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A new nonprofit is using Kentucky’s world-renowned bourbon industry to elevate the Bluegrass State’s art and culture scene.
Bourbon with Heart, a 501c3 nonprofit, intends to use bourbon’s booming influence and popularity to raise funds for a variety of local charities while also providing a first-class arts experience for Kentuckians regardless of age, race, class, gender, or ability.
Bourbon with Heart is in the process of announcing artists, who will be featured in its inaugural exhibit. Barrels of Heart will debut at the Frazier History Museum in February and will feature 20 custom-painted bourbon barrels designed by local artists from a variety of backgrounds.
During the eight-week exhibit, the public will vote for their favorite custom-painted barrel. The winning artist will be awarded a cash prize as well as a donation to the charity of their choice.
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The Courier Journal sat down with Bourbon with Heart’s founder and director, Morgan Hancock, to learn more about what to expect from the new nonprofit and its first event.
The following Q&A has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Courier Journal: What is your inspiration for this inaugural showcase and where did the idea come from?
Morgan Hancock: I created this as a way to combine two of my favorite things about Kentucky: bourbon and artists. The world already knows Kentucky as the bourbon industry’s leader, but we’re much less known for our rich and vibrant arts culture. I felt like this could be a way to leverage that existing influence and popularity of bourbon to raise awareness for our vibrant and rich arts culture.
Courier Journal: Why is it important to seek out some of these lesser-known artists for the show?
Hancock: One of the purposes of this particular exhibit was to provide a big platform for artists ― you’re going to have your work in The Frazier History Museum. Using the museum provides that platform to artists who would, most likely, otherwise never have that opportunity.
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Courier Journal: What do you have planned for the organization in the future and what do you hope to accomplish?
Hancock: So whenever we say we’re an arts-focused bourbon charity, what I mean is that our initiative, our events, will all be related to arts and culture. But who benefits from Bourbon with Heart will not necessarily be other art charities.
For this first art exhibit, the beneficiaries are I Would Rather Be Reading, Blanket Louisville and Dream Center Academy — none of those are art charities. It’s a way to use the art to raise money for some of the more basic human needs: food, water, and shelter. So we’re trying to find a way to combine all that. Some of the events that we have planned (in the future) are Bourbon and Ballet, Bourbon and Broadway, Bourbon and Beethoven, and Bourbon and Bluegrass. I’ve already been in conversations with some other organizations in town to get some of this in the works.
Courier Journal: When people walk into this inaugural display, what is the vibe going to be like, and how do you hope they interact with the art?
Hancock: I hope that every person that attends will see some piece of themselves in the art. For each barrel, we are also filming a video series, a documentary of sorts, on each artist. Each barrel is going to have an activation where you can scan a QR code, and you can go to a video to see who that artist is and what their story or inspiration is. So beyond this bringing beauty for people to look at and appreciate, I hope that each person sees themselves somehow in these artists. We’re getting artists from every different background and every walk of life.
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Courier Journal: What are you most excited about for Barrels of Heart and Bourbon with Heart going forward?
Hancock: I am excited about the artists, and what impact this is going to have on the artists’ lives. It’s already happening, just with them announcing that they’ve been selected. I’m also excited about the impact the funds that we are raising are going to have on our nonprofit partners. I envision this going beyond Kentucky. Bourbon (popularity) is exploding all over the globe. So I would love this to be a catalyst for bringing our rich, vibrant art culture and talent that we have here in Kentucky to the world.
Features columnist Maggie Menderski writes about what makes Louisville, Southern Indiana and Kentucky unique, wonderful, and occasionally, a little weird. If you’ve got something in your family, your town or even your closet that fits that description — she wants to hear from you. Say hello at [email protected] or 502-582-4053. Follow along on Instagram and Twitter @MaggieMenderski.
Meet nine artists participating in Barrels of Heart exhibit at The Frazier History Museum
Darryl Tucker is a finger painter, who works at Humana and is a father of four. Three of his children have autism.
Clay Mata is a self-taught Chicana artist, who is part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Gail Corso is a local artist and a wife and mother to three grown children.
Marty Osbourn O’Daniel, known as MartiMar, is a full-time nurse
Andy Perez is a visual artist, whose painting of Colonel Sanders is world-famous and was in a KFC commercial.
David and Terri Sierra are a husband and wife team. Terri is retired from UPS and David is an IT project manager.
Rickelle Nelson is the horseman’s relations and reservations manager at the Kentucky Derby Museum. He’s also a cancer survivor and a Bell Award recipient.
Down-Syndrome of Louisville has also committed to a barrel. A team of three artists, all with down syndrome, will complete the design.
Keith Anderson is the first African-American artist to be chosen to design the official Woodford Reserve Derby bottle.