An outgrowth of the folk art collection that Morehead State University initiated in 1985, the Kentucky Folk Art Center (KFAC) was opened in 1997 in a restored, historic railroad building to house and display the University’s growing collection of works by Kentucky’s self-taught, visual artists. Since that time, KFAC has witnessed substantial growth and has become a leading cultural center in the Kentucky mountains. Our permanent exhibition of Kentucky folk art and several annual changing exhibitions draw thousands of visitors each year. KFAC also sponsors festivals, craft fairs, literary events, and a speakers series.
With a growing permanent collection of more than 1,400 works by regional folk artists, KFAC strives to preserve and promote a broader understanding of traditional and contemporary folk art. The Garland and Minnie Adkins Gallery, on the center’s second floor, allows us to bring at least four new exhibitions to eastern Kentucky each year. These exhibitions range in content from folk art works, such as textiles or found object assemblages, to contextually related subject matter, including photography and regional traditions. KFAC also produces original exhibitions, many of which travel. Most notably, KFAC received three recent grants from NEA for major touring exhibitions.
KFAC is one of America’s hidden cultural gems and one of the brightest cultural lights in central Appalachia. We are of, by, and for Kentucky, and we are dedicated to preserving and promoting one of the best things that our state has to offer, self-taught visual art. When people talk about Kentucky and visual arts, that discussion often begins and ends with folk art. We are proud of that, proud of our museum’s impact and the work of our artists.
I can say, without hesitation, that no arts organization in America has done more with limited resources than has KFAC. Over the past decade, our museum has doubled the size of our collection, curated several major traveling exhibitions, run an impressive slate of fairs and festivals, and established a fine educational outreach program.
The Kentucky Folk Art Center does two very important things. First, we are the only art museum in Kentucky’s 54-county Appalachian region. Secondly, we are the official repository for Kentucky’s indigenous self-taught art. We are charged with doing a lot of work that no other organization is going to do. We take these responsibilities very seriously. Therefore, our museum is focused on five strategic priorities as we move forward over the next several years. These are:
1. Continue strategic expansion of permanent collection and focus on continual improvement of collection practices and facilities.
2. Enhance changing exhibition schedule.
3. Provide quality educational outreach opportunities for K-12 students in Kentucky’s public schools.
4. Continue to grow in service to the region as a top tourist attraction and engine for economic development.
5. Build increased public support and awareness.
Since the mid-1990s, the Kentucky Folk Art Center has built one of the finest collections of contemporary folk art in America and the finest collection of Kentucky folk art to be found anywhere. Currently, KFAC has more than 1,400 works in its collection, 80% of which are from Kentucky artists. KFAC uses its small annual collection budget to acquire a few works each year, primarily from artists. However, more than 60% of the works in the collection have come to the museum through donations.
In recent years, KFAC has worked diligently to "keep it in Kentucky," to acquire major works before they go elsewhere. Thanks to the generosity of donors, we have sometimes been successful. However, we have failed to acquire several major works at auction due to our extremely limited resources.
For the past eight years, the Kentucky Folk Art Center has operated one of the most efficient and effective museum educational outreach programs in America. The program was built and sustained largely through grants. During this time, we have provided service to more than 100,000 students in Kentucky's public schools. 80% of those students are served in their schools, because there is typically insufficient funding for them to come to Morehead.
Key program activities include traveling tabletop exhibitions, digital exhibitions on iPods, student photography projects, educational musical performances, and customized activities. However, since KFAC has no fixed budgetary resources to devote to the program, we are constantly faced with the challenge of securing resources to continue and update the program.
KFAC continues to push the envelope in terms of exhibition development. No other museum in America, with a budget under $500,000, can match our record of producing high quality exhibitions, especially traveling exhibitions. In the end, a museum is only as good as what it puts on the walls, and we are committed to continuing our long tradition of producing America’s best exhibitions of self-taught art.
Demand for our educational outreach services has only continued to grow, and we have been able to find outside funding for these programs. Recently when we received a $50,000 grant from the IMLS, we believed that we would have sufficient funds to meet all requests from schools for three years. This year the requests are coming in fast, and demand may exceed our available resources. With changes made in SB 1, we expect this trend to continue.
As KFAC has raised its public profile, we are beginning to get the attention of people across the country who have the means to help us. Fund raising has historically been difficult since our location does not make it easy to appeal to people for major gifts.
But, through many years of consistent effort, this is beginning to shift. We are building new relationships in this area now.
KFAC set all time sales records in 2013 for attendance and gift shop sales. Part of this is due to a slowly recovering economy, but most of it is due to exhibitions and redesigning our store and inventory.
New changes to the structure of our budget will make it harder to make ends meet heading into the next fiscal year. We are working hard to address this issue through gifts, sales, and other forms of revenue generation. KFAC is as lean and efficient as it can be.
Due to the extraordinary growth of KFAC’s collection, our storage facilities are reaching their maximum capacity. Also, the size of our galleries limits our abilities to make our collection available to the public. In the short term, we have to dispose of some unneeded works in a way that conforms with AMA’s code of ethics and state law. Over the long term, we plan to expand, and preliminary work has been done in this area.
KFAC has always been understaffed. Our museum lacks a registrar and preparatory staff. In addition, two of our five staff members are hourly employees, and others of us have taken on duties in support of other units at our parent institution. We have lost 85% of our institutional student work force to budget cuts over recent years. To date, we have addressed this issue through cross-training and hard work.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
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