Library receives grant for local students to create soundscapes

Published 7:08 pm Wednesday, September 6, 2023

The Boyle County Public Library has received a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support an interdisciplinary arts project with local high school students. Beginning September 7, 50 students from Boyle County and Danville High Schools will work with two guest artists, Heather Henson and Elizabeth Haigh, to create their own literary soundscapes that will ultimately be displayed in a public auditory exhibit at the library.

The project grew out of a program the Boyle County Public Library hosted in April 2022: Wrecked: An Evening of Words and Sound.  During that program, local author, Heather Henson, read excerpts from her then newly-published young adult novel, “Wrecked,” while composer and multi-disciplinary artist, Elizabeth Haigh, played an original soundscape she had created for the event. Afterwards, audience members asked questions about the book and learned about soundscapes as an artform.

“Wrecked,” published by Simon and Schuster, is a contemporary re-imagining of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, set in rural Kentucky against a backdrop of drug abuse and addiction. One of the characters in the book records ambient sound and edits it all together as a way to, as Henson explains, “make sense of the world around him, and ultimately express himself through art.”

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“When I saw the presentation that Elizabeth and Heather did together at the library,” says Kate Snyder, owner of Plaid Elephant Books in Danville and project director, “I knew we needed to find a way to give more people that experience.”

“Kate had experience with NEA grants in the past, and she asked if we’d all—Elizabeth, myself, the library—be interested in partnering to expand the program so we could reach a wider audience,” said Henson.  “We were thrilled when we learned that the project had been approved for NEA funding last May, and we began making plans to work with Danville and Boyle County teachers and students once school started back up in the fall.”

Beginning September 7, Henson and Haigh will lead a series of workshops with students from both Boyle County High School and Danville High School.  Each student participating in the project will receive a free copy of “Wrecked,” donated by Simon and Schuster.  Over the course of several weeks, students will read and discuss the novel, and will also learn about soundscape art as it relates to literary engagement.

“We want students to be inspired to create their own soundscapes—either from “Wrecked” or from another book they love or from aspects of their own lives,” says Haigh.  “And we want to give them the opportunity to share what they’ve done with the outside world.”

“The library is honored to play a role in this opportunity to create and highlight unique local art,” says Colleen Hall, Director of the Boyle County Public Library. “Libraries serve as incubators for creative minds and are important spaces to develop and display artistic literacy.  We are proud to support innovation and the arts from across the community.”

In May, the NEA announced more than $103 million in recommended grants with the plan that organizations in all 50 states and U.S. jurisdictions would carry out arts projects in three NEA funding categories: Grants for Arts Projects, Our Town, and State and Regional Partnerships.

The Boyle library’s interdisciplinary arts project falls under the Grants for Arts Projects category, and is one of only 10 such projects approved for funding in the state of Kentucky.

“The National Endowment for the Arts is pleased to support a wide range of projects, demonstrating the many ways the arts enrich our lives and contribute to healthy and thriving communities,” said NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD.

“We’re lucky to have such strong support for the arts here in Danville,” says Henson. “I feel this unique project will open up even more pathways for creativity and expression in our community.”