The Kentucky Center: Investing In Community

Heather Weston Bell.

Heather Weston Bell.

As senior vice president of education and community arts at The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, Heather Weston Bell oversees the many diverse arts education and outreach initiatives offered by the Center. Besides being a nationally recognized venue for the performing arts, The Center makes great investments in bolstering arts awareness and helping people of all ages discover their “inner-artist.”

LORI KOMMOR: The Kentucky Center does more than attract world-class performers to the Commonwealth – tell us a little about the wider mission.
HEATHER WESTON BELL: Unlike some of our peer institutions, The Center is a non-profit organization dedicated not only to providing high-quality, artistically diverse performances, but also to creating initiatives that expand and diversify audiences while enhancing understanding and appreciation of the arts as a whole. With that in mind, The Center has developed numerous programs for audiences of all ages.

One of those is ArtsReach. Since 1991, ArtsReach has woven the arts into the fabric of our neighborhoods, community centers and other civic organizations through studio arts instruction in dance and violin, residencies with renowned artists, providing affordable tickets to arts performances, staff professional development and community performances, as well as monthly Open Mic community events.

KOMMOR: Does the Center’s reach extend beyond Louisville?
WESTON BELL: It does. The Center partners with the Kentucky Department of Education to provide professional development for teachers across the Commonwealth through Next Generation Academies for Arts Integration; with Kentucky Arts Council to provide our ArtsReach model of building community arts partnerships in seven other communities; and in administering the Governor’s School for the Arts (GSA) program.

Every summer, GSA, through its faculty of professional teaching artists, guides over 200 of Kentucky’s most talented high school juniors and seniors through three weeks of intense, immersive arts instruction. Its reputation is in providing a life-changing experience, often resulting in college and career direction. Though the cost per student is $3,800, GSA is tuition-free to ensure the program is an opportunity available for all. Thanks to Toyota, The Center’s main sponsor, the state, and other contributors for making this program possible.

Community partnerships are obviously very important to The Kentucky Center.

KOMMOR: Do they provide you with greater reach?
WESTON BELL: Definitely. They also help us bring unique talent to our stages. Made possible through a generous partnership with Louisville’s Gheens Foundation, the Gheens Artist Residency Program brings some of the world’s finest artists to Louisville for performances and residencies that focus on engaging and inspiring our community. In early February, Gheens presented trumpeter Natalie Dungey in a performance with the Louisville Orchestra. During Natalie’s week in Louisville, she provided workshops and demonstrations at six JCPS schools, deepening her impact in the community.

KOMMOR: Where else can we find Kentucky Center programming?
WESTON BELL: Actually, we’re developing quite the presence in the local healthcare community, thanks to our Arts in Healing program. As defined by the National Endowment for the Arts, Arts in Healing is “an international movement that works to infuse the full spectrum of the arts into healthcare settings, resulting in programs and healthcare environments that are welcoming and uplifting for caregivers, patients, their families and visitors.”

Thanks to the Humana Foundation, the Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, the Center partners with area healthcare providers such as the Veterans Administration and Kentucky One Health to take highly acclaimed local and national artists into places of healing, providing quality performances and interactive arts experiences. For example, our program at Home of the Innocents is currently offering art, hip-hop and poetry in six-week residencies, thanks to the support of Kosair Charities and WHAS Crusade for Children.

We would really like to see more people become engaged and learn about our initiatives. Visit or contact me directly (by emailing)