LEVI river HOUSE
Postcard from Hyden, Kentucky featuring the Osborne Brothers who are from Hyden, the Big House at Frontier Nursing University which was the first family nurse practitioner program in the country, the memorial for the 38 men killed in the Hurricane Creek mining disaster, and a redbud tree since Hyden is the “redbud capital of the world.”
Postcard showcasing some staples of London, Kentucky: Finley’s Fun Center and Roller Rink, McHargue’s Mill at Levi Jackson Wilderness Road Park, Shiloh Roadhouse, the two local high schools South and North Laurel High School, Bee Rock Campground, and the world’s largest skillet at the World Chicken Festival which happens in downtown London annually, drawing visitors from all over the globe.
Postcard from Corbin, Kentucky showcasing the local high school mascot, the Redhound, the delicious Rootbeer Stand, the local Wrigley Taproom and Eatery, Laurel River Lake, Colonel Sanders who started Kentucky Fried Chicken in Corbin, and Cumberland Falls which is one of the few waterfalls in the whole world where you can view a moonbow.
Postcard portraying the woods of S-Tree Campground area in McKee, Kentucky, one of the many recreation areas and trail sites in the area.
Postcard showcasing Pineville, Kentucky’s infamous Chained Rock. The rock was chained to the mountain as a publicity stunt in the 1920’s in hopes to usher in tourists. It was also a result of a folktale among residents that gave children peace over fears of large rocks falling from the mountain onto the city below, saying that rocks were chained to the land. The chained rock still stands today and is said to protect the city.
Alternate black and white postcard from Corbin, Kentucky featuring Colonel Sanders, a jug of rootbeer from the Rootbeer Stand, Corbin High School mascot the redhound, the Wrigley Taproom and Eatery, Cumberland Falls, the local coffee shop You and Me Coffee and Tea, the local movie theater Tri County Cineplex, the East Main Street bridge, and rail road tracks since Corbin is known for the trains that run throughout.
When recent tornadoes hit Tennessee in early March of this year, virtually all news coverage focused on the devastation in Nashville, even though most of the deaths that happened in the tragedy occurred in rural Putnam County, Tennessee. In the media and elsewhere, there is an obvious stigma around rural towns, and sometimes there is an erasure of them as well, an omission.
One large part of my personal identity is being an Appalachian. I come from a very small town in southeastern Kentucky called Lily, which is nestled between two somewhat better-known towns, London and Corbin.
Some people feel there’s not much to little towns like these. But to the people who know the land, who have lived and worked on it, who love it, there is much more to these small communities than what a first glance might reveal.
It’s a complex issue to address, because even folks who have grown up in rural areas might say negative things about their home towns, even if they value them. When you are told your entire life that you are from “the middle of nowhere” or “flyover country” you begin to believe it. When the media constantly tells you that everyone in your region is a bigot who chooses to live in poverty, you harbor shame that sometimes manifests as looking at your home place with a lack of complexity.
More often than not, popular culture paints a simplistic and inaccurate picture of most rural communities. But that’s how lots of people think of them and their people. Or they prefer not to think of them at all. One unique thing about Corbin, Kentucky is that it’s the site of Sanders Cafe and Museum, which is the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken. An official Kentucky State Landmark on the site even notes this. Yet, on the decor in many KFC restaurants, the original site of the chain is depicted as Louisville, not the smaller city where Colonel Sanders first founded his business.
In an effort to do something to combat these issues, I decided to create a series of postcards highlighting small rural towns/cities in Kentucky. I chose to make postcards for each town resembling the style of vintage postcards.
The process involved educating myself about many different small towns in the state before eventually narrowing it down to five to focus on. My initial plan was to travel to each town and interview different residents to gain an inside perspective on what makes the town unique. I was able to journey to a couple of areas before the spread of COVID-19 and, with it, the ensuing quarantine, which resulted in a pivot in my research. I resorted to “virtual traveling,” which included using Google Earth and its street view feature, as well as using phone and video calls for interviews, and combing through photos online for visual references.
My research definitely informed my designs. At times I completed an entire postcard only to feel unsatisfied, then did a little more research and changed the whole composition. The research also informed me as an artist and Kentucky citizen, furthering my belief that rural towns deserve recognition no matter how small, remote, or stereotyped. Every town matters, as does every person.