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MINNIE ADKINS: Story Carvings is a new exhibit on display at the Kentucky Folk Art Center

Cheri Lawson
These are examples of characters like Mommy Goose, all carved by Minnie Adkins, all in the children's books by Mike Norris.

For the first time ever, Appalachian artist and woodcarver, Minnie Adkins, will have on display all the characters she’s carved that illustrate children’s books that were written by her friend and colleague Mike Norris.

The Kentucky Folk Art Center at Morehead State University will hold an official opening reception of Adkins and Norris’ work on July 15th.

Mike Norris is a writer and musician. The Lexington resident has written four children’s books including Bright Blue Rooster and Sonny the Monkey. He’s also created a series called Mommy Goose Books with titles like Rhymes from the Mountains and Ring around the Moon.

Cheri Lawson
A closer look at some of the characters carved by Minnie for Mike's books.

Norris has been collaborating with Kentucky folk icon and woodcarver Minnie Adkins for more than thirty years. He writes the stories, the songs and rhymes for the books and Adkins carves characters that are photographed as the illustrations. Norris says, now, there’s going to be an art exhibit at the Kentucky Folk Art Center in Morehead with all the characters Adkins has carved for the books.

“And every carving that Minnie has done for these four books will be on display and that’s the first time ever that they’ve all been on display in one place. That doesn’t include the ones for our new book, which is not out yet. But it’ll be a first and it’s going to be called MINNIE ADKINS: Story Carvings,” said Norris.

The 88-year-old Adkins recalls meeting Norris for the first time. She said it was at an awards ceremony at Centre College where he worked at the time. Adkins said she was there to receive an award. Norris gave Adkins and her husband a tour of the campus.

He also gave her a cassette tape with a song he wrote called Bright Blue Rooster. Adkins said she whittled a Blue Rooster and sent it to Norris as a thank you gift. But the song listed other characters as well, like a three-legged hog, a wore-out tractor, and a no count dog.

“Then he called me one day and he said, you know, if you would make the characters, he said, we’ll put it into a children’s book,” explained Adkins.

Cheri Lawson
Kentucky folk icon, Minnie Adkins holds a Bright Blue Rooster she carved as an illustration for the book Bright Blue Rooster. The book was written by Mike Norris.

Norris added, “In the Mommy Goose Books she’ll take ten rhymes at a time and we’ll talk about what it could be and then she’ll carve stuff and send me pictures and for the most part she nails it right off the bat.”
More than 400 characters made by Adkins will be featured at the exhibit alongside Norris’ books. Dr. Julia Finch is the interim director at the center.

“I think the exhibition illustrates this kinship that they have as storytellers and as creators who both come from this Appalachian background and eastern Kentucky background in particular,” said Finch.

Minnie Adkins said the opening reception is being held the night before Minnie Adkins Day, the annual art festival in Sandy Hook, Kentucky that honors Minnie. She’s excited about showing all these characters in one place.

“I am so happy. I’m like a little child a waitin’ to see all them pieces together and I hope lots of little children gets to see it,” reported Adkins.

Cheri Lawson
Kentucky writer, Mike Norris holds up a couple of his children's books.

Interim director Finch said Minnie Adkins is very important to the Kentucky Folk Art Center at Morehead State University. The center houses pieces Minnie carved in its permanent collection. And now her work will be featured in this new rotating exhibit.

“We’re just thrilled to continue that relationship with her and thrilled to display some work that’s never been seen before because she’s so important. She’s so foundational. She’s kind of like a founding foremother,” said Finch.

MINNIE ADKINS: Story Carvings will be on display through September 9th. The exhibit will be free and open to the public.

Cheri is a broadcast producer, anchor, reporter, announcer and talk show host with over 25 years of experience. For three years, she was the local host of Morning Edition on WMUB-FM at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Cheri produced and hosted local talk shows and news stories for the station for nine years. Prior to that, she produced and co-hosted a local talk show on WVXU, Cincinnati for nearly 15 years. Cheri has won numerous awards from the Public Radio News Directors Association, the Ohio and Kentucky Associated Press, and both the Cincinnati and Ohio chapters of the Society for Professional Journalists.
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