State leaders honor Murray Art Guild’s outreach


Murray Art Guild Executive Director Debi Danielson (middle) receives the Kentucky Arts Council Community Arts Award from Secretary of Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet Mike Berry (left), and Gov. Andy Beshear. (Photo courtesy of @murrayartguild on Facebook)

MacKenzie Rogers, Staff Writer

After decades of service to the community, the Murray Art Guild was awarded the Governor’s Award in the Arts, an honor given to those who have made substantial contributions to the arts of Kentucky.

The Kentucky Arts Council annually recognizes individuals and organizations in one of the nine award categories: Milner, Artist, Business, Community Arts, Education, Folk Heritage, Government, Media and National.

The award for Community Arts, the category for which the guild won, is given to those who have made a positive impact on the community through the arts.

The guild was honored to receive the award, says Debi Danielson, executive director of the Murray Art Guild.

“The award really validates what we do, which to me, then, is just encouraging that you’re doing the right thing,” Danielson said. “Receiving this award at this time, I think it is good to help create an understanding or appreciation—awareness—of what the arts can do for the community and what the needs of the arts are in the community.”

The Murray Art Guild is a local nonprofit organization established in 1967 by a small group of Calloway County residents with the goal of promoting artistic growth throughout the community.

The guild actively serves as an exhibition gallery for local and regional artists, an individual and community studio and an Art Market. In addition to the two community studio spaces and five individual spaces, the guild has studios for both weaving and clay sculpting.

“When the guild was formed in 1967, it was created by a group of artists, and their real interest was creating a place to make work, create work and exhibit work,” Danielson said. “We do a lot of programming here at the guild, trying to do things in the community.”

The guild hosts exhibitions for small groups and solo artists, including two annual student exhibitions, and offers year-round workshops for both children and adults in areas such as painting, drawing and poetry. There are many ongoing groups for photography, life drawing, painting and poetry.

The guild does several workshops and projects with the community, partnering with local organizations like Watch Inc. and Playhouse in the Park.

Playhouse in the Park held a workshop with the guild that focused on hat-making for their upcoming production “Crowns,” a play exploring Black Women’s history and identity.

The guild and Watch Inc., an organization that assists adults with disabilities, created Watching Art Work, in which seven to 10 clients from Watch Inc. visit the guild twice a month to create art pieces.  Those pieces are then sold at the guild’s Art Market to sustain the program’s future.

“I think that’s one of the favorite parts of enriching community artistic abilities,” Danielson said. “Art can be used in so many different ways. It can tell a story. It can provide an opportunity for people to be around each other.”

The Art Market currently has over 40 Murray-connected artists who sell their handcrafted work, from paintings to jewelry.

The guild is currently in the process of submitting a grant application to fund the creation of a new building better suited for the community’s artistic needs.

“I’m really excited about that possibility of building a facility that is specific to art and exhibiting art,” Danielson said. “I think that the community really deserves that kind of facility.”

The guild is hosting a reception from 4 to 6 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 27. In addition to the reception, there is also an exhibit of the pottery and paintings of Mary Jane Littleton. The guild’s plans for the new building also will be available for viewing.