OAKLEY B. AND EVA G. FARRIS

Covington, Ky.

Milner Award – Oakley B. and Eva G. Farris, of Covington, Ky., have had a regional influence in the northern Kentucky area through education and the arts for many years. Successful business people, the Farrises have given to schools, libraries, museums, civic organizations and arts organizations. Their gifts have included a statue of President Abraham Lincoln to Northern Kentucky University, an amphitheater routinely used by acting classes at the university, and a reading room in the campus library. In addition, organizations like the Carnegie Center for the Visual and Performing Arts and the Behringer-Crawford Museum, both in Covington, have benefited from their generosity.

How did you come to be philanthropists for the arts?

Oakley Farris: We're not philanthropists. Period. We don't give money away. We invest in our community and we expect a return. In my mind's eye that word denotes some big shot giving his money away and that's not for us.

Tell me about your support for the arts.

OF: How do you describe art? I dare say the majority of people would think of art like behind you, that beautiful picture. But you know, art comes in many forms. Art can be a book. It can be a good looking woman with beautiful lines. Or a beat up Coca-Cola bottle or a can. It's true. That's part of art. And I've said for years art is an integral part of our education system. Unfortunately art has been taken out of many of our schools. Correct me if I'm wrong. Bad news. Bad news.

Why do you personally feel making gifts to the arts is important?

Eva Farris: I think it's very important, especially, it's part of living. You don't just need material things. You have to look farther. Especially kids, so they grow with some sense of vision. You see the difference in these children when they draw, you see the art in there, the feeling there just to find it, promote it. It's very important.

Is education the most important thing for you to invest in?

OF: I tell you what, I was such a lousy student. It was the grace of God I got that diploma. It's just like yesterday, I go up to get the diploma and the principal was a big tall gentleman. He looked down at me, and I could read his mind, "How did you get up here?" It's extremely important to me. Personally, I feel like our entire nation is being dumbed down. There are jobs in this country they can't fill, because they don't have the citizens well-educated enough to fill those jobs. And that all has to do with art when you think about it.

EF: It makes character in a person, too. …If you don't have art in an education, for me it's worthless. It produces more imagination.

OF: Art unleashes the brain. It stimulates the brain.

 

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Kentucky Arts Council