On Saturday, September 20, the Kentucky Governor’s Mansion Centennial Celebration recognized a century of music at the “people’s house.” The evening featured performers of the University of Kentucky College of Fine Arts and UK Opera Theatre. The nonpartisan effort aimed to raise one million dollars in an endowment for the proper upkeep of the Mansion.
The night benefited the Kentucky Executive Mansions Foundation, Inc., an organization that aims to preserve the Mansion, which has served to welcome citizens of Kentucky as well as dignitaries from around the world.
Featured performers included Everett McCorvey, a native of Montgomery, Alabama, who holds the rank of Professor of Voice and the OperaLex Endowed Chair in Opera Studies, and is the Director and Executive Producer of University of Kentucky Opera Theatre. He has also enjoyed critical acclaim and performed around the globe, including in the Kennedy Center, Radio City Music Hall, and the Metropolitan Opera.
Cynthia Lawrence, one of America’s most exciting “singing actresses” also appeared on stage. Lawrence has sung with the Metropolitan Opera, Washington National Opera, The Paris Opera, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. She has appeared more than 70 times in concert with Lucianno Pavarotti, and has an array of honors, including the Birgit Nilsson Prize and the MacAllister Award.
Alicia Helm McCorvey, Tedrin Blair Lindsay, Gregory Turay, and Catherine Clarke Nardolillo also performed. The AcoUstiKats and UK Blue Steel appeared on stage as well.
As part of the Centennial Celebration, Berea College student-artists designed, built, and upholstered over a hundred new chairs for the Mansion. Each “County Seats Legacy Project” chair represents a Kentucky county.
“We are so fortunate to have had the unbelievably talented student-artists at Berea work on this legacy project,” Governor Steve Beshear said. “I cannot think of a better pairing than to have Kentucky artists craft furniture for our state’s executive residence. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime, entirely Kentucky project.”
Berea student artists are part of the college’s Student Craft Education program, which has been part of the school since 1893. Over 100 students work 10 to 15 hours weekly in the various departments. They produce works that maintain ties to the elemental nature of Appalachia. Their crafts embody design excellence, a respect for materials, and honor in hard work.
“The chairs or ‘seats’ that the Mansion formerly used for large-scale events were in poor condition, unsafe for guests and in desperate need of replacement,” said Ann Evans, executive director of the Governor’s Mansion. “We thought that the Centennial Celebration would be the perfect time to replace the dilapidated chairs, but because of tight and limited budgets, we had to get creative.”
“Individuals, businesses, and local organizations from all of our Kentucky counties stepped up to the plate for this project,” said First Lady Jane Beshear. “On behalf of KEMFI and all Kentuckians, I want to thank each donor for his or her generous contribution. Thanks to this legacy project, each Kentucky county will be represented at the Mansion for many years to come.”