Jody Richards and Judge Mike Buchanon’s Impact on Skypac’s Legacy

by | Nov 2023

THE SOUTHERN Kentucky Performing Arts Center (SKyPAC) stands as a testament to the power of dedicated individuals who believe in the transformative nature of the arts. Two key figures, Jody Richards and Judge Mike Buchanon, have played pivotal roles in the center’s history, ensuring its success and continued growth. 

Jody Richards, an advocate for the arts, is not only the visionary who secured the initial state grant for the funding of the SKyPAC building but also serves as the Arts Advocacy Committee Chair. His relentless commitment to the arts has been a driving force behind SKyPAC’s enduring success. 

“Before this, we had not had a first-class venue for the arts,” Richards said. “A couple of other communities in Kentucky had gotten some state help for their performing arts centers, and I happened to be Speaker of the Kentucky House at that time, and it became a major initiative of mine to get the money to build a first-class performing arts center for Southern Kentucky in Bowling Green. And it’s been so successful since then.” 

Richards said SkyPAC was designed perfectly because the location is great in the downtown area. It’s not tucked away like some other performing arts centers in the state. 

A significant moment in Richards’ journey was when he received an honorary plaque of recognition for his contributions. This recognition is a testament to the profound impact he has had on the arts in Southern Kentucky. 

“It is just amazing,” Richards said. “Programming is better now, and we are on better financial footing, so I am really excited about where SKyPAC is now and where it’s going in the future.” 

He said SKyPAC is doing exactly what they set out and intended for it to do: “providing good arts and entertainment to the people in Bowling Green and beyond.” 

He also mentioned that SKyPAC reaches its entertainment and educational goals by giving opportunities to high school, elementary, and college students wanting to take part in the arts. 

Richards said it wouldn’t have been possible without the tremendous help from Judge Mike Buchanon. 

“The people who never thought they’d see an opportunity in artistic expression are getting an opportunity because of SKyPAC and because of the Arts of Southern Kentucky,” Buchanon said. 

Buchanon, along with the Warren County Fiscal Court, played a pivotal role in SKyPAC’s early financial struggles. Their unwavering support ensured that the center remained open and continued to be a beacon for the arts in the region. 

“I’m very proud to have been a small part of it,” Buchanan admitted. 

He has wanted to play a role in something like this for many years, ever since he was the president of the Capital Arts Association in 1989. 

“I always had the desire and need for a larger theatre for Broadway plays and many musical events,” he said. “We talked about it for many, many years.” 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, SKyPAC, like many arts centers across the country, faced the grim prospect of closure. However, Judge Buchanon’s leadership was instrumental in preventing this unfortunate outcome, preserving the heart of the local art scene. 

Buchanon chairs Arts of Southern Kentucky’s Public Arts Committee, which is spearheading a public arts initiative in the community. SKyPAC is proud to be one of the first places to bring this initiative to life, with a 12-foot bronze sculpture to be displayed on the plaza. 

Judge Buchanon’s role in merging Orchestra Kentucky and SKyPAC in 2020 was a pivotal moment that led to the creation of a new organization, The Arts of Southern Kentucky. This expansion also included the acquisition of BG OnStage, Orchestra Kentucky, and the establishment of Ramsey Theatre Company, all under the umbrella of Arts of Southern Kentucky. 

Under Judge Buchanon’s leadership, there is a new life breathed into the performing arts center, securing a promising future. 

Recently, Buchanon was among the distinguished individuals recognized by Governor Andy Beshear for their outstanding contributions to Kentucky’s rich arts heritage. During the announcement of the 2023 Governor’s Awards in the Arts recipients, Governor Beshear expressed his pride in honoring artists who passionately share the arts with Kentuckians across the state. The ceremony held in October celebrated Buchanon and eight other recipients for their integral contributions to Kentucky’s thriving arts industry. 

The Kentucky Arts Council coordinates these awards on behalf of the Governor, and this year, Buchanon is acknowledged for his significant achievements in government arts contributions. 

Jody Richards and Judge Mike Buchanon are undeniably significant arts advocates for our community. Their unwavering dedication has left a mark on SKyPAC’s history and fostered the growth of the arts in Southern Kentucky. 

The success of SKyPAC is a result of the combined efforts of passionate individuals like Jody Richards and Judge Mike Buchanon. The vision, dedication, and unwavering support of these local heroes have been instrumental in transforming SKyPAC into the thriving cultural hub we cherish today. GN

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