Louisville’s Chamber Theatre Announces 2017/18 Season Tuesday, Aug 15 2017 

Louisville’s Chamber Theatre has announced its 2017/18 season, which will include two productions: “Tales from the Hills” and “All People Sneeze.”

Martin French is the co-artistic director of the company.

“At The Chamber Theatre, one of the things we really want to do is to explore some of the early modern theater classics,” French says. “The likes of Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekhov — these late 19th-century, early 20th-century authors we don’t feel get enough coverage in the theater world here in Louisville — and see them with new eyes.”

In early November, the company will produce “Tales from the Hills,” a two-part production which features WB Yeats’ verse tragedy “Deirdre,” and J.M. Synge’s raucous, gossip-fueled comedy “In The Shadow of The Glen.”

For the second production, “All People Sneeze,” co-artistic director Polina Shaffron has chosen short stories by Russian writer Anton Chekhov and adapted them for the stage.

“He wrote at least 200 of those stories and they, in my opinion, offer a great look into people’s lives and are full of nuances,” Shaffron says. “So I have been wanting to do that for a long time and now have the opportunity.”

Both Shaffron and French say there is an emphasis this season on narrative and commonalities between cultures.

“One of the things about ‘Tales from the Hills’ in tandem with ‘All People Sneeze’ is that it’s a great opportunity to explore storytelling,” French says. “And that’s what we want to do this time around — look at plays, look at stories and how they are told.”

“All People Sneeze” will be performed in March; both productions will take place at Hope Community & Coffee at the Mellwood Arts Center.

Kentucky Science Center’s Focus On Play Reflects Early Childhood Research Tuesday, Aug 15 2017 

Walking into the Kentucky Science Center as an adult can feel a little disorienting. Perhaps, it’s because the space is so different than the science museums many of us grew up visiting.

Everywhere you look there are young kids and their guardians engaging with what the center’s executive director Joanna Haas calls “loose parts.” That includes objects like a giant pile of wooden blocks, shopping carts full of shapes and a water table stocked with PVC pipes.

But according to Haas, what feels unstructured — and maybe even a little chaotic to adults — is actually a collection of conscious design choices.

“A few years ago we said to ourselves, ‘You know, there’s a lot of new brain research and there’s a growing urgency and priority locally and nationally around early childhood development and education and school-readiness,’” Haas says.

“And those were incentives and catalysts for us to begin rethinking how we worked with families with young children.”

21st Century Skills

For Haas, the main takeaway from the new research is that kids in that “early childhood demographic” — typically 8-years and under — learn essential skills through open-ended play, although they may not be the skills on which schools or guardians have traditionally focused.

“Everyone is so focused on ‘Can my kid recognize letters, can my child count to 10, do they know their address?’” Haas says. “I mean, it’s all very structured around certain prescribed milestones, but parents aren’t thinking — and this is one of the things we learned in our research — they aren’t thinking about softer skills.”

Also called “21st Century Skills,” these softer skills include things like creativity, critical thinking, persistence in the face of challenges and working effectively with one’s peers; these are early precursors for elements of scientific thinking like observation, prediction and experimentation.

Laney Johnson

The Science Center’s newly renovated first floor has a focus on taking science into the real world, so kids can experience science and learning in their everyday lives.

And many researchers argue they matter just as much as reading and math in the long run. According to a 20-year retrospective study in the American Journal of Public Health, kindergarten students who are more inclined to exhibit “social competence” traits may be more likely to attain higher education and well-paying jobs.

But in order to teach these skills, while maintaining their commitment to STEM education, Haas knew the Science Center would have to undergo some serious changes.

“It was probably about a five-year process,” Haas says. “We had assembled an advisory group that included practitioners in early childhood education. We worked with support of the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood, had partners at Metro United Way. We had the University of Louisville Department of Childhood Education.”

This group spent time testing, reworking and piloting educational elements that eventually led to a complete overhaul of the entire first floor of the center.

The final result is their 11,000 square-foot permanent space called “Science in Play,” which has received major attention from other cultural centers. Last year, nearly a dozen representatives from institutions nationwide visited Science in Play for inspiration.

