The Rockcastle Arts Association was established in January 2018 in a space on Main Street donated by Amburgey Law. The all-volunteer organization coordinates many $10 arts workshops throughout the year, such as songwriting, photography and more. They are a home for many community arts projects, such as an upcoming murals of Rockcastle project, and the annual Noel Night Market for craft vendors. MACED is proud to be supporting the organization with technical assistance for strategic planning.
Here is a spotlight on one of their unique annual projects, Bittersweet Photos, which strives to share community stories through photos:
Bittersweet Photos is an annual initiative of the Arts Association to document the “places and faces” of Rockcastle County. The project is named for the Bittersweet Festival hosted in downtown Mount Vernon every fall and is in its second year.
Throughout Summer 2019, Arts Association board member Carrie Mullins and fellow board member and photographer, Selena Thompson, captured photos and quotes from nearly 100 people in Rockcastle County.
With the City of Mount Vernon firmly in support as a sponsor and enthusiast, the photos were then blown up into life-size portraits and placed in 14 local businesses up and down Main Street for two weeks before the Bittersweet Festival, and for two weeks after.
They visited three places in Rockcastle County to take photos and interviews, including the annual Great Saltpetre Cave Preserve opening in May 2019, Blast in the Valley in July 2019, and two nights at the Brodhead Little World’s Fair in August 2019. In their “Bittersweet Photos” t-shirts, they simply walked around these events and asked folks if they would agree to be featured. For those who agreed, they asked a couple of open-ended questions focused mostly on Rockcastle County, and then took a few photos.“We wanted to try something different, to involve as many people as possible in an art project, and to look at ourselves and downtown Mount Vernon from a different perspective,” Mullins and Thompson said. “We wanted friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and visitors to enjoy these photos and to start conversations around them.”
Mullins and Thompson said they were inspired by Humans of New York, Louisville Story Program, the street photographer JR, and, of course, the people of Rockcastle County and the buildings of Mount Vernon.
The photos were also compiled into a book, on sale for $30 to benefit the Arts Association.