Magazine article Humanities

In Focus: Kentucky's Virginia Carter

Magazine article Humanities

In Focus: Kentucky's Virginia Carter

Article excerpt

IN 1966, VIRGINIA CARTER WORKED AS A CARHOP AT THE Star-Lite Drive-in Restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky, bringing fried chicken out to the curb. She saved the money she earned to pay for a summer at Harvard.

"I had big ideas," Carter says. "I thought, 'If I could only go to Harvard.' I thought that university would be oozing with exciting knowledge and information, and I wanted itali."

When Carter returned, she realized that she didn't need to go to Harvard: The knowledge and culture she wanted was all here. She just had to find it.

Carter went on to study fine arts at Louisiana State University and then pursued MAs in art history and anthropology and a PhD in anthropology at the University of Kentucky before becoming executive director of the Kentucky Humanities Council in 1 989.

In her role as director, Carter helps Kentuckians appreciate and understand their heritage and culture. Our responsibility is to respond to the educational needs of Kentuckians, wherever they are and whatever they are," she says.

During Carter's tenure, the council, which does not receive state funding, has evolved from being primarily a grant-making organization to being a provider of humanities programs throughout Kentucky. One of those efforts went national during the commemorations for Abraham Lincoln's bicentennial.

In February 2009, the council brought Our Lincoln: Kentucky's Oft to the Nation to the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

The council originally had created the one-of-a-kind program for a kickoff of a two-year national celebration of Lincoln. The sold-out 2008 program in Lexington, which required a cast of almost four hundred, was a musical theatrical, and historical extravaganza. When Carter realized that there was no major event planned for Washington in February 2009, she reports, "we said, Okay, we'll go to the Kennedy Center.'"

The stakes were higher than they were for the first performance: "Now you have to be perfect, not just really good," Carter says. At the end of the evening, the audience applauded so long (both acts received standing ovations) Carter had to hurry everyone off stage, lest she incur costs for going past 1 0 p. …

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