Laney Johnson

At the Kentucky Science Center, staff take play seriously

“Where I think Kentucky Science Center is a real pioneer is dedicating that much permanent gallery space to an early childhood-focused STEM space,” says Laura Huerta Migus, the executive director of the Association of Children’s Museums, an international organization of children’s museums based in Arlington, Virginia.

She says more and more cultural spaces — like art and science museums, not just children’s museums — all across America are recognizing the need to dedicate more space to early childhood learners.

“But I think that that is still a very emergent trend,” Huerta Migus says.

Unstructured Play

So what does this look like in practice? A good example is the the Science Center’s “Shapes and Stuff Store,” a space filled with pint-sized grocery baskets and carts and buckets of bright shapes and sponges. There are some prompts to get parents and kids started on exploring, but not many.

Laney Johnson

The “Shapes and Stuff Store” has “shopping lists” if children want a more structured experience, but they are also free to explore on their own.

“The idea was to give enough cues that you were in a store of some sort,” Haas says. “But again, not too many cues that mandated or manipulated or contrived or controlled in any way where you might be.”

It’s essentially an unstructured, play-focused version of the mini-grocery stores that seem to be in every children’s museum.

“We scraped it all away to really the math bones — from sorting to counting to classifying to volume to just the process of identifying things,” Haas says.

And being in the space, those skills were easily observed: there was a kid collecting all the green cylinders in a shopping cart. Without prompting, he then organized them in order of size. Meanwhile, a mom and her daughter scanned the space for shapes to create an “ice cream cone.” (They used a cone and a sphere.)

Laney Johnson

There are reminders throughout the museum that learning opportunities are all around us.

According to Haas, parents are noticing differences in how their young children learn in this space. In surveys, many reported increased problem-solving capabilities and heightened creativity.

As a result, the rate of visitors who come to the center 7 to 10 times through the year has increased from 24 to 42 percent.

The last key part of the Science Center’s plan for early learners is a library of easy resources for parents to continue educating at home.

These include conversation and drawing prompts or craft ideas that can reinforce what the kids learned — through play — at the center.

Ai Weiwei Installation To Leave The Speed In September Sunday, Aug 13 2017 

After spending three years and $60 million on redesigning the interior of the Speed Art Museum, Chief Curator Erika Holmquist-Wall says staff began turning their attention to how the space outside the museum is utilized.

This is due, in part, to the overwhelming public reception to Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads.” This series of a dozen 10-foot-tall sculptures — each representing an animal from the Chinese Zodiac — was installed on the museum lawn facing Third Street in October.

“Putting the zodiac in has really just transformed the lawn and really activated the space,” Holmquist-Wall says.

While she says in the past individuals may have just passed the museum building without stopping, she is noticing more and more pedestrians detouring to interact with the public artwork.

“So we’re kind of in the final push to encourage people to come see the animal heads,” Holmquist-Wall says. “They are going to be coming down at the end of September.”

But while this installation is coming down on Sept. 24, Holmquist-Wall says now that the museum has been reopened for a little over a year, staff have had a chance to observe how people use the space outside.

They have considered the traffic patterns and how pedestrians interact with the museum grounds in different ways.

“We kind of had a little bit of a waiting period,” she says. “But it’s given us a lot of ideas and we’ve gotten a lot of feedback on how we can better expand the museum beyond the building.”

Holmquist-Wall says there will several events planned around the sculpture’s departure — details will be announced soon.

Touch-Up: Inside The Kentucky Center’s Art Conservation Efforts Tuesday, Aug 8 2017 

Alongside art conservators Andrew Rigsby and Robert Kleeman, I press my face close to a blue streak of paint running down the side of a sculpture.

“So, that little white spot right there?” I say, drawing a circle in the air with my nail. “Should it be there, should it not? Would you go over it?”

The answer is no. That white spot is actually the result of the original artist — Jean Dubuffet — painting on an unusual surface; it’s the end of a brushstroke. No repainting is needed.

As conservators with the Conservation Center in Chicago, Andrew Rigsby and Robert Kleeman ask themselves questions like this all day long with the ultimate goal of keeping artwork looking as fresh as it did on the day it was first completed.

