Smithsonian traveling exhibit opens this weekend in Boyle County

Published 4:00 pm Thursday, September 7, 2023

News Release

Kentucky Humanities is bringing the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street traveling exhibit, SPARK! Places of Innovation, to six Kentucky communities. The Boyle County Public Library in Danville will be hosting the exhibition from Sept. 9-Oct. 14.

SPARK! Places of Innovation will highlight innovation in rural America from the perspective of the people who lived it. Their words, images, and experiences gathered through an ambitious crowdsourcing initiative will be the heartbeat of the exhibition. Technical, social, cultural, artistic, or a combination of all of these — every innovation is as unique as each community.

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SPARK! Places of Innovation explores the unique combination of places, people, and circumstances that sparks innovation and invention in rural communities. Inspired by an exhibition by the National Museum of American History, the exhibition features stories gathered from diverse communities across the nation. Photographs, engaging interactives, objects, videos, and augmented reality bring a multilayered experience to reveal the leaders, challenges, successes, and future of innovation in each town.

Visitors to the exhibition will be inspired to learn how innovation has shaped their own communities and how they may be innovators themselves. This exhibition will explore questions such as:

• What is the role of creative thinkers and inventors in a town?

• What resources do towns have for innovation and invention?

• How does a place encourage risk-taking?

• How can diversity spark innovation?

“SPARK! Places of Innovation tells the stories of small towns that made big differences in their communities,” said Public Services Manager Jennifer Schroeder, who played a role in bringing the exhibit to Danville. “Our hope is that these stories of innovation and creativity will ‘spark’ conversations about how we can come together to tackle the challenges we face as a community.”

Youth Innovation in Rural America

While some innovations are on a large scale, smaller scale innovations can make a big impact on their communities. Whether the need was a children’s bookstore, a place for people to gather, or an outlet for residents to explore their creative side, innovators in our community recognized those needs and figured out a way to meet them.

In conjunction with the traveling SPARK! Exhibit, Kentucky Humanities awarded a $1,000 grant to local students participating in the Youth Innovation in Rural America project. Earlier this year, students in grades 7-12 participated in a community-based design challenge. They brainstormed and identified unique challenges faced by their community. Students in Danville interviewed Boyle County residents to determine that one of the biggest challenges facing their community was the lack of a safe and inclusive gathering place for young adults. With the help of CentreWorks, they put together a prototype called The 3rd Place: Teen Space that was unveiled this summer. This designated space would be just for teens, and would feature fun, games, food, music, and more. The next step in the process is to work with the community to find a permanent home for the teen space.

Community Partners “take flight” in SPARK!

The Take Flight project is a series of murals that invites Boyle County residents to visit several of our innovative cultural and community organizations and businesses. “Murals encourage people to slow down and take time to notice and admire their surroundings,” said Schroeder. “Murals can also act as collective thought spaces by creating a dialogue around a subject through what they depict. We hope this series of murals will encourage our community to think about what our stories, caffeine & conversation, community, learning, literacy, and creativity means to them.”

Pick up a Take Flight Passport at the Library or at any of our community partner locations: Art Center of the Bluegrass; Grace Doherty Library (Centre College); Morley’s Backyard; The Hub; and Plaid Elephant Books. Participants who visit these community partners, take a photo in front of the mural, and have their passports stamped at each location can turn their completed passports in to the library to be entered into a prize drawing.

Innovation Station

Throughout the run of the SPARK! exhibit, adults and youth can visit the library’s Innovation Stations. These creative spaces will provide visitors with opportunities to explore their own inventiveness through a variety of hands-on activities. Library visitors will be invited to explore their own inventiveness and create, innovate, and problem-solve through a variety of hands-on activities.

The Innovation Station includes many activities that help spark and encourage innovation & creativity. The Innovation Station is divided into two rooms: Beginner (for all ages) and Advanced* (for ages 13+). The two rooms are located on the 5th Level of the Library, in the Multipurpose Room (Beginner) and the Map Room (Advanced).

Activities in the Beginner Room include magnetic building tiles; electronic motor robot kits; magnetic sticks; color-sensing robot; engine workshop; chain reaction; magnets; LEGOs; Brain Flakes; straws and connectors; K’Nex; Marble Run; snap circuits; and arts & crafts supplies.

Activities in the Advanced Room include a 3D Printer; Dremel Tool; sewing machine; knitting needles; crochet hooks; washi tape; oil pastels; calligraphy pens; motor kits; acrylic paint; pixel bricks; polymer clay and tools; robot kits; and arts & crafts supplies.

Due to the complexity of some of the tools in the advanced room, training is required to use that part of the Innovation Station. An hour-long “Innovation Station How-To” group training session will be offered on Tuesday, September 12 at 6:00 PM, otherwise appointments are needed for training to use the advanced portion of the Innovation Station. *Ages 13-15 must have a guardian who has been trained present while using the Advanced Station. Patrons who are unable to attend the how-to training session can contact the library to make an appointment to be trained on the tools.