describing herself as a very “right-brained” person with a passion for creativity, her parents enrolled her in classes at the Art Institute of Boston.
“It was sort of a hole in the wall place when I took classes there, but it gave me an outlet to express myself,” Muller said.
Her art is a part of her life, but it is not the only thing.
Until recently, she and her husband provided foster care for medically fragile children. They have six children, two of whom are theirs biologically. The others are adopted through the foster care program.
The Mullers also support missionaries and their work. They coordinate a program that provides missionaries with a car while visiting in this area of Kentucky.
But art is an important aspect of her life, one that is more than just a hobby or a means to simply pass the time.
She has only been working in paper mosaics since about 2010. Before then, she worked in other types of media such as pastels, oil painting and papier-mache.
She was inspired to experiment in paper mosaics when she saw a California artist’s work during the 2010 World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park.
“I knew instantly that I wanted to try this. Magazine paper offers an interesting and vivid pallette of colors in which to work,” she said.
Not certain if she wanted to commit her first work to an expensive canvas, her first piece, a portrait of her husband and grandson, was put together directly on a blank wall in her home in Kelat.
Pleased with the outcome, she went on to create several other works, each a bit different and presenting a new set of challenges, Muller said.
Most people are familiar with her larger portraits: the white horse, the elephant, the swans, the lion’s heads. They are titled according to lines of poetry that have inspired her, she said.
But some of her most accomplished pieces are these smaller pieces. One of them, a 5-inch by 5-inch portrait of an owl, was a painstaking process. She used an exacto knife to cut fine pieces of paper to capture details in the feathers, beak, and facial expression.
She received compliments from friends and family on her mosaics. However, it is another thing to receive artistic validation from others.
Muller got that validation when she donated a small horse portrait for an auction in support of Horse-Aid, an organization dedicated to providing shelter for aging and retired horses.
She didn’t anticipate it would bring much to the organization, but every little bit helps, she said.
At the Fasig-Tipton auction, Muller was stunned to find out that the portrait  was bought for $3,000 in fairly competitive bidding. She was delighted that her work had brought support to a cause she cared about. It was also some personal validation for her work in this medium.
“My husband [Tom] is incredibly patient with me when I work on these mosaics. There is just tons of paper pieces everywhere in the house and kitchen,” she said.  “It’s no wonder I’ve been insanely in love with him for 37 years.”
Muller has no idea how long she will work in this medium. For the time being, it is presenting her some new creative challenges. But she knows herself and there will come a time when some new form of expression fires her imagination.