And they are in Louisville to do just that at the Kentucky Center for the Arts.

This requires a special mix of upkeep know-how and an art history background.

“There’s a lot that goes into figuring out an artist’s work,” Rigsby says. “Researching how they worked, what they worked with, the longevity of those things that they worked with.”

Rigsby and Kleeman arrived in Louisville a week ago to start working on the Kentucky Center’s 20th-century art collection, which is made up of 11 major sculptures and paintings.

The collection was acquired in the 1980s under the guidance of Wendell Cherry, co-founder and president of Humana, Inc. and the first Kentucky Center chairman of the board.

Ashlie Stevens | wfpl.org

“Faribolus and Perceval” by Jean Dubuffet

And while most people probably just rush by these pieces on the way in and out of shows, they were made by some pretty big-name artists like Edgar Degas, John Chamberlain and Louise Nevelson. As a result, the collection is worth millions of dollars.

That’s why the center created a master arts plan to make sure the artwork gets routine maintenance every three years, which includes retouching, cleaning and reinforcing.

This year, Rigsby and Kleeman started with Chamberlain’s “The Coloured Gates of Louisville,” which — if you’ve been to the center — kind of looks like a colorful assortment of crushed auto parts hanging on the wall.

“And we basically go over the whole surface with a vacuum to remove all the dust before cleaning it,” Kleeman says. “And then we go back over it again using a variety of solvents — which won’t react with the actual original paint or leave any residue when we’re done — and remove all the other dirt and grime that has built up over several years.”

Most of this dirt and grime comes from just normal day-to-day goings on — the air conditioning blowing around dust, a kid sneaking a touch or the occasional patron bumping into the artwork.

But some stains are a little harder to explain, like one they found on Jean Dubuffet’s sculpture set “Faribolus and Perceval” where it looks like someone spit on the artwork.

“I guess the appropriate conservation way to put it would be, ‘There were some scattered accretions on the artwork,’” Kleeman says with a laugh.

Regardless, thanks to consistent conservation efforts, the collection is actually in pretty great condition. So next time you visit the Kentucky Center, maybe take a look at the artwork that’s around the lobby before taking in what’s on stage.

Number Of Louisville Kids Using The Free Summer Cultural Pass Has Doubled Thursday, Aug 3 2017 

For many students, the summer cultural pass is a literal free ticket into many of Louisville’s community arts venues — including places like the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, the Kentucky Derby Museum, Bernheim Forest and the Portland Museum.

“The cultural pass provides free access to 38 of greater Louisville’s arts and cultural institutions for children ages zero through 21,” says Tina Walters, the project manager of the cultural pass. “And a cultural pass can be picked up at any of the public library locations and branches or any Metro Louisville community center.”

According to Walters, the cultural pass — which is presented by Churchill Downs in partnership with Metro Louisville, the Free Public Library, the Arts and Culture Alliance and the Fund for the Arts — has seen an uptick in distribution and usage this summer.

“The pass numbers do appear to be up over what was being tracked this time last year,” she says. “We were about 15,000 (passes distributed last summer) and a little over 30,000 have picked up the pass this summer.”

Walters says this is due, in part, to more active advertising from affiliate organizations.

And although the pass became available on June 3, families still have until August 12 to explore the city’s cultural centers for free. More information, including a full list of participating venues, is available here.

Meet Castle And Key’s Newest Employee: Ricky, The Distillery Cat Wednesday, Aug 2 2017 

When I first walk into the Castle and Key offices in Frankfort, the distillery’s newest employee almost immediately pops out to greet me. He’s wearing a short, baby blue tie and pounces on a nearby rubber snake toy.

Meet Ricky, Castle and Key’s first distillery cat.

“You couldn’t have interviewed better than Rick,” says Brett Connors, the distillery’s brand ambassador. “He is just such an outgoing cat.”

Connors adopted Ricky, a former stray, from a pet store in Lexington. This was after he found out the cat had FIV — feline immunodeficiency virus — which caused a lot of people to pass up adopting him as a typical housecat due to associated medical costs.

