By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press
LOUISVILLE - Kentucky outpaced every state except California in winning grants from a private foundation that promotes public participation in the arts.
The Wallace Foundation awarded a total of $1.8 million in grants to three Kentucky arts organizations - the Speed Art Museum and Blue Apple Players, both in Louisville, and Appalshop in Whitesburg.
The money will be spread over four years for each recipient.
In all, the foundation awarded more than $13 million in grants to 21 cultural organizations in 15 states under a foundation initiative known as Leadership and Excellence in Arts Participation.
Kentucky's showing in the competition for the arts money "illustrates that the commonwealth is rich in cultural resources," Peter Morrin, executive director of the Speed Art Museum, said Wednesday.
"Many Kentucky arts groups are exemplary and this affirmation raises the national profile of all Kentucky arts," Morrin said.
Faring best in this week's announcement by the foundation was California, where four arts groups landed grants worth a total of $2.5 million, also to be distributed over four years.
The Speed museum will receive an $800,000 grant. The money will enhance its efforts to reach out to families with children through various exhibitions and events, Morrin said.
The museum will try to increase family participation through two pilot programs, he said. One, known as the Art Explorer project, will reach out to children at local schools to get them involved in the museum.
Another, the Community Cultural Apprentice program, is a museum training program for young people that will include family programs.
Appalshop, an arts and education center in Whitesburg in eastern Kentucky, was awarded a $700,000 grant.
The center produces original films, theater, music and video, among other activities. Its director, Greg Howard, said the staff was "thrilled" about the grant.
He said the money will be used in part to offer multidisciplinary arts education programs appealing to people of all ages.
The center also will try to extend participation by low- and moderate-income audiences by increasing the number of its presentations, he said.
Blue Apple Players, a theater company, plans to improve marketing and upgrade sets, costumes and computer technology with its $300,000 grant.
The three Kentucky recipients were among 120 arts organizations nationwide invited to submit grant proposals last May. From that group, 38 were invited to prepare detailed proposals.
Howard said Kentucky's showing reflected well on its arts community.
"I think it says how strong Kentucky artists and arts organizations are and how committed they are to their audiences," he said.
The Wallace Foundation was established by DeWitt and Lila Acheson Wallace, founders of the Reader's Digest Association.
Christine DeVita, the foundation's president, said its partnership with leading arts organizations "enables us to help develop new practices that expand participation in the arts."
Those lessons can be shared with other arts institutions around the country, she said.
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