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Kentucky Folk Art Center, Hale and Ratliff highlighted in ‘Appalachia from the Inside’

"Appalachia from the Inside" PictureMorehead State University art alumni Lacy Hale and Stef Ratliff (Class of 2010, 2018), along with works from the Kentucky Folk Art Center (KFAC), are featured in the art exhibition "Appalachia from the Inside: Celebrating Kentucky's Appalachian Arts and Culture." The exhibit runs through March 16 at the Art Center of the Bluegrass in Danville.  

In September 2021, Niki Kinkade, director of the Art Center of the Bluegrass, approached KFAC about participation in "Appalachia from the Inside." Dr. Julia Finch, art professor and interim director of KFAC, said the three inter-related exhibits help address the continuing influence of Appalachian folk artists on contemporary artists of the region while sharing KFAC's collection with a new audience.  

Among these is "Legacy: An Artistic Response to Appalachia's Cultural Heritage," which features the work of Hale, Ratliff and Kentucky Poet Laureate Frank X Walker. These artists were commissioned to create original pieces in response to artwork from the permanent collection of the KFAC.  

Ratliff, who goes by the artist name "kyartrat," graduated from MSU with a Bachelor of Arts in Art and earned a Master of Arts in Art from MSU in 2018. She was "born, bred and buttered" in Appalachia, growing up in the coalfields of Pike County. Her piece "Ain't Long Enough" was a response to "Rooster" by Minnie Adams, an artist that captivated her with the use of wood and bark and bright colors. Her second piece, "Train to Nowhere," came from seeing David Lucas' "Coal Silo Mine 29" and brought back her childhood memories.  

"It was important to me to include the train because coal trains were my first taste of the outside world. Growing up, the internet was not what it is today, so one of my major sources of art was watching hours of coal carts rolling by covered in art from places all over," Ratliff said. I think graffiti on coal carts was my first artistic awakening in life and that's why I chose to make the piece life-size and to just show a sliver of it as if it was in motion and you only caught a glimpse."  

Lacy Hale grew up in Knott County and enrolled at the Pratt Institute in New York City before taking art classes at MSU from 2008 to 2009. She created "Finding Comfort in Unity" in response to "Rocker" by Chester Cornett by imaging the history and personal connections that can come from something like an old rocking chair. Hale took inspiration from Nan Phelps's "Butchering Hogs" for her piece "Papaw Breakfast," highlighting people's disconnect with how some food gets to the fast-food restaurant. Overall, she was just thrilled to contribute to this exhibit that highlights the creativity of her area.  

"I think a benefit of an exhibit like this is that it shows that so many of us are working together to move ahead and that we're much more than the stereotypical hillbilly portrayed in so much media," she said. "Our works of art are as varied as our people."  

The second part of the exhibition is "Folk Yeah! Selected Works from the Kentucky Folk Art Center Permanent Collection." Melissa Yungbluth, instructor of art at MSU and director of the Golding-Yang Art Gallery, curated this exhibition of 13 works in a broad range of media by Kentucky folk artists.  

"The mini-exhibition invites audiences to consider the ever-changing and ever-expanding definition of artistic production by untrained folk artists from the second half of the 20th century into the current century," Finch said. "These works represent Appalachian artists' influence in the region and beyond, from the traditional arts of quilt making and cane carving to contemporary graphic art."  

The third part of the exhibition, "Imagine: Imagining the Future of Kentucky's Appalachia," invited artists to imagine the future of Appalachia, tying together what Finch said are common Appalachian themes like "family, resourcefulness and creative repurposing of materials, and connections to the land and to the landscape."  

"It has been a wonderful experience collaborating with the Art Center of the Bluegrass to introduce works from the Kentucky Folk Art Center's permanent collection to a new audience and to invite contemporary artists throughout Kentucky's Appalachian region to respond to the rich and diverse artists in our collection," Finch said.  

There will be a Gallery Talk for "Folk Yeah!" with Finch from 3 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 19, in the Grand Hall of the Art Center of the Bluegrass.   

To learn more about "Appalachian from the Inside," visit artcenterky.org/appalachia.  

For more information on the Kentucky Folk Art Center, visit www.kyfolkart.org

Find out more about MSU's Department of Art and Design by visiting www.moreheadstate.edu/art, emailing arde@moreheadstate.edu or calling 606-783-5048.