Showcasing the Arts
2020 Governor's Awards in the Arts award

The 2020 Governor's Awards in the Arts are made by Hopkinsville artist Willie Rascoe from reclaimed cherry wood.


2020 Governor’s Awards in the Arts:

Award Artist

Willie Rascoe

Christian County

The Kentucky Arts Council commissions an artist to make 10 Governor’s Awards in the Arts each year. Nine of the awards go to the award recipients and one is added to the arts council’s permanent collection. The creator of the 2020 Governor’s Awards in the Arts is renowned folk art sculptor Willie Rascoe of Hopkinsville.

Rascoe got his start as an art student at Hopkinsville Community College, where he picked up a piece of wood and started carving. Rascoe took his time honing that craft. Nine years later, in the early 1980s, Rascoe showed his work in his first public exhibit. The show at Trigg County Farmer’s Bank in the early 1980s was enthusiastically acclaimed.

He continues to create his sculptures from the driftwood, metal, bone and shell he collects along the lakes and woods of western Kentucky. He bases his work on the shape and textures of the wood; the wood looks at him as he is looking at the wood. Sculptures emerge as animals, masks or abstracted forms, with a blurring of lines between human, animal, plant and spirit. Bits of bone, animal hides, shell fragments, copper wire and stain made from berries and sawdust finish the pieces.

Rascoe is well known throughout Kentucky for his work in schools and as an arts educator. He conducts workshops and serves as artist in residence, where he encourages his students to push themselves to use their own unique gifts. Rascoe has exhibited at the Kentucky Folklife Festival in Frankfort, the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft in Louisville and the Kentucky Folk Art Center in Morehead, where he was featured in the African American Folk Art exhibit. His pieces are in the permanent collection of the Kentucky Folk Art Center and the Kentucky History Center as well as private collections. Rascoe's work has appeared in state and national publications, and has been in museums and galleries across Kentucky and internationally in France, Germany and Thailand.

In 2012, Rascoe received the Tanne Award, presented by the Boston-based Tanne Foundation to recognize artists for outstanding achievement and for demonstrating exceptional talent and creativity. He was also honored with the Folk Heritage Award at the 2015 Kentucky Governor's Awards in the Arts.

Artist’s statement

When the Kentucky Arts Council contacted me about making the pieces, I said there’s a good possibility I could do it, but wasn’t 100 percent sure. I was down the street visiting a friend and as I walked home, every step I took I was telling myself, “Don’t say ‘no.’ Say ‘yes.’”

By the time I got home, I was sure.

I wanted the design for the Governor’s Award not to be a piece that you could easily tell what it is. Some work you can look at automatically and tell what it is. I wanted this piece to be different. Wanted it to be admired from many angles. You can turn the piece and get different views as you revolve around it. Which is the back? Which is the front? You don’t really know. It is what it is.

I’ve worked on a lot of artwork over the years. Making these pieces I was in a state of nervousness because I knew where they were going. It worked with me too. For a while. Every time I’d grab a tool and start on something, I was like “I’ve gotta be extra careful because I know where these are going.”


Page last updated: December 14, 2020
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