Tom Eblen

Kentucky arts website expanding: A radio show, a conference, a grant to hire writers.

Under Main, a website launched five years ago to “unearth” little-known aspects of the region’s arts and culture scene and become a voice for the arts community, is getting a higher profile.

The website, which became a non-profit organization three years ago, began this week partnering with WEKU-FM for a regular segment on the weekly public affairs program Eastern Standard, hosted by Tom Martin, one of Under Main’s founders. In addition to three weekly broadcasts on 88.9 FM, the program is available online (Esweku.com), as a podcast and on the WEKU app.

The Great Meadows Foundation, started three years ago by contemporary art collectors Al and Mary Shands of Louisville, recently gave Under Main a $5,000 grant to commission critical essays by visual arts writers, both with an without academic credentials.

And on March 15-16, the organization will host its third annual conference for regional arts professionals, Critical Mass III — In the Mid: Regionalism in the Arts. The two previous conferences were in Lexington and Louisville. This one will be at The Carnegie Center in Covington. (More info: Under-main.com.)

Over the past five years, Under Main has featured the work of about 60 regional artists in articles and essays by more than 20 writers. Jim Betts, an arts patron and contributing writer who owns Bluegrass Baking Co. in Lexington, will soon launch a series called Baker’s Almanac.

Christine Huskisson, who has taught art at the University of Kentucky, runs Under Main along with Martin, a journalist; graphic designer Chris Rosenthal; and Art Shechet, former co-owner of Natasha’s, a restaurant and music venue that was downtown for several years.

“We were looking for a space where we could dig a little deeper in writing about Kentucky artists,” Huskisson said of the website. “We’re also trying to expose these Kentucky artists to a bigger conversation.”

With an audience that still numbers in the hundreds rather than thousands, Under Main doesn’t aspire to be a mass media player. But the founders think they are connecting with the region’s growing but often splintered community of artists and patrons.

“Despite everybody needing more funding, the arts community is really humming along,” Shechet said. “The arts and music communities really punch above their weight here.”

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