Louisville Zoo, Part 3, Vintage Kentucky Postcards, and Berea College Crafts

By Joyce West | 9/22/17 9:00 AM

The Louisville Zoo works to help save the endangered black-footed ferret and the Western Lowland gorilla. Old postcards take us on a nostalgic trip through Kentucky. Berea College Crafts employs students and helps working artists make a living. Owensboro’s Rhonda McEnroe exhibits her students’ work at Kentucky Wesleyan College.

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Louisville Zoo, Part Three
The Louisville Zoo is a leader in animal preservation. Steven R. Taylor, assistant director of conservation, education, and collections, said the zoo is part of the Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Among the endangered species at the zoo is the Western Lowland gorilla, and the zoo’s 4-acre Gorilla Forest is home to 10 of them.

“Gorillas are considered to be critically endangered,” Taylor said. “The Western Lowland gorilla, which is the type that you’ll see here at the zoo, there’s probably more of them than maybe the other types of gorillas. There’s maybe 100,000.” Their relatively plentiful numbers, he said, are due to the fact that it’s hard for people to get to parts of west central Africa where the gorillas make their home. They are still considered to be critically endangered.

Most zoo gorillas today were born in captivity. The Louisville Zoo’s newest gorilla is Kindi, who was born on March 14, 2016, via Caesarean section. Kindi’s mother died the next day from complications. “So around the clock care started at that point,” he said. In August 2016, the zoo introduced Kindi to one of the adult females in the group, Kweli, who acts as her surrogate mother.

Black-footed Ferret Program
The black-footed ferret is another animal the zoo is helping to save from extinction. Since 1990, the zoo has produced over 1,000 kits (baby ferrets) and provided more than 700 ferrets for reintroduction to their native American Plains habitat.

The black-footed ferret is one of the rarest animals in North America, said Guy Graves, zookeeper and Conservation Center manager. The animal had been declared extinct until a small population was discovered in Wyoming in 1987.

The adult ferret is 18-24 inches long (including tail) and weighs 1.5 to 3 pounds. They look similar to domesticated ferrets, but these ferrets live out west and feed on prairie dogs. “If you’ve ever seen a prairie dog, it’s actually quite a bit bigger than they are,” he said.

Graves said the zoo keeps the kits in a quarantine facility. “These guys are susceptible to certain diseases such as canine distemper, and if [a visitor) is bringing it into the building, you’d most likely bring it in on the bottom of your shoes. That’s why you take off your shoes.”

Ferrets are born in the spring, and when they are about 9 months old, they would typically be on their own in the wild. At that point, the Louisville Zoo sends them to a ferret conservation facility out west, which releases them into the wild after about a month.

“It’s kind of a boot camp. Because they basically are exposed to prairie dogs to make sure they’re able to kill, and then they’re released,” he said. Taylor said the black-footed ferret program is the zoo’s flagship conservation program.

Berea College Crafts
According to the school’s website, Berea College embraced the Crafts Revival Movement of the late 19th century. The school president at the time, William G. Frost, decided to incorporate a crafts-making program as part of the curriculum. The program has thrived and has provided an additional national (and international) presence through the sales and marketing of student-produced items from the program’s five studios: wooden furniture, weaving, broom making, jewelry, ceramics, and small jewelry.

Tim Glotzbach, director of program, said the program’s mission goes beyond preserving the old ways.
“Preservation for us really has to go beyond the skills of the thing. It has to be teaching design, design principles, and really stay relevant to the lives of people who visit,” he said.

When Berea began its weaving studio in the 1890s, families were no longer practicing the craft because commercial fabrics were available. “When it began, the college was really trying to revive the cottage industries,” he said.

The college sold the work of its students, and that money went back into the college. All students who attend Berea College are on full tuition scholarship and work 10-20 hours a week on campus. Although many learn crafts, 90-95 percent of the students are not arts majors, Glotzbach said.

The AIR Institute of Berea College is a new program that helps artists understand business skills needed by entrepreneurs and trains them in design thinking, Glotzbach said. “How do you prototype? How do you market? How do you really develop a business plan and then understand the words, the terminology, the technology that you need to proceed further with that?”

