Arts Revitalization in Glasgow: Museums, Theatre

By Rebecca Denton on May 9, 2011 at 6:31 pm EST
Plaza Theater in Glasgow, KY

PHOTO CREDIT: Antony Boshier

After years of planning‚ renovation and revitalization‚ Glasgow is coming into its own as a regional hub for the arts and culture. Music‚ theater‚ art‚ history – all can be enjoyed here‚ thanks to a lot of hard work‚ innovation and support from the community.

Plaza Theatre

A major player in the renaissance is Plaza Theatre‚ the 1934 movie palace that in the early years also drew performers to its stage‚ including cowboy singer Gene Autry and his horse‚ Champion. The 1‚064-seat Plaza Theatre sat empty for 17 years prior to 2001‚ when the city purchased it for about $200‚000‚ obtained a low-interest loan and some grants‚ and started a fundraising campaign.

After an 18-month‚ $1.8 million renovation – including reupholstering the original seats‚ installing a new heating and cooling system‚ redoing the plumbing‚ and replacing much of the auditorium ceiling – the theater opened to a sold-out crowd for a Patty Loveless concert in 2005.

“Because of our size‚ we can bring in lots of acts that normally wouldn’t play in this community‚” says Steve Jones‚ director of the Plaza Theatre. Besides Loveless‚ the first-season lineup included singer Kathy Mattea‚ an internationally acclaimed pair of magicians‚ a portrayal of comedian Groucho Marx‚ and a Beatles tribute act. Jones plans even more variety in the future‚ including dance performances and possibly a music series. This leads Rhonda Riherd Trautman‚ director of the Glasgow Renaissance Main Street Progam‚ to predict that the Plaza will become “the premier performing arts center in this part of the country within a very short time.”

It also shows classic movies and second-run movies‚ and may add some first-run independent films in the future‚ Jones says.

South Central Kentucky Cultural Center

Another draw to the area is the South Central Kentucky Cultural Center‚ a 30‚000-square-foot museum packed with history exhibitions about the Barrens region. The popular Cultural Center includes exhibits depicting life in the Barrens from prehistoric times to 1860‚ a military exhibit from the Civil War through the Gulf War‚ a 1900s-era grocery store‚ a one-room schoolhouse‚ a 1940s kitchen‚ a Victorian parlor and much more. A new exhibit features an old-time general store – complete with shelves full of wares from the 1930s – that’s part of a larger town-square display.

“People love to see their history in a museum‚” says Gayle Berry‚ director of the South Central Kentucky Cultural Center. “We get a lot of tourists. People are usually very impressed that we’ve got something like this in a town of this size.”

The Cultural Center also is the scene of art shows and piano concerts featuring a refurbished 1850 Pleyel piano. The Glasgow Business & Professional Women’s Club sponsors the annual BPW Arts‚ Crafts & Gifts Fair on the courthouse square each September‚ and the Glasgow-Barren County Chamber of Commerce recently started displaying local artists’ work in its office. A Chamber Arts Committee is getting off the ground‚ with potential projects that include forming an art guild‚ bringing in a well-known artist to lead a workshop‚ and coordinating beautification activities such as painting murals on buildings.

“We’re trying to draw people to the business areas downtown and to our wonderful courthouse area‚” says Betty Brogan‚ watercolor artist and chairwoman of the Arts Committee. “We want to draw attention to the arts community and to help foster arts in the community.”

Kentucky Repertory Theatre

The arts are flourishing in other parts of the area‚ too. Fifteen miles from Glasgow‚ just across the line in Hart County‚ the Kentucky Repertory Theatre is attracting enthusiastic audiences to its 343-seat venue – a one-time hardware store in Horse Cave. As the officially designated State Repertory Theatre‚ the “Kentucky Rep” produces seven shows in a schedule that runs from May through December.

The group’s 2006 offerings between June and the end of the year will include Greater Tuna‚ The Gospel of Mark‚ Lying in State‚ The Merry Wives of Windsor‚ Murderer and A Christmas Carol. Interest in the arts “has been strong since this theater started in 1976‚” Artistic Director Robert Brock says‚ “and I think we have spawned a lot of other things. We have more theaters in this region now. And our educational programs have expanded tremendously in the past five years‚ which means we are building new audiences.

“Our dream‚” Brock adds‚ “is to be a year-round theater – and I would like to see it happen within three years.”

Take a look at more on the arts in Glasgow.

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