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Mountain Workshops collection complete

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Book available for sale at Hardin County Schools Performing Arts Center

By Marty Finley

Hardin County residents soon will be able to hold a piece of local history in their hands.

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Western Kentucky University’s Mountain Workshops has completed its work on a black-and-white coffee table book titled

“At Home in the Heartland” that chronicles the lives of local residents through the lenses and pens of photojournalists.

The coffee table book is on sale beginning today for $15 at the Hardin County Schools Performing Arts Center at John Hardin High School. PAC Director Bart Lovins said 300 copies of the book are available. Proceeds from sales will will benefit the PAC.

Lovins said the PAC will be the exclusive distributor of the book and the center is working on a method to sell it online.

“(It’s) a limited edition,” he said.

Elizabethtown was the site of the 35th Mountain Workshops in October 2010, a multi-day journal of the community headed by WKU’s photojournalism department, which took volunteers throughout Hardin County in search of interesting visuals and enticing local stories.

The workshops partner teachers, students and professionals together as they engage in visual storytelling in small communities by focusing on photojournalism, picture editing and multimedia.

During its time in Hardin County, The Mountain Workshops captured images and stories as diverse as the geography, profiling families and capturing facets of small-town life, including candid shots of public officials, barbers and dairy farmers.

A roughly 25-minute documentary from the workshop also will be shown on HCEC-TV and inside the PAC lobby in the near future, Lovins added. He said they are working through formatting issues with the video and should have the documentary available “in a week or so.”

In the meantime, those interested in viewing the documentary can watch it free at www.mountainworkshops.org.

A photo exhibit from the workshops also will be on display at the PAC, Lovins added.

“It’s quite wonderful,” he said of the exhibit.

The PAC worked with the chamber of commerce and tourism officials last year to coordinate the sale of the book and Lovins said it is a great tie-in to the center’s 2011-12 season, “Homespun Fun.”

Lovins said the PAC tries to capture the best talent from around the world but is focusing this season on the wealth of local talent, shining a light on the best around the corner.

Mountain Workshops has surged in size since its modest beginnings in eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, where roughly a dozen students traveled to photograph and archive footage of the last vestiges of one-room schools in the mountainous region that defined the workshops by name. Now the workshops are sponsored by national corporations and attract professionals from around the country to coach photographers during the process.

The workshops in Elizabethtown also attracted national attention as photo galleries from the visit were featured on MSNBC’s website last year.

Rik Hawkins saw a lot of the preliminary work poured into Mountain Workshops and witnessed firsthand the work ethic of the photojournalists while serving as executive director of the Elizabethtown-Hardin County Chamber of Commerce.

Hawkins hoped to catch his first glimpse of the book this week and said it provides an exemplary historical snapshot for the community to cherish for years.

“I’m excited to see it,” he said. 

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.