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Harlan County’s bicentennial to be commemorated

The new year brings with it a historical milestone for Harlan County, and the public is encouraged to get involved. This year is the 200th anniversary of Harlan County, and there are plenty of events and projects being planned to commemorate the significant year.

One of the projects in progress is the curation of a Harlan County Bicentennial Art Exhibition. Jennifer McDaniels, who heads up the Harlan County Arts Council, said her group wants this to be the biggest and most impressive art exhibit they’ve ever undertaken in celebration of Harlan County’s heritage, and she is hoping many will become involved.

“We are envisioning this art exhibition to have a vast number of not only historical photographs, but all kinds of pictures that capture Harlan County history and culture through the decades that celebrate our people, our beauty, and our uniqueness,” McDaniels said. “We want the exhibition to include photography, but also paintings, sculptors, crafts and folk art, and historical relics. We really want this bicentennial exhibition to beautifully convey through art the essence of Harlan County.”

An organizational meeting will be held Monday, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Harlan County Extension Depot, to begin plans for the bicentennial art exhibition. McDaniels encourages not only artists and crafters, but anyone interested in Harlan County history to attend and be a part of the historic exhibit, which she hopes will also end up on display at this year’s Kentucky State Fair.

“We’re not only looking for art, we’re looking for historical relics, historical documents — any artifacts that are pertinent to Harlan County’s history and are of interest,” McDaniels said. “If anyone has such items, we hope they will come to Monday’s meeting, or contact me. With each piece that is offered to the exhibit to be displayed, we plan to tell its story, along with the story of the families who are sharing the item.”

Harlan City Councilman Chris Jones is a member of the Harlan County Arts Council, and he said he was looking forward to taking part in the historical exhibit. Jones, who is a widely-known and award-winning photographer, said art played a crucial part in telling a story, and that Harlan County’s story was definitely a colorful one to tell.

“It’s with much anticipation that I look forward to helping with the bicentennial art exhibition,” Jones said. “I encourage other artists — locally and abroad — who have a connection to or love for Harlan County – to become involved.”

Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley, who has confirmed that there will be a series of events celebrating Harlan County’s bicentennial this year, also encourages the public to become involved in the art exhibition.

“We all play a part in the story of Harlan County,” Mosley said. “And when people bring their own, unique stories forward, then it tells a bigger, collective story of who we are as Harlan Countians, who our ancestors were, and it also creates documentation to let future generations know who we were. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I believe an art exhibition is a creative way to tell Harlan County’s story this bicentennial year.”

McDaniels said there will be a free chili supper for those attending Monday night’s bicentennial art exhibition planning meeting.

For more information, McDaniels can be contacted at 606-573-4223.

The Harlan Enterprise will be extensively covering Harlan County’s Bicentennial this year with more stories to follow.