June’s Featured Year of the Rural Arts Event: Seedtime on the Cumberland in Whitesburg, Kentucky

Video footage of Seedtime on the Cumberland 2010

By Savannah Barrett and Carrie Carter

Appalshop’s Seedtime on the Cumberland is a time for celebration and homecoming in Whitesburg. The 28th annual Seedtime festival this weekend, June 6th and 7th, promises the sampling of regional artists, musicians, and traditional craftsman attendees have come to expect. Beginning in 1987 as a community celebration of Appalshop’s work and the Appalachian arts and culture that inspire it, the festival includes film screenings, theater productions, music and literary performances, exhibitions, and displays. The 2014 festival is supplemented by a celebration of Appalshop’s June Appal records 40th Anniversary, which includes a concert of June Appal artists and a retrospective exhibit from the imprint’s early years.

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This year’s flier features Nimrod Workman, recording artist of JuneAppal’s first record. His album Passing thru the Garden is being reissued for the 40th anniversary of JuneAppal Recordings.

Along the north fork of the Kentucky River at the base of Pine Mountain, the central Appalachia town provides an idyllic location for the region’s premier showcase of contemporary Appalachian arts and culture. The central coalfields region around Whitesburg is rich with a legacy of creative talent. As Seedtime festival organizer Carrie Wells explained “Seedtime provides an outlet for these artists and artisans to promote their products, demonstrate their trade, and pass their skills down to younger generations. Being immersed among great artists and musicians during the festival reminds folks who join us of our cultural riches and traditions that make our region vibrant and always growing.”

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Main Street at dusk out front of the Summit City Lounge in Whitesburg, Kentucky

Seedtime on the Cumberland has evolved over the years, but remains true to its original goal of underscoring the connection between old-time and present-day mountain life through the presentation of regional music, arts, dance, writing, and film-making. The festival advances Appalshop’s mission to sustain their traditional Appalachian heritage through the presentation and broadcasting of Appalshop’s work to the general public.

Film screenings inside the Appalshop Theater give festival-goers a chance to take a break from Kentucky’s summer heat and humidity, but also to appreciate the work that Appalshop’s Archival program does year-round to preserve important pieces of our history. This year’s screening schedule features Appalachian Media Institute student films alongside feature releases including Nimrod Workman: To Fit My Own Category (1975) and the newly archived film from 1938, Civilian Conservation Corps in Pine Mountain State Park. The full film schedule can be found on Seedtime’s website.

Appalshop Film Nimrod Workman: To Fit My Own Category (1975) Trailer

Mountain music is an important aspect of the Seedtime tradition. Over four decades, June Appal’s eighty-six releases (and counting) of traditional and contemporary Appalachian music have included both famous and scarcely known artists, solo performers and bands, unaccompanied singers, instrumental virtuosos, string bands, and “legendary” artists including 6 National Heritage Award winners. Musicians Rich Kirby, Jack Wright, Sparky Rucker, and others will be on hand Friday night the June Appal exhibit in the Appalshop gallery, which will display early records, album artwork, and photographs. This year’s Seedtime headliner is the big time Carolina bluegrass band Town Mountain, additional concerts will include J.D. Wilkes & the Wheelhouse Ramblers, Kentucky Wild Horse, Rich & the Po’ Folk, Sparky & Rhonda Rucker, the Empty Bottle String Band, and Lee Sexton.

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Even with a full music schedule on stage, festival goers can listen or join in on jam sessions on the grounds.

Kentucky writers Bianca Spriggs and Graham Shelby will perform on Friday evening as part of the Kentucky Arts Council’s Uncommon Wealth celebration honoring 30 years of the Al Smith Artist Fellowship Program.  The Southern Appalachian Writers Co-op will be featured on Saturday with open readings from several members of the ensemble.

Seedtime on the Cumberland has always been a way for Appalshop to give back to the community that so generously supports it by providing a largely free-of-charge event, where those who donate to the organization can see just how far their support goes. The weekend’s events are free and open to the public, excluding any special events that correlate with the festival’s theme each year. Details and schedule information can be found at seedtimefestival.org, or seedtimefestival.tumblr.com.

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Lacy Hale, local artist from Knott County, Kentucky, created this original design for the festival poster in 2012.

Art of the Rural is engaged in an ongoing partnership with Appalshop, and will be providing live social media coverage throughout Seedtime on the Cumberland as a part of our Year of the Rural Arts June feature coverage. To find out more about Appalshop and our partnership with them, read our recent article about our Year of the Rural Arts residency at Appalshop. The first iteration of the Appalshop-Art of the Rural collaboration to create a Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange Project also takes place this weekend in Whitesburg, and we look forward to sharing more information about this project in the coming weeks.

For more information about Seedtime on the Cumberland and Whitesburg, Kentucky please visit: http://seedtimefestival.org. Please mark your calendars for this fantastic event, check out the Seedtime on the Cumberland story on the Atlas of Rural Arts and Culture, and report back to us at Art of the Rural to tell us about your experience! This event is featured on the Year of the Rural Arts National Calendar of Events. Each month, we’ll showcase the featured event of the month on this main Year of the Rural Arts page, along with a listing of all events taking place in that month. To view more stories about events throughout the Year of the Rural Arts, visit http://placestories.com/project/146125. Please use the social media hash tag #ruralarts in any social media posts from the event.

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THE YEAR OF THE RURAL ARTS is a biennial program of events, conversations, and online features celebrating the diverse, vital ways in which rural arts and culture contribute to American life. The Year is coordinated by Art of the Rural and organized by a collective of individuals, organizations, and communities from rural and urban locales across the nation.

The inaugural Year is a collaborative, grassroots effort designed to build steam over the course of 2014. To present a more equitable representation and a more comprehensive narrative of rural arts in culture, all online features will be freely shared across websites and social media. For more information on the Year of the Rural Arts, visit: www.artoftherural.org.