Harold Apples and his family just moved back to Kentucky, to an Allen County hamlet with a population of 2,800.
Apples is one of the artists who’s designing a Kentucky State Park poster. His represents Cumberland Falls State Park with its strong lines giving off an architectural flair.
It looks as though it could have been produced during the arts heyday of the Works Progress Administration, the government-sponsored program that gave the nation stunning artwork and provided employment for artists and writers during the Depression.
The poster project, called “Kentucky Parks & Crafts,” is a fundraiser for the Kentucky State Parks Foundation, which protects, enhances, advocates for and promotes the natural, historical and cultural resources of Kentucky’s State Parks and Historic Sites.
Molly Caldwell, president of the Lexington-based foundation, said posters will be released over the next five weeks. The series of 13” X 19” posters have been created with a similar color scheme, allowing them to be displayed as a unified collection or as stand-alone images.
Posters for 15 parks plus “The Stephen Foster Story” are planned so far, she said. The show is “Kentucky’s official outdoor musical,” according to its website, and has been performed for nearly 60 years to honor the composer of “My Old Kentucky Home,” the state song of Kentucky.
For his poster, Apple said he was, “inspired by a lot of the old WPA posters” but at the same time “I think they wanted everyone’s individual sensibilities to shine through,” he said.
Liz Morse of the studio Dot Dot Dash designed the Lake Barkley poster, in which wildlife seems to jump out of the poster toward the viewer. It’s elaborate and suggests a wealth of movement in a peaceable kingdom.
Morse now lives in Denver, although she plans to move back to her hometown of Louisville this summer.
Fieldtrip, a creative marketing agency in Louisville, which put together the specifics of the state park poster project, gave artists the required color palette and size, but then encouraged them to explore their own design, Morse said.
“I wanted to do a lot of research on what flora and fauna were involved,” Morse said. “I wanted a lot of details ... so you can get there and feel like you’re discovering something, but it’s also reflective of the beauty.... It looks like a party, a little nature party.”
The third poster released was of Whitehall in Madison County, the home of 19th century abolitionist Cassius Clay. That stark work was done by Bullhorn Creative of Lexington, with artist Steve Morrison doing the project.
“The most interesting part of the home to me is the library,” Morrison said, citing the “weird aura” and mystery that older homes often have surrounding them, of how residents lived and what their secrets were. “There are a lot of crazy things going on in that library. So I pulled elements from that room and re-organized them into the poster” — among them a statue, rug, deer head and chandelier.
The Kentucky State Parks system, comprised of 49 state parks (equal to 45,000 acres), is one of the largest state park systems in the country. It is also one of the only state park systems in the U.S. to remain free of charge for users.
The poster project was created to help provide funding for the parks. The foundation is an independent 501(c)3 organization and is not supported by state government funds.
In 2016, the state announced it would spend $18 million to fix safety and maintenance problems at the parks and do some renovation such as painting and siding replacement. Gov. Matt Bevin said at the time of that announcement that the parks generated $890 million in economic impact annually for the state.
The state operates 49 parks, which have a total of 1,600 buildings. Seventeen of those are resort parks, which have lodges. The Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet had, as of late 2016, identified $241 million worth of maintenance and repair needs at the parks.
“The goal of the poster project itself is to establish a solid foundation with which we can figure out how we can make a meaningful impact with the preservation of our parks,” Rachel Dickey, chairperson of the board of the Kentucky State Parks Foundation. “We’re still a young foundation. Through this journey, that’s what we have been trying to figure out: How can we help the parks when the problem is so big?”
Each poster in the series will be available for purchase for $20 at kyforky.com or at the corresponding gift shop of the featured park. Kentucky-area gift shops will also have the posters available for purchase.
Funds raised go toward the foundation and projects at state parks, Caldwell said: “We wanted to try to continue some momentum, and give some of these parks a time to shine.”
Release dates of the posters and their corresponding artists are as follows:
Natural Bridge State Park – Jacob Rhoades
Carter Caves State Park – Fieldtrip (creative team)
Jenny Wiley State Park – Meena Khalili
My Old Kentucky Home State Park – Jon Shaw
Stephen Foster State Park – Matthew McDole
Nolin Lake State Park – Brad Vetter
Pine Mountain State Park – Michael Braley
Lake Cumberland State Park – Matt Barnes
Big Bone Lick State Park – Austin Dunbar
Foot Boonesborough State Park – Robby Davis
E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park – Bryan Patrick Todd
John James Audubon State Park – Billy Lilly
Dale Hollow State Park – Kendall Regan