03 Jan

Kentucky Humanities Celebrates 50 Years

Since 1972, Kentucky Humanities has provided the Commonwealth with programs and services that create a legacy of pride in the wealth of Kentucky culture, build civic engagement and support local humanities events. Kentucky Humanities has invested more than $16 million in public programs for Kentuckians and the organization has provided funding for more than 18,000 public humanities programs that are held in familiar community settings and reach every corner of the Commonwealth.


Kentucky Humanities programs and services include Kentucky Chautauqua®, PRIME TIME Family Reading®, grants for community events/projects, Museum on Main Street, Kentucky Reads, Kentucky Humanities magazine, Speakers Bureau, Think Humanities podcast, Think History radio segments, Kentucky Book Festival®, and School Days.


A year-long celebration to commemorate Kentucky Humanities’ 50th Anniversary includes six regional public events, 50 Faces of the Humanities videos revealed each week, special issues of Kentucky Humanities magazine, and Instagram takeovers by humanities students at Kentucky colleges and universities.


Scheduled regional events:

• Democracy and the Informed Citizen featuring David Brooks

   Tuesday, February 8, 2022, at 5:30 p.m. (EST) at the University of Pikeville, Pikeville

Kentucky Humanities, in partnership with the University of Pikeville, will host journalist David Brooks who will discuss the role of the humanities and journalism in fostering an informed citizenry and how to unite during these turbulent times.

Brooks is an opinion columnist for The New York Times, commentator on “PBS NewsHour,” NPR’s “All Things Considered,” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He is the author of several books including Animal Dreams and The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life.

This event is a collaboration between Kentucky Humanities, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Federation of State Humanities Councils, and UPIKE’s Division of Humanities, Division of Social Sciences, and the Coleman College of Business.


• Laureates Out Loud featuring Joy Harjo and Crystal Wilkinson

   Saturday, April 23, 2022, at 7 p.m. (EST) at Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights

As part of the National Endowment for the Humanities A More Perfect Union initiative, Kentucky Humanities, in partnership with Northern Kentucky University, will host U.S. Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo and Kentucky Poet Laureate, Crystal Wilkinson, in conversation with Eric H. Kearney. They will discuss social justice, inclusion, and storytelling through poetry.

Joy Harjo, the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States, is a member of the Mvskoke Nation and belongs to Oce Vpofv (Hickory Ground). She is the author of nine books including her most recent Poet Warrior: A Memoir and the highly acclaimed An American Sunrise, and has received numerous awards and accolades for poetry. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, has produced seven award-winning musical albums and her poetry will be included on a plaque on LUCY, a NASA spacecraft on reconnaissance of the Jupiter Trojans.

Crystal Wilkinson, an African American feminist writer, is the 30th Poet Laureate of Kentucky and a proponent of the Affrilachian Poet movement. She is a 2020 USA Fellow of Creative Writing and a 2021 O. Henry Prize winner. She teaches at the University of Kentucky and is the acclaimed author of Perfect BlackThe Birds of OpulenceBlackberries Blackberries, and Water Street.

Eric H. Kearney is the President/CEO of the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce and President of the Northern Kentucky University Foundation. He has had a distinguished career in law, business, and politics. As a state senator, Kearney served as Ohio Senate Minority Leader and championed a number of causes including creating Ohio’s Poet Laureate. He founded and built one of the largest African American owned publishing companies, Sesh Communications, which publishes The Cincinnati Herald, The Northern Kentucky Herald, The Dayton Defender, and other publications. 

This event is a collaboration between Kentucky Humanities, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Northern Kentucky University, and the NKU Department of English.


• New Grass in the Bluegrass featuring Sam Bush and Michael Johnathon

   Tuesday, June 7, 2022, at 7 p.m. (CST) at the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum, Owensboro

Kentucky Humanities, in partnership with the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum, will host the Father of New Grass, Sam Bush and Woodsong’s Old-Time Radio Hour host, Michael Johnathon who will discuss storytelling through song and the impact of music on a particular region, the Commonwealth, and the country at large.

Sam Bush, a native of Bowling Green, Kentucky, is an American mandolinist who is considered an originator of progressive bluegrass music known as New Grass. In 2020, he was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame as a member of New Grass Revival. He is a multi-award-winning musician including Hall of Fame inductions, GRAMMY® Awards, and the moniker “King of Telluride” for his longstanding association with the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

Michael Johnathon, creator and host of the PBS syndicated Woodsong’s Old-Time Radio Hour since its inception in 1999, is an American folk singer-songwriter, producer, author, and playwright. He has released 17 albums, published four books, a play, composed an opera, and performs everywhere from grand venues with symphony orchestras to small stages in coffeehouses.


• Harmonizing Stories featuring Linkin’ Bridge and Aminata Cairo

   Friday, July 15, 2022, at 6:30 p.m. (EST) at the Louisville Free Public Library, Louisville

Kentucky Humanities, in partnership with the Louisville Free Public Library, will host Louisville’s own musical group, Linkin’ Bridge in conversation with inspirational speaker and humanities scholar, Aminata Cairo. The group will discuss storytelling through song and the lessons we learn from each other’s stories in a world that is often fraught with division.

