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Future of western Kentucky arts community remains uncertain

tornado damage Ice House Gallery.jpg
Photo courtesy: Nanc Gunn
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The Ice House Gallery after it was severely damaged from Dec. 10 tornado outbreak.

The Ice House Gallery in Mayfield still doesn’t know how it’s going to make a comeback more than three months after the December tornado outbreak.

Nanc Gunn, director of the Mayfield/Graves County Art Guild, said before the tornado outbreak destroyed the gallery they were running a great art guild. There were eight shows a year, multiple kids summer arts camps and many classes held at the gallery.

“Without the Ice House gallery, we're still going to have eight art shows this year held at other places,” Gunn said. “We're going to have a kid's art camp, three of them this summer, held in other places.”

Other places have been letting Gunn and the art guild set up and plan events. However, rebuilding the Ice House Gallery is a goal. One thing people have been telling Gunn is art grants are available to help.

“People kept telling me that there was all kinds of ways to get money, and it just makes me want to cry because I just, I can't find them,” Gunn said. “I just don't see where there's money out there available for our little art guild.”

Gunn isn’t sure how rebuilding is going to happen. People have been trying to help Ice House. Some artists donated artwork to an online auction that was a fundraiser for the gallery. Other artists are hosting classes to give the funds to the Ice House Gallery.

One of those artists is MaryGwyn Bowen, a painter from Dyersburg, Tennessee. She’s been teaching about a workshop a month for the past two years. Bowen described the Ice House Gallery as a “wonderful place.”

“I've gotten to know the art community and people in that whole region that love taking art classes,” Bowen said. “It just is such a loss I wanted to give back.”

Her next class is on April 2 at the West Kentucky Community & Technical College’s Skilled Craft Training Center.

Bowen said she thinks artists are resilient and what’s going on with the Ice House Gallery is proof of that.

“People are giving all of their time, they're given an effort, and they're pulling together,” Bowen said. “I think they'll show even more of a close knit, close knitedness in the community itself, the community and the arts community specifically because people are stepping up to help each other.”

Bowen had art in the gift shop when the tornado hit, and there were more than 100 artworks that were damaged or blown away by the storm.

“The art was just in all different states,” Gunn said. “In some cases, the tornado just pushed all kinds of elements into the front of the art, so it's punctured, and other cases, the tornado lifted things off so that the back of the art was covered with mud, and there were just pieces lifted off the front. Every single art piece is a separate story about what happened to it.”

Jason Bailey, a plein air painter from Paducah, had art at the Ice House when the tornado struck. He was able to get some of his paintings back after the tornado. One piece was destroyed but the other made it through okay. He hasn’t lost his ability to continue his art due to the tornado, but he did have some ways people could help out.

“Donate, support, buy art, all the above, just help the art community,” Bailey said.

There are some grants available to artists impacted by this tornado outbreak. The Kentucky Arts Council has compiled a list of funding and guides for impacted individuals and organizations.

Lily Burris is a tornado recovery reporter for WKMS, Murray State's NPR Station. Her nine month reporting project is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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