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KET’s Kentucky Muse shines light on Kentucky’s role in The Index of American Design


KET’s Kentucky Muse shines light on Kentucky’s role in The Index of American Design

For Release: 01/11/17 12:32 PM

While not as well known today as other New Deal work relief programs such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA), The Index of American Design was a 1930s Federal Art Project which put artists to work producing an index, or catalog, of paintings of pre-1900s American functional art in order to preserve and document them for future generations.

KET’s latest Kentucky Muse program Kentucky By Design examines Kentucky’s role in the creation of The Index of American Design. The program airs Monday, Jan. 30 at 9:30/8:30 pm on KET.

During the 1930s, between 200 and 300 watercolor renderings for the Index of American Design were produced in Kentucky under the direction of Kentucky’s Index curator Adele Brandeis, whose committee decided which local artifacts to include.

Artifacts featured in the Index were functional art of exceptional beauty – textiles, furniture, cookware, pottery, weather vanes, toys, banks and more – that through their design were deemed to help document and define a uniquely “American” art sensibility.

KET’s program draws inspiration from a recent exhibit at Louisville’s Frazier History Museum, also entitled “Kentucky By Design,” which runs through Feb. 12. The exhibit displays many of the Index drawings alongside their original, source art, and many of these striking parings are shared in the Kentucky Muse documentary. The Frazier Museum’s exhibit is thought to be the first of its kind to highlight a single state’s role in the creation of the Index.

The program includes commentary by esteemed historians and art history authorities, including the Frazier Museum’s president and CEO Penelope Peavler and chief curator Brigid Muldoon; Dr. Erika Doss, professor of American Studies at the University of Notre Dame; Stacy Hollander, chief curator at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City; art historian Allan Weiss; curator and appraiser Shelly Zegart; and Dr. Jerry Hirsch, professor emeritus of history at Truman University.

“The Index of American Design shows us that the line between craft and fine art can be very blurred,” Peavler said. Studying the art included in the Index encourages you to “take time to look at what’s around you, in order to see the beauty in the everyday.”

Kentucky Muse is a KET production, produced by Tom Thurman. Teresa Day is executive producer.

KET is Kentucky’s largest classroom, serving more than one million people each week via television, online and mobile. Learn more about Kentucky’s preeminent public media organization on Twitter @KET and and at


Todd Piccirilli
Senior Director, Marketing and Communications