Linkin’ Bridge, the popular Louisville quintet who found fame on the 11th season of NBC's Americas' Got Talent, are best known for their warm harmonies and emotional performances which are driven by their passion for music. The group is comprised of Montre Davis, Shon "China" Lacy, Ralph "Big Rome" Kimbrough, James Crawford III, and beatboxer, Raul Lopez. The group’s mission: to spread peace, love, and joy to all who will receive it. Linkin' Bridge is the bridge that links people together through music.

Aminata Cairo is a storyteller, scholar, and sought-after speaker and consultant on diversity and inclusion issues. She holds many titles including mother, daughter, sister, and Lector of African descent in the Applied University system in the Netherlands. She engages people, communities, and organizations to implement positive change and communicates the message that every story has value.


• Recipes from the River featuring chefs Regina Charboneau, Sara Bradley, Phillip Ashley Rix, 

   and John Varanese

   Saturday, September 17, 2022, at 10 a.m. (CST) at the Paducah Convention & Expo Center, Paducah

Kentucky Humanities, in partnership with the American Queen Steamboat Company and Paducah Bank, will host four esteemed chefs who will not only demonstrate their favorite “river recipes” but relate the stories behind the food and how cuisine can be a unifying and defining aspect of any culture. Discussions amongst the chefs will be followed by a “tasting experience” where attendees will get to sample food items that were demonstrated as well as purchase culinary-related items from each Chef.

Regina Charboneau, also known as the Queen of Biscuits, is a restaurateur who has authored several cookbooks, appeared on numerous broadcast outlets including the Travel Channel and most recently the Hallmark Channel, and has been featured in Southern LivingThe New York Times, and various other culinary magazines. She mixes traditional French culinary training with tricks passed on through generations of Southern bakers. Regina is a Mississippi maven, born and raised in Natchez, Mississippi, where the river runs through her veins.

John Varanese is a restauranteur and executive chef in Louisville, Kentucky, settling there because of its successful independent dining scene and the fact that locals appreciate fresh ingredients prepared creatively and a culturally diverse menu. Dedicated to local farmers who provide the freshest local products as showcased in many of his signature dishes, he also serves on the Kentucky Restaurant Association’s Board of Directors, has received numerous culinary awards and recognition, and stars in and co-produces his own television show, Big World of Food, which educates viewers on the importance of local farms to the food on their tables.

Sara Bradley, Kentucky native, chef, proprietor at Freight House — a unique southern inspired restaurant and bourbon bar located in Paducah, Kentucky — was a finalist on season 16 of Bravo’s Top Chef. She developed her skill set under the tutelage of Michelin star chefs before opting to return to her roots to indulge in the flavors the Ohio Valley and western Kentucky have to offer. Sara’s mission is to bring fresh, local ingredients from the community to the community, while working to define the flavor of the “new south."

Phillip Ashley Rix is one of the world's preeminent chefs and designers of luxury chocolate. An award-winning chocolatier headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, he has curated dining experiences at the James Beard House in New York City, as well as creating tens of thousands of chocolates for Hollywood’s elite at the EMMYS®, GRAMMYS® and OSCARS®. He competed as a finalist on Food Network’s Chopped Sweets and Forbes Magazine has named him the “Real Life Willy Wonka.”

This event is a collaboration between Kentucky Humanities, the American Queen Steamboat Company, the WKCTC Culinary Arts Program, and Paducah Bank.

• Mission: Humanities featuring Story Musgrave and Kris Kimel

   Thursday, October 13, 2022, at 6:30 p.m. (EST) at the University of Kentucky, Lexington

Kentucky Humanities, in partnership with the University of Kentucky and Space Tango, will host space pioneer Story Musgrave and Space Tango co-founder Kris Kimel. The duo will discuss Dr. Musgrave’s illustrious career and life experiences as well as the trajectory of the space program across the years, where it is now, and where it’s heading especially in light of Space Tango's Humanity in Deep Space initiatives.

Dr. Story Musgrave is an American physician, a retired NASA astronaut, an author, a public speaker and consultant to both Disney's Imagineering group and Applied Minds in California. In 1996, he became only the second astronaut to fly on six spaceflights (spending a total of 1,281 hours, 59 minutes, 22 seconds on space missions) and he is the most formally educated astronaut with six academic degrees. Often called the “Dean of NASA,” including earning his M.S. in physiology and biophysics from the University of Kentucky, Musgrave is the only astronaut to fly aboard all five space shuttles and he participated in the design and development of all space shuttle extra-vehicular activity equipment, including spacesuits, life support systems, airlocks, and Manned Maneuvering Units. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including induction into the International Space Hall of Fame.

Kris Kimel is the founder of Humanity in Deep Space, a new initiative exploring the challenges and hard problems facing humans as we transition to deep spacefaring species. He is also the co-founder of the growing commercial company Space Tango. Previously Kimel was president of the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation and founded the IdeaFestival, an international event centering on innovation, discovery, and creative thinking across different disciplines. He holds bachelor and masters’ degrees from the University of Kentucky.


This event is a collaboration between Kentucky Humanities, Space Tango and the Planetary Society, and the A&S Cooperative for the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Kentucky.


All events are free of charge, but registration is required. Visit to register.


Kentucky Humanities is a non-profit Kentucky corporation affiliated with the National Endowment for the Humanities. Kentucky Humanities is not a state agency, but is a proud partner with Kentucky's cultural, heritage, arts, and tourism agencies. For information about Kentucky Humanities’ programs and services, including details about the year-long 50th Anniversary celebration, and to register for the 50th Anniversary events, visit You can follow Kentucky Humanities on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @KYHumanities.