The arts meet history at Cartmell

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School play honors heroes of Kentucky

By Phyllis McLaughlin

From the battles of Bryan Station and Blue Licks during the Revolutionary War to keeping the Underground Railroad on track prior to the Civil War, Kentucky has lots of heroes to celebrate.


Students at Cartmell Elementary School last week learned about these points in the state’s and the country’s history through the arts, with the help from artist-in-residence Bob Ford.

Last time Ford was in town, several years ago, he worked with the students several times throughout the year to help them write and produce a play about local history.

This year, he said, funding wasn’t available until January, and then school was out for nearly two weeks because of snow and ice. So, he spent a full week helping the students learn a play that he’d already written.

Ford said his goal is for the children to learn about the people from the past and why they did what they did. Through costumes and building sets, the students get a feel for what life was like 100 or 200 years ago.

Though he doesn’t expect them to remember everything, Ford believes they will retain a lot of the information, which will come back to them when they study those periods again.

“Through the arts, you can layer information in with their [educational] foundation. ... The arts are kinda like rebar,” which is used to reinforce concrete, he said. “They hold that ‘building’ together.”

Ford said it was the women who saved Bryan Station, a fort in the wilderness during the Revolutionary War. Though the soldiers knew the enemy was waiting to ambush them, they sent the women out on their daily chore to bring in water. The Indians and the British were waiting to attack when the men came out to do chores. Instead, the women were able to bring back water that saved the fort from being burned to the ground.

Many of the men later died at Blue Licks, however, not heeding Daniel Boone’s warning that though the enemy retreated, they were waiting to ambush the men who would follow them away from the fort, Ford said.

Though it was rushed, Ford said the children did a really good job. “It’s not Broadway, but they all auditioned, which is part of team-building,” he said.

“I’m always surprised at how good the production is by the end. The kids always seem to come through.”