In 2005, the University of Kentucky announced the nation’s first Cooperative Extension Service program focusing on the fine arts. By pooling the resources of UK’s College of Agriculture and College of Fine Arts, the university created an innovative program with a focus on strengthening the arts of Kentucky's rural communities. The Fine Arts program is housed in the Community and Economic Development Program Area of Cooperative Extension.
This unique program began its journey in Pike County, KY in 2005 under the direction of Stephanie Richards. Richards was the first Fine Arts Extension Agent in the state and still works as the Pike County Extension Fine Arts Agent today. In 2006, the Pike County Extension Fine Arts Program received the Kentucky Governor’s Award of the Arts.
"We congratulate the citizens of the county and the local business community for the commitment they have made to support the arts here," said UK President Todd. "And we also pay tribute to Dean of the College of Fine Arts Robert Shay, Dean of the College of Agriculture Scott Smith, Associate Dean for Extension Jimmy Henning, and to the late director of the UK Cooperative Extension Service, Larry Turner, for their vision and drive to reach out to rural areas of our state in a truly revolutionary way."
In commenting further on the Extension Service network and its contribution to the program, Dean of the College of Agriculture Scott Smith said, “The Fine Arts Extension program is the first of its kind, yet it is representative of a wide range of new initiatives that use the Cooperative Extension network in new and important ways. Such partnerships offer a wonderful opportunity to connect the university with the entire Commonwealth.”
The Fine Arts Extension program has slowly spread throughout the state with Cora Hughes stepping on board next as the Fine Arts Agent in Greenup County, KY. Hughes spent two years in Greenup County before moving to Muhlenberg County, KY in 2009. Since then, several other Fine Arts Agent positions have opened in other counties across the state, giving hope that Fine Arts Extension programs will spread statewide in the years to come and reach even more Kentucky communities.
2015 marked 10 years since the Fine Arts program began at the Pike County Extension Service, and the program shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. With many very strong and prosperous programs and annual events to offer Pike County, the Fine Arts program, or "Pike Arts," looks forward to a bright future full of new adventures and opportunities for our people.