We live in a region that has a wealth of artistic talent

December 28, 2004|JOHN NELSON

In his last years, the Colonel would amble in, limping slightly, often wearing a hat and carrying a piece of paper. On it would be something he hoped we would publish, or perhaps something about which he was just proud.

While he didn't always get our attention, neither did he take it personally. He always left with a smile, and you always knew he would be back.

Eben Henson wore many hats in the minds of the people of Danville. But to the rest of the state, to many newspaper editors anyway, he wore just one - entertainer.

Every year around the first of June, an envelope would arrive with an invitation to opening night at Pioneer Playhouse. It was one of many attempts by Henson to market his outdoor theater, to bring Kentuckians to Danville to experience the arts.


By the time Henson died earlier this year, Danville had become a community of culture, maybe even a haven for artists of almost every discipline.

There are no less than four venues for amateur and professional actors, not counting the public schools. Local musicians perform in coffee shops and restaurants, in auditoriums and on the courthouse lawn. Sculptors and painters and photographers display their works in a variety of shops and shows. Craftspeople have no shortage of opportunity at festivals and in area stores. Authors of music and poetry, short stories and books have opportunity here as well.

And there is no need to look beyond the city limits for big-name talent. Norton Center for the Arts this year played host to Johnny Rivers, Lou Rawls, Jamie Farr and LeAnn Rimes, to name a few.

The facility also hosted a major exhibit of photography depicting the plight of artists in the Holocaust, a rare opportunity for viewing in a small town.

The Great American Brass Band Festival has attracted premier talent from across the nation and the world, not to mention the world-class talent our own brass band offers during the rest of the year.

Country music star Eddie Montgomery, half the duo of Montgomery Gentry, still considers himself a hometown boy and deems it important to not only promote his work at home, but to promote his home in his work. The pair released a new CD this year.

A thirst for creativity

There seems to be a thirst here for creativity, and a longing to quench it.

Despite the city's cuts in funding to the Heart of Danville, the downtown development agency, the group continued to sponsor Whimsy in Weisiger each Thursday last summer. Music lovers filled the courthouse lawn to hear local artists playing from the bandstand.

The Arts Commission of Danville/Boyle County sponsored its first "Gallery Hop," an evening tour of downtown stores featuring the works of local artists. It was such a success that another is planned for February.

A long-awaited Community Arts Center is now open in the old Federal Building, with a grand opening ceremony scheduled for January. There was public debate about where the center should be, but never about whether it should be. A visiting travel writer was impressed, calling it a good "re-use" of the facility. Those uses will include visual art studios, a gift shop, musical and dramatic performances, art instruction and more.

There should be no omission here of the available entertainment for lovers of the cinema. The opening of Danville Cinemas 8 gives our small town two theaters. Some don't even have one.

It has been a good year.

That said, we must not forget those government budget restraints, some of which resulted in the closure of the annual performance of "Daniel Boone, The Man and The Legend" at Fort Harrod in neighboring Mercer County. The longstanding play was once a big draw for the state park and the city of Harrodsburg. Sadly, the arts are often the first to suffer when money is short.

Someday, perhaps, it will return.

Still, the region is wealthy with talent and the will to provide it a forum. And, from these pages you have demanded attention to that wealth. It has been a pleasure, in such a small community, to be able to provide the space. Few smalltown newspapers have the opportunity to cover such a broad range of disciplines, such top-level talent.

Thanks for reading, and if you hear someone say there's nothing to do here, point them toward the center, the park, the bandstand, the theater, the cinema.

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