But Connors knew he could be an asset to the distillery.

“While he isn’t the security that we thought he would be, he’s kind of fallen into this ‘cat-bassadorship,’” Connors says. “More of a hospitality role.”

So, yeah, hiring a cat may seem a little strange. But Ricky is actually following in the footsteps — or uh, pawprints? — of a long line of distillery cats.

Maggie Kimberl, a bourbon journalist, says this is historically due to all the grain associated with the whiskey and bourbon-making process.

“And whenever you have any sort of agricultural product, you will of course, end up with pests,” Kimberl says. “Distillery cats are there to help control the mice population. They’re like a barn cat for whiskey.”

But aside from guarding the grain — something that is less important as distilleries have industrialized — many distillery cats become more of mascot.

According to Susan Riegler, author of “Kentucky Bourbon Country” and president of the Bourbon Women’s Association — that’s exactly what happened at Woodford Reserve in 1996 when a stray cat wandered onto the distillery grounds.

Pam Spaulding

Elijah at Woodford Reserve in 2012

“This little orange cat that they dubbed Elijah — after Elijah Pepper, who was the original distiller on the property in 1812 — just hung around for the next 20 years,” Riegler says. “And he absolutely was an attraction. The tourists really took to him.”

Riegler says Elijah was a pretty amiable cat, which might’ve had something to do with the fact that he preferred hanging out in the warehouses.

“He was in there when, you know, it was filled with bourbon fumes,” Riegler says. “So Elijah was a very, very, very mellow cat.

Then in 2014, at the age of 20, Elijah died. This sparked the Twitter hashtag #rememberingElijah which people used to share their memories of the cat. Subsequently, Woodford Reserve installed a bronze plaque that reads: Elijah’s Favorite Spot — beloved distillery cat.

At Castle and Key, head distiller Marianne Barnes says it looks like Ricky will take on a role similar to Elijah’s.

“We’ve had several tours in which we’ll go down through the garden,” Barnes says. “He’s already in there just hanging out and he’ll pop out of the garden and check in with every single person, just to make sure the tour is going well, see if they need anything.”

Brett Connors and Barnes say they hope to adopt several more cats with conditions similar to Ricky, resulting in a full staff of cat-basadors for the bourbon brand.

I Scream, You Scream: The Science Behind Brain Freeze Friday, Jul 21 2017 

Ah, the brain freeze — the signature pain of summer experienced by anyone who has eaten an ice cream cone with too much enthusiasm or slurped down a slushie a little too quickly.

But have you ever stopped mid-freeze to think about why our bodies react like this?

Well, researchers who study pain have, and some, like Dr. Kris Rau of the University of Louisville, say it’s a good way to understand the basics of how we process damaging stimuli.

But First, a Lesson in Terminology

“There’s a scientific medical term for ice cream headaches which is sphenopalatine ganglion neuralgia,” Rau says.

Try breaking that out at your next ice cream social. Anyway, to understand how brain freeze happens, it helps to think of your body and brain as a big computer where everything is hooked together.

In this case, you see an ice cream truck. You get some ice cream. And then your brain gives you go-ahead and you dive face-first into a double-scoop of mint chocolate chip.

“Now on the roof of your mouth there are a lot of little blood vessels, capillaries,” Rau says. “And there’s a lot of nerve fibers called nociceptors that detect painful or noxious stimuli.”

The rush of cold causes those vessels to constrict.

“And when that happens, it happens so quickly that all of those little pain fibers in the roof of your mouth — they interpret that as being a painful stimulus,” Rau says.

A message is then shot up to your brain via the trigeminal nerve, one of the major nerves of the facial area.

The brain itself doesn’t have any pain sensing fibers, but its covering — called the meninges — does.

“And of course all of those little pain-sensing fibers are hooked up to your trigeminal nerve,” Rau says. “So the brain is trying to figure out what is going on. It knows there is something wrong, something that is painful and they don’t know exactly where it is.”

And the pain message finally registers at the top of your head, which seems kind of random.

