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:

Artist Award

Silas House

Fayette County

Born in Corbin, Silas House, who was hailed by fellow Kentucky writer Barbara Kingsolver as one of her “favorite writers and human beings,” is a multiple award-winning, New York Times best-selling novelist.

House is the National Endowment for the Humanities Chair of Appalachian Studies at Berea College and serves on the faculty of the Spalding University School of Creative Writing. His honors include the Nautilus Award, an E.B. White Honor Book Award, the Appalachian Book of the Year, the Storylines Prize from the New York Public Library/NAV Foundation, the Intellectual Freedom Award from the National Council of Teachers of English and many other accolades, including winning the Kentucky Novel of the Year twice. In 2016 he was invited to read at the Library of Congress. His 2018 novel “Southernmost” won the Weatherford Award for Fiction, the Judy Gaines Young Award, was long-listed for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, was short-listed for the Willie Morris Award and appeared on several Best of 2018 lists.

A former commentator for NPR’s “All Things Considered” House’s writing has appeared in publications such as Time, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Newsday, Garden and Gun and many others. House’s first three books, which make up The Appalachian Trilogy, are widely considered as quintessential texts for understanding the rural working class experience. His new novel, “Lark Ascending,” will be published in 2022. House grew up in the tri-county area of Laurel, Whitley, and Knox counties but now lives in Lexington.

What does this distinction mean to you?

I would not be a writer without Kentucky, so I take great pride in receiving this award as a representative of my state. A writer cannot separate themselves from their place in the world and I have always been lucky to be surrounded by storytellers and people who encouraged me to be a writer. I’m especially honored to be receiving this award from a governor whom I believe has been our most inclusive one ever.

What do you see as your role in promoting Kentucky art and creativity?

In my work I strive to show Kentucky not as a perfect or terrible place but as a complex place. Complexity is the opposite of stereotype and far too much media shows Kentuckians as caricatures. I want to put Kentuckians on the page who are as complicated as the people I know who live here. I often get asked about why I use so much sense of place in my work and I answer that when you grow up and live in a place as rich in color and cadence, as diverse in topography and ways of being as Kentucky, you can’t help but to want to share that with the reader.

Why do you believe the arts are important?

I know many people, including myself, who have survived as outsiders because of novels, music, films, poetry, painting. The arts literally save lives, so it doesn’t get more important than that. I love that line in the old song that goes “Give me bread, but give me roses” because as much as we need food for sustenance, we also need beauty. Art always reveals the truth, and there are few things more beautiful than that.


Page last updated: December 11, 2020
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