Art Works Blog

The Big Read Spotlight on Pennyroyal Arts Council

Nestled in the small city of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, Pennyroyal Arts Council is using the Big Read as an opportunity to spark conversation and bring its community together.

As a second year Big Read participant, Pennyroyal’s committee chose to read To Kill A Mockingbird, for this year’s program. According to Pennyroyal Executive Director Margaret Prim, they chose this classic Southern novel to generate a discussion focused on issues facing Hopkinsville in the past and present, and also to explore the community’s future.

“To Kill a Mockingbird seemed to be a really general book that touched a lot of folks in our community,” Prim said. “It gave everybody a great history lesson.”

Through partnerships with local schools and colleges, Pennyroyal invited professors and other speakers to host various literary discussions around the themes presented in the book. One such panel titled, Race Relations in Hopkinsville, was supported by media partner WKMS and proved to be one of the most well attended events.

Prim said that these relationships formed through the Big Read have been valuable to the community because of the exposure each organization gets with each other. It gives them a chance to educate one another about the work they are doing.

“[Our partnerships] have helped us work together better as a community,” said Prim. “And we carried those relationships on besides just the Big Read.”

Although Hopkinsville is a small rural city, with limited hands working on event production and planning, they managed to host a program with diverse events that were attractive to a broad range of residents.

“I think [the Big Read has] been a way to draw people that wouldn't normally gather together,” said Prim. “This year, we touched about 8,300 people in our community,” she noted. “About one in every four people that live in Hopkinsville participated in some activity of the Big Read.” 

Supper in the Cemetery was an event where Hopkinsville folks presented their own version of the characters in the novel—complete with Boo Radley, Scout, Atticus Finch, and Dill Harris. Atticus in the Courtoom invited local Hopkinsville actor Wayne Gooslby to reprise the role of Atticus Finch in the courtroom with local townspeople comprising the jury. In addition to film screenings and activities for little readers, Prim shared with us that the most successful event of them all was the kick-off celebration, where Mary Badham, the actress who played Scout in the novel’s movie, joined the crowd.

Prim says that one of the things she learned about Hopkinsville through the program is that there are interested people in the community who are willing to get into discussion about a range of issues.

“Everyone is very excited about the possibility of doing one next year,” said Prim. “That's been very refreshing.” 


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