“But it’s a very similar phenomenon to the referred pain that is experienced by people who have heart attacks,” Rau says. “You don’t feel like your heart is hurting itself; it’s your shoulder that is starting to hurt on your left side.”

And most importantly, it’s enough to get most people to stop eating the ice cream. Crisis averted.

And after a minute or two, the brain and body go back to normal.

‘Without the brain, there would be no pain’

But what about chronic pain that lasts longer? Like days or weeks or months? That’s what Rau’s lab is interested in researching.

Rau says there are a lot of contributing factors for chronic pain; he’s most interested in the long-term effects of tissue damage, for example. But when it comes down to it — just like ice cream headaches — it all involves your brain.

“The brain is what actually interprets all those signals that are coming in and determines whether it is painful or not painful,” Rau says. “So without the brain there would be no pain.”

And knowing the mechanisms behind how your brain processes those signals — and how factors like genetics, race or sex impact those — is a crucial area of research for Rau.

“Most importantly we are starting to develop novel drugs that can be used to treat pain before it even develops and also after it happens,” Ray says.

Those are still in the process of being tested, but in the meantime, let’s return to ice cream for just bit. Rau says there is anecdotal evidence suggesting that ice cream headaches might be an effective treatment for migraines.

It does not work for everyone, and the reasons why it might be effective are unclear, but for those who have to deal with the debilitating effects of migraines, he says it might be worth a tasty shot.

So, What Does A Poet Laureate Do? Kentucky’s Weighs In Thursday, Jul 20 2017 

Poet, author, and Bellarmine University English professor Frederick Smock was named Kentucky’s Poet Laureate in May and is eager to do the job. I spoke with Smock about his duties, inspirations, and he read some of his work. You can listen to our conversation in the player above.

With Smock’s permission, the two poems he recites in the conversation are below.

The Forest

Every forest has a central tree

One the whole forest leans on

You may not be able to find it

it lives deep in the heart

it may even have fallen years ago

But its memory is that strong


Camera Obscura

Others boys built centrifuges,

stone polishers, water wheels.

My boy chose a camera obscura

for the fall-term science fair.


He crawled under a blanket

with pencil, paper, pinhole,

and doodled what he saw

in his eye’s mind – lunar seas,


a subtlety of shadows in

the ferocity of a September sun.

When he emerged, blinking,

he held the moon in his palm,


an ancient medallion also worn

by Aristotle, and Anthemius of Tralles.


Both of these poems are from the collection “The Bounteous World,” published by Broadstone Books.

Renowned Louisville Visual Artist Julius Friedman Dies At 74 Sunday, Jul 16 2017 

Renowned Louisville artist Julius Friedman died Sunday at the age of 74 after battling leukemia.

Friedman was perhaps best known for his iconic posters, including “Toe on Egg” which featured a Louisville Ballet dancer’s pointe shoe balanced on a single white egg.

Courtesy Julius Friedman

But Friedman was more than just “the egg man,” as he described himself in a 2007 interview. His work — including his popular pieces created from deconstructed books — has been in museums across North America, Asia and Europe.

Last year, the Frazier History museum ran a 50-year retrospective of Friedman’s artwork. At the time, Frazier director of marketing Andy Treinan said Friedman’s work was always developing.

“With his new work, he has created this multi-sensory experience, printing on metals and uses glass,” Treinen said. “There’s a tactile component to it. You’ll be able to feel things. You’ll be able to hear things. You’ll be able to see things.”

Friedman’s work was also recently exhibited at the Craft(s) Gallery in 2014.

In a statement posted on Twitter Sunday, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer called up another one of Friedman’s famous works–a ice cream sundae balancing on a French horn–and called the artist a visionary.

PHOTOS: See What You Missed On Day 2 Of Forecastle Sunday, Jul 16 2017 

On Saturday, Forecastle fans gathered in 90 degree heat to hear bands including Lucy Dacus, Vince Staples, Sturgill Simpson, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, Mandolin Orange and LCD Soundsystem.

Lucy Dacus

Jack Harlow


Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats

Mandolin Orange

Judah & the Lion

Sturgill Simpson

Beach Slang

Vince Staples

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