Housed in a courthouse building that was constructed in 1899, the Rowan County Arts Center serves the community as a base of artistic activity. Executive Director Angela Traver explained that the center’s location in the historic Morehead structure makes the organization’s presence even more unique. The towering three-story building includes several gallery spaces, artists’ studios, an old courtroom transformed into a stage and performance area, and classrooms and staircases full of artwork.
During the week, visitors can chat with a variety of local artists—weavers, quilters, painters and many more—at work in their studios. Some artists from surrounding counties such as Morgan, Bath and Fleming, also have studios there.
“We really have a large pool of talent, and folks are excited about it,” Traver said, adding that the proximity to the art community at Morehead State University also benefits the arts center.
The Kentucky Center for Traditional Music holds its semester finale in the Rowan County Arts Center’s performance space. Traver said people were “pretty much hanging from the rafters” to hear the music. Students from MSU often hold their senior recitals in the old courtroom, which boasts acoustics unparalleled in the area.
“We had a performer doing her senior recital in traditional opera, and she said it was by far the best place in town,” Traver said of the old courtroom. “It’s one of those benefits when we renovated the old courthouse that you didn’t know would happen.”
The center recently presented a play based on a famous Kentucky feud—the Tolliver-Martin feud. Traver said that, though most people think of the Hatfields and McCoys, the Tolliver-Martin feud was bloodier, and the play brought many new people to the center. “These are folks who might have never come into the Arts Center before, but because we have such diverse programming, we have people coming in from all over. It’s about getting people through the door and realizing what we have,” she said.
The center hosts rotating displays every month in the main gallery and is getting ready to add some permanent displays that will incorporate the history of Rowan County.
Art classes have been met with “overwhelming” interest, Traver said, and include opportunities for all ages and skill levels.
Recently, the Fuse the Muse program, thanks to a grant from the W. Paul and Lucille Caudill Little Foundation, enables artists working in different media to collaborate on projects. For example, a photographer will exhibit photos, and an artist will create an interpretation of one of the photographs, using his or her own media. “Then we hang them next to the photos, and it’s really interesting to see things come together,” Traver said.
The Madden-Griders plan to do another Fuse the Muse project—a group of monologues of people’s memories from World War II.
The Fuse the Muse grant funds 12 projects per year. Artists are selected through a proposal process.
If you go …
Rowan County Arts Center
205 East Main Street, Morehead
(606) 783-9857, rcartscenter.org