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Art on Main, Estill County

Through its long history (it was formed in 1808), Estill County has seen many boom-and-bust economic cycles. The ruins of several impressive iron furnaces attest to its days as a center of iron production on the American frontier. Then, from the mid-1800s until the early 1920s, a large hotel housed tourists seeking the mineral waters of Estill Springs. But belief in the water’s restorative powers faded, and those well-heeled travelers—including legendary Kentucky statesman Henry Clay, whose family had owned the springs—have since been replaced by hikers and other outdoor types setting out for the county’s nearly 5,000-acre piece of the Daniel Boone National Forest. And as producers of coal and tobacco, Estill County residents have always been subject to the vagaries of those markets.

Now, a new economic development initiative is tapping the people themselves as a resource, with art and science leading the way. A new technology center, opened in 1999 in partnership with the Center for Rural Development a few counties south in Somerset, offers computer access and continuing education opportunities. And Art on Main aims to bring both residents and visitors back downtown in Irvine, the county seat.

Art on Main is a cooperative among local artists and artisans, displaying and selling original arts and crafts. Artist Mary Reed explains how it works, while Jeff Crowe of the Estill Development Alliance talks about the genesis of Art on Main as well as other revitalization efforts.

Program 531

Estill County’s Art on Main; the Juneteenth Legacy Theatre, Louisville’s professional African-American theater; and music from Louisville singer-songwriter Joni Wilcoxson. (#531)


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