The Kentucky Arts Council's Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship Program was established in 1983 to recognize creative excellence and to assist in the professional development of individual, professional Kentucky artists. The $7,500 fellowships are given annually on a rotating basis by discipline. Applications from visual artists and media artists are accepted in odd-numbered years. In even-numbered years, applications are accepted from literary writers (fiction, nonfiction, play/screenwriting and poetry), choreographers and composers.

Fellowships are awarded based primarily upon the quality of the work samples submitted by the artist. Awards are unrestricted and may be used in any way to enhance the artist's career.


Al Smith was born in Sarasota, Florida, on Jan. 9, 1927, to parents from middle Tennessee who came to Florida in the early 1920s, attracted by opportunities in that decade's land boom. His father was a war veteran and a lawyer, and his mother had worked as a teenage reporter on a weekly newspaper. Their hopes dashed in the Depression, they returned to Tennessee in 1939 and settled on a rough farm with no amenities near Nashville, acquired with help from family members.

Al's story of youth spent in Florida and Tennessee, service in the army, and life after as a college dropout who became a newspaperman, first in New Orleans and then in Kentucky, is told in "Kentucky Cured" and an earlier memoir, "Wordsmith: My Life in Journalism," published in 2011. From a fresh start on a weekly paper in western Kentucky, Al built a chain of small weeklies and began a long career in broadcast journalism. Describing himself as a "cause" journalist in and out of the newsroom, he has been an advocate for education, the arts and economic development. The University of Kentucky and eight other colleges and universities have given him honorary doctorates. He lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with his wife, Martha Helen, mother of their three adult children.

Al Smith served as chair of the Kentucky Arts Council board of directors 1977-79 and 1981-84.


Page Last updated: June 13, 2016
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