According to Glotzbach, the crafts program stays relevant by creating unique items that appeal to a greater marketplace. Artists must engage with the world, he said, adding, “Sales are a conversation. And it’s as much about listening as about telling. And that’s a wonderful talent to have.”

Visit the Berea College Student Crafts website: https://www.berea.edu/student-crafts/

Postcards of Kentucky
A postcard collection at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History in Frankfort, offers a sweeping yet intimate look at Kentucky from the 1880s to 1950s.

The collection comes from Ron Morgan, a retired state employee who became captivated by old postcards of his hometown. “He found himself in an antique shop one day and found a postcard of Lancaster, his hometown, that showed a view that he’d never seen before,” said Louise Jones, director of research experience at the Kentucky Historical Society.

Morgan then became curious about how many other pictures of Lancaster could be found. “And then he started thinking, well, there are 120 counties. I could go all over the place. And he did,” she said.

Morgan eventually amassed a sizable collection, and a few years ago he donated it to Frankfort’s Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History. “He stopped just short of 11,000 postcards when he was all done,” Jones said. The collection fills 21 boxes at the history center’s library.

Jones said early postcards were used in business, when the postal service made pickups and deliveries twice a day. “The postcard was that text message. It was that quick ‘I have a question’ or ‘Your shoes are ready for pickup at the cobbler’s.’”

As technology changed, so did the postcards. From 1905 up until World War I, Jones said, photographs appeared more frequently, and those postcards were a way share photos with family members. “A lot of people have a World War I soldier who had one taken because that was a way to send that picture home,” Jones said.

In other cases, the postcards documented a dramatic community event, such as a train wreck at Flemingsburg on May 3, 1907. Among Jones’ favorites is a postcard of Augusta during an Ohio River flood in 1907.
People who view the postcards are often surprised by how much their communities have changed. “It’s always interesting when someone comes across a street scene that shows buildings that are no longer there, for whatever reason,” Jones said.

The postcards show how many towns simply evolved not according to a master plan, but according to the needs of the community. “My big example for that is Frankfort. You look at the pictures of Frankfort and, I mean, it’s a bustling metropolis. You can barely see the sidewalk for the people walking up and down the street. And I’m not familiar with that Frankfort because it’s a quieter, pedestrian town now. Because it’s grown so much, it’s not all concentrated right down here at St. Clair and Broadway,” she said.
The postcards can be viewed at the history center or online at www.kyhistory.com/cdm/landingpage/collection/Morgan.

Art Lessons
A self-taught painter, Rhonda McEnroe turned the spotlight on her students with an exhibit at Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro. “Trust me, these students who will be exhibiting in the show are far better than I was at the age of 5 or 6,” she said.

McEnroe, a self-taught artist, engages in the full range of media -— watercolor, oil, pastel, and soft mixed media -— in abstract techniques as well as realism. She mastered watercolors because she was told it was the most difficult. She loves oil painting and pastels, especially for children and pets, she said.
McEnroe’s mother was an artist, and both she and her siblings followed mom’s lead.

She started teaching in 1986 and teaches students one on one out of a studio room in her home. People of all ages come for lessons. “It’s a fun place to be, and it’s comfortable and relaxed. There’s no pressure. There’s laughter. They’re not surrounded by 30 different peers trying to do the same thing,” she said.
Her student is the focus of her attention, she said. “I always tell them, once you learn the skills and you create your own style of painting, you can do whatever you want,” she said. “But you need these backbones, the skeleton of the drawing and the painting ability, the mixing of colors, the application, when to do something, how to correct something. These things give your work strength in the long run, no matter how you end up making your own style.”

The Kentucky Wesleyan exhibit is the first time McEnroe has had an exhibit of work by her private lesson students; work by 20 students is featured. The exhibit helps her young artists build their self-esteem, McEnroe said.

She added that she enjoys running across her young students in Walmart or at a restaurant and getting hugs. “Sharing time with them is a gift back to me as well as to them,” she said.