Alhambra, museum directors take arts, history outside walls
HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Instead of going dark while their buildings are being remodeled, the directors of the Pennyroyal Arts Council and the Museums of Historic Hopkinsville-Christian County are taking the arts and history outside the walls.
Both the Alahambra Theatre and the Pennyroyal Area Museum are closed for months due to construction. The Alhambra reopens this fall and the museum is projected to reopen in next spring.
Museum director Alissa Keller is coming off the heels of Motown at the Museum, the building’s last hoorah, as it is now empty and ready for contracting bids, she said. Construction should start in August.
“When we started talking about closing the museum, one of my priorities was to make sure people didn’t think we were closing forever and to stay relevant,” Keller said. “I wanted to make sure local history stayed at the forefront of the conversation community-wide. It really pushed me and our staff to think of ways to do that and to not rely on a building.”
History on Tap is one of the programs they created. The monthly event is hosted at Hopkinsville Brewing Co., featuring local people reciting historical monologues, short biographies and poems about local history.
“That was something I read about in another community and I thought it would be a great partnership (with the brewery),” Keller said, noting that a lot of the craft beers at Hopkinsville Brewing are named after historical nuggets.
The first History on Tap was in February and highlighted local African-American writers. Keller said they’ve had the event five times now and are developing a following.
“Some nights are better attended than others, but I think we’re doing a good thing,” she said.
Keller is also using Facebook, the newspaper and the radio stations to drop knowledge on the community.
“Social media has been really great when we are focusing on it,” Keller said. “In February and March, we posted something every day that connected to our actual collection, and we had a lot of great interaction through that. It can be a marketing tool, but it’s also a great way to make our history accessible and share more of it.”
Arts council director Margaret Prim said she and her staff are thinking outside the Alhambra’s walls in many ways.
“We’re going to do a big end-of-the-summer event at Cayce Jones Distillery with Willie Sugarcapps. We’re also partnering with the city on a couple of events for Fridays at 5 and to kick off the Summer Salute Festival,” Prim said.
Although the Alhambra will reopen Nov. 9, it is closed during months of the arts council’s biggest fundraiser, Dancing with Our Stars, which is usually in September, and the Big Read, which is usually the month of October.
This year, the Big Read will start in January with community activities about the book, “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, going on through the end of February.
Dancing with Our Stars will also return in 2019, Prim noted, and this year’s live season shows will be announced later this month.
“We really want to provide year-round programs and not just a season,” Prim said. “I think it’s important not to just do things in the same place. We have wonderful parks and beautiful churches, and I think people are thinking outside the box in general.”
For example, “Bach and the Blues” was the inaugural event of a classical music series that the arts council is hosting at Grace Episcopal. The next Grace Classical show will feature an organ concert with the Nashville Symphony’s Andrew Risinger on Sept. 14 and a group of classical performers, including local violinist Rachel Crick, in concert in October.
Prim has also pulled inspiration for more ideas from other cities.
“In New York City, they have pianos all around the city where you can just sit down and play,” she said, noting that the Alhambra has a Steinway grand piano she wants to use. “I’m really hoping to do a pilot program here.”
Keller has more ideas on pilot as well. She plans to kick off some downtown walking tours in the fall.
“It would just be a 30-minute tour at lunchtime where you can learn some stuff, get a bite to eat and go back to work,” she said. “Or, we could even do that in the evening where we’d end at a bar downtown.”
Keller said the key is partnering with local businesses and even the schools. She hopes to foster a closer relationship with the public and private schools to do more outreach programs and field trips once the museum reopens.
“Working with the state curriculum, our exhibit designers are making sure the new exhibits hit some math and science standards,” she said. “You can learn a lot about math and science through history too.”
“If kids are coming downtown for a show at the Alhambra, they could take a walking tour to the museum and then the library to get a library card,” Keller said. “I think being able to connect with these other places downtown would make it worthwhile.”
Prim said there were many emotions around closing the Alhambra because “we’re not only closing, but we’re trying to restore and bring this place back to life,” she said. “We needed to survive and still produce some revenue, so that was a good reason for us to do some activities outside the walls.”
With or without a building, both ladies know the show must go on.
“The theatre had to go dark,” Prim said, “but that didn’t mean we had to.”
Information from: Kentucky New Era, http://www.kentuckynewera.com