Showcasing the Arts

Featured Artist:
Ken Phillips


Karen Brown Levy
In addition to being an accomplished wood working artist,
Ken Phillips is the executive director of the Kentucky Native American Heritage Museum in Corbin.
Ken Phillips has resided in Corbin part-time since July 1997 and full-time since retiring from the United States Army in 2004. He learned his trade from his grandfather in his youth, but got away from it for a while after his grandfather died. Ken returned to his woodwork in 2005, but considers that a small part of his art. He has operated the Kentucky Native American Heritage Museum since 2005, serving as the museum’s executive director, and organized a Labor Day Weekend Pow Wow since 2008.

Ken considers his primary art to be promoting/celebrating/educating about cultural diversity, while battling racism and hatred. Woodwork allows one or two people at a time to learn a traditional Cherokee practice. The Kentucky Native American Heritage Museum provides information about a variety of art forms from several different Native American cultures to approximately 2,500 people a year. The annual Pow Wow provides a learning experience to approximately 7,000 people each Labor Day weekend. The museum has had as many as 10 different Native American Nations represented during that weekend with visitors from as many as 11 states. This event brings people of various racial, ethnic, economic and religious cultures together in an educational environment allowing them to learn about each other in a relaxed, nonconfrontational atmosphere.

Ken is a recipient of the Kentucky Arts Council’s Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Grant, having taught woodworking to apprentice David Barnett from July 2020 through June 2021. Funding for this apprenticeship was provided by South Arts’ In These Mountains initiative. This was the first Native American apprenticeship supported by the Kentucky Arts Council in several years, and only the fourth apprenticeship by Native American Kentuckians since the apprenticeship program began in 1993.

Artist’s statement:

The more we learn about what we commonly refer to as folk art in eastern Kentucky, the more we understand that it is a mixture of Cherokee, Scottish and Irish culture created as a result of the knowledge these cultures gained from each other through the interaction and cooperation of our ancestors.
I believe through education we can overcome the ignorance, prejudice and division that has plagued America throughout our history.


Ken Phillips
Corbin, Ky.

Phone: 606-280-1308


Page last updated: Nov. 4, 2021
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