folkartfestNewton, NC – Two Kentucky artists will present programs at three Newton-Conover elementary schools in conjunction with the Foothills Folk Art Festival, which will be held in Downtown Newton on Saturday, Oct. 1.

Minnie Adkins, a legendary wood carver; and Mike Norris, a singer/songwriter and author; will present programs at North Newton, Shuford and South Newton elementary schools on Sept. 29 and 30. Fifth-graders at North Newton Elementary School will also make art that will be displayed at the festival. This project was funded by a grant from the Unifour Foundation, which is administered by the North Carolina Community Foundation.

The two artists will attend the Foothills Folk Art Festival, where Adkins will sell her unique animal carvings. They will also be selling the collector edition of their latest children’s book, “Mommy Goose: Rhymes from the Mountains,” which includes a CD of original songs by Norris.

The book, published by the University Press of Kentucky, includes nearly 50 nursery rhymes written by Norris that are based on the language and culture of the Appalachian Mountains. Photographs of wood carvings by Adkins illustrate the book.

At the elementary schools, Adkins will share memories of her childhood through wood carving demonstrations. Norris will sing songs related to the children’s book while playing the guitar and harmonica.

Adkins has received numerous awards for her work, including the Individual Artist Award of the (Kentucky) Governor’s Awards in the Arts, and the Distinguished Artist Award from the Folk Art Society of America.

Born in 1934 in rural East Kentucky, she grew up carving small toys for herself. After marrying, she and her husband, Garland, moved to Dayton, Ohio. During this time, she began to carve small wooden animals and sell them at the local flea market. When the couple returned to Kentucky in 1983, she gained the attention of Morehead State University, which eventually opened the Kentucky Folk Art Center to showcase her work and that of other Kentucky artists.

She and her husband, who collaborated with her in making art, began a folk art festival called A Day in the Country on their farm. Folk art collectors traveled to the festival from many states and even foreign countries. Eventually, Morehead State took over the festival, since it had grown too large for Adkins to manage. Her home county recently began a second folk art festival in her honor, Minnie Adkins Day in Elliott County.

Hickory Museum of Art’s ongoing Discover Folk Art exhibition, featuring work by self-taught artists, includes “Mama Pig and Piglets,” a three-dimensional acrylic painting on wood, created by Adkins and donated to the museum by Albert Keiser Jr.

Norris and Adkins met at Centre College, Kentucky, where he was employed, when she received an award from that institution. This chance meeting led to their collaboration on three children’s books: “Bright Blue Rooster: Down on the Farm,” “Sonny the Monkey,” and their latest book, “Mommy Goose: Rhymes from the Mountains.”

The Foothills Folk Art Festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1 in Downtown Newton. It is a partnership between Hickory Museum of Art and the Downtown Newton Development Association and is being hosted by the City of Newton. The festival site around the 1924 Courthouse Square will include more than 75 artists from the region, who will be selling their art. There will also be special children’s activities, live bands, food trucks and beer gardens. Parking will be available in