Constance Alexander: Commonwealth Honors Academy help students escape their comfort zones

Take any daily task – turning a page, extinguishing a candle, popping a balloon – and students of Taylor Clements in Murray State University’s Commonwealth Honors Academy can raise it to a level of meandering directness stunning in its deliberate complexity. Clements calls the elective he teaches in the three-week program Special Topics in Design, but the fancy title stands for a series of problem-solving...

Constance Alexander: Penguin Project’s production of Willy Wonka delivers slew of sweets to all involved

The day before dress rehearsal and, true to form, things are going – well, not too smoothly. Lines are dropped, cues missed, and someone forgot part of a costume. A murmur ripples through the cast and crew of “Willy Wonka, Jr.” at Murray’s Playhouse in the Park. But before it swells into a wave and sweeps them all into panic, the voice of a cheerful and patient angel soothes the troubled waters. “We’re...

Constance Alexander: Commonwealth Honors Academy features forensics, a faceless chicken … and food

According to the website, the Commonwealth Honors Academy (CHA) at Murray State University offers “a rich range of recreational opportunities, cultural and artistic events, outstanding field experiences, and a distinguished convocation of speakers and classroom guests” that enhance the academic curriculum. With a focus on leadership and service, CHA features a required interdisciplinary Humanities...

Constance Alexander: Art of outreach is a give-and-take process, highlighted by Side by Side project

Lily Higgins stacked boxes in a pyramid and iced the surface with scads of glue glitter and pompoms to create “Racetrack Birthday Cake.” Garrison Kelly turned a piece of wood into a graceful mallet and used colored pencils to trim the ridges with a rainbow of blue, purple, yellow and orange. Jayson Walker’s inventive inclinations were sparked by storytelling, and he created a book called “Spiritual...

Constance Alexander: Kilroy’s universal meaning — it’s much deeper than simple graffiti

As the youngest of five kids and the only Baby Boomer in the bunch, I got the leftovers, the hand-me-downs, and a constant chorus of whispered jibes from my siblings that usually amounted to “You’re such a brat.” On the flip-side, I enjoyed the benefit of aging parents — too tired to follow my every move, and too spent to intervene in spats with my sisters and brother when I invaded their...

Constance Alexander: Inspired by a few ‘favorite things,’ arts bookmaking workshop a success

One of Allison Salazar’s favorite things is her service dog, Espy, short for Esperanza, which means “hope” in Spanish. Asked about other things she loves, Allison confesses a preference for the colors purple and pink, friends and the Special Olympics. Assisted by her mother, Kathy Salazar, Allison participated in a bookmaking workshop that showcases favorite things. Artist Nicole Hand guided...

Constance Alexander: Pre-existing conditions? It may just come down to the ‘luck of the draw’

Last week in Marshall County, silent protestors with placards claiming pre-existing conditions feigned death on the court house lawn. Inside, seats in the courtroom were filling up. People had come from work, grocery shopping, school, the usual. Several of the older participants might have forsaken a porch rocker or a booth at McDonald’s to attend. The mood was light, cordial, similar to the...

Constance Alexander: Abecedarian biography provides insights into who my mother was

Augustus: My mother’s real middle name was one she never used. Brooklyn: She was born there and stayed until her early teens, when she was uprooted to live with relatives in Westchester County, NY. Country Clubs: She worked at two of them – Gedney Farms and Scarsdale — and got to observe how the wealthy lived. Her jobs included room and board, a valuable benefit at that time in history. Depression:...

Constance Alexander: New poetry book ‘Chance Divine’ shows how the arts and science coalesce

Talk about STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) all you want, but without poetry, their mysteries and metaphors might be inaccessible to most of us. Take Kentucky poet Jeff Skinner’s newest book, for example. “Chance Divine” was inspired by particle physics, its visions and images the result of Skinner’s stint as Artist in Residence at the CERN Particle Accelerator...

Constance Alexander: Tour of gaseous diffusion plant offers history buffs a real blast from the past

A World War II veteran who fought at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, Chris Grevis, continued his service to the country by working at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP) from 1952 – 1955. Even now, at 90 years old, he can tell you his badge number – 2236. He rattles it off with a smile. “I’ll never forget it,” he said. Today, Chris lives in Toledo, Ohio, but he made the trip to Paducah last...

Constance Alexander: By meeting challenges day by day, Hannah Babcock proves ‘yes she can’

Not having kids of my own, I have taken vicarious pride over the years in watching other people’s children blossom into members of a caring community. So many of our young people in Murray, Ky., do amazing things at home and away, and one who has impressed me from the time she was a very tiny girl is Hannah Babcock. In a scant twenty years, Hannah has brought distinction to our town with many outstanding...

Constance Alexander: Inspirational ‘Ride with Larry’ film about a journey of hope lands in Murray April 20

Larry Smith is a tough guy. Sort of. He spent twenty-six years in law enforcement as a captain in Connecticut, with the Hamden Police Department. He’s been married long enough to raise three children and move to South Dakota when his wife, Betty, accepted a professorship in Political Science at the university there. Some might suspect that the tough guy went soft when he opened the Bakery Café in...

Constance Alexander: Compared to dealing with cancer, triathalon doesn’t seem so tough

On a frigid Sunday morning when turning off the alarm and going back to sleep made the most sense in the world, Lisa Reisman got out of bed to swim a half-mile loop in the Long Island Sound, cycle fourteen miles, and then run four more through slicing winds and driving rain. Not exactly a fun time, but compared to the challenge she’d faced ten years earlier – when a grade-four glioblastoma threatened...

Constance Alexander: Grant honors public health, Parkinson’s, poetry and people with disabilities

According to writer T.S Eliot, “April is the cruelest month,” but in Murray, Ky., it is one of the busiest. A series of events associated with poetry, Parkinson’s, and public health is planned for the community, in conjunction with the Murray-Calloway County Hospital’s Endowment for Health Care and the run-up to its 7th annual half-marathon, Saturday, April 22. Since April is National Poetry...

Constance Alexander: Path to wider accessibility includes both a process … and a playground

“Once you complete the survey, you’ll never look at a building the same way again,” Carrissa Johnson says. She is referring to Accessible Murray, a campaign that raises awareness of accessibility issues, and helps organizations identify whether their facilities are disability friendly. As an Independent Living Specialist for Murray’s Center for Accessible Living (CAL) — and a person...

Constance Alexander: Nita Head’s legacy perfection achieved when there’s nothing left to take away

My favorite story about Nita Head concerns weaving, an art she honed in later life. When her husband, Bob Head, told me the tale, he prefaced it by mentioning Nita’s frugality and discipline, traits likely acquired when she was growing up in the mountains of North Alabama. This is how it goes: After spending about 35 hours on a weaving, following the meticulous process of weft and warp, Nita discovered...

Constance Alexander: Inspired by images of people with disabilities, 7th graders celebrate Poetry Month

This year, January, February and March stacked up so fast, it has been hard to keep up. And now I hear the faint patter of graceful April approaching, fragrant as spring rain and sweet camellias. April is National Poetry Month, a time to celebrate the power of words. Compliments of the Academy of American Poets, this is the twenty-first birthday of Poetry Month. Western Kentucky is noting this important...

Murray writer, KyForward columnist Alexander selected Kentucky Arts Council’s featured artist

Constance Alexander, a writer of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, plays and essays and a columnist for KyForward, has been selected as the Kentucky Arts Council’s Featured Artist for March and April. Alexander is a 2003 recipient of the arts council’s Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship and was honored with the 2014 Governor’s Awards in the Arts Media Award. Childhood piano lessons and a love of...

Constance Alexander: Book arts project provides way to reach out to adults with disabilities

Even amidst the clutter of her busy office, a conversation with artist Nicole Hand is an island of calm, with the kind of easy back-and-forth associated with a porch swing or a hammock on a summer day. Currently a Professor of Art and Interim Assistant Dean at Murray State University, she teaches printmaking, bookbinding and drawing with a combination of grace, wit and wisdom. A noted artist in her...

Constance Alexander: New York Times best seller ‘Out of My Mind’ inspires community forum

Melody Brooks is overwhelmed by snowflakes. She is not, however, referring to the derogatory term for young people who are too emotionally vulnerable to cope with views that challenge her own. Instead, she thinks of words as snowflakes. “Each one delicate and different, each one melting untouched in my hands,” is the way she puts it. Melody’s passion for language goes back to her earliest memories....