Arts & Culture

Student Awarded Grant for Appalachia Documentary

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 12, 2011) − University of Kentucky art studio graduate student Natalie Baxter, of Lexington, Ky., has been awarded an Artist Enrichment Grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women to document the stories of women who have grown up and live their lives in Appalachia.

The $1,000 grant presented to Baxter will fund a video, audio and photography project exploring the feminine side of Appalachia through documented stories told from women who have committed themselves to the place. Baxter's work will provide an alternative to films about Appalachia focusing primarily on male coal miners.

The Kentucky Foundation for Women Artist Enrichment Grant Program provides opportunities for feminist artists and arts organizations to enhance their abilities and skills to create art for progressive social change. Applicants may request funds for artistic development, residencies, exploration of new areas or techniques, or to build a body of work. Artists must show high artistic quality in a work sample, and should demonstrate their commitment to feminism and their understanding of the relationship between art and social change. Baxter is one of 47 artists to receive this type of grant from the foundation this year.

"Congratulations to Natalie and to her faculty mentors," says Benjamin C. Withers, chair of the UK Department of Art. "Artists Enrichment Grants are difficult to obtain and Natalie’s award is a testament both to her vision and skills and the faculty’s commitment to working closely with their students."

Through this new grant, Baxter hopes to document stories from women in eastern Kentucky who have grown up in the area their entire lives, as well as stories of younger generations. Her most recent work has been focused on a specific area of land in eastern Kentucky alongside Kingdom Come Creek, where her Grandmother and much of her mother's side of the family resides.

"I have been fascinated with the way people in the area, especially elderly folks, are deeply rooted and connected to the land they inhabit," says the artist. "I believe this is a dying way of life that needs to be preserved through documentation."

Baxter's new documentary looks to help further capture that story.

"My hopes are that this grant will enable me to create a documentary that can act as a window into a way of life that I feel is worth looking into. I hope that others find the same to be true and that I can get the work outside of Kentucky to show another side of eastern Kentucky that does not involve coal mining or poverty stereotypes, but the side that I find endearing and beautiful," she adds.

Baxter, the daughter of Dr. Anthony and Lavenia Baxter, is a 2007 graduate of the University of the South, where she earned a bachelor's degree in studio art focusing in video and film production.

After graduating, Baxter spent time doing a documentary on the Native American culture in Montana. It was during that time that she realized she could help capture the stories of Kentuckians. 

"I was doing some documentary work on Native American pow wow culture and realized that I have my own tribes of people in Kentucky that also have great stories to tell," says Baxter. "I chose UK because I knew that Kentucky is where I would be able to make my best work."

Currently, Baxter is working on her master of fine arts degree at UK Department of Art, where she has continued her video studies working with Joel Feldman, an artist and visiting professor, and her faculty advisor, Doreen Maloney, associate professor of new media.

Upon completing her graduate degree, Baxter wants to continue working in filmmaking.

"Whether that takes me to New York, LA or just down the road, I want to learn all I can to become a better filmmaker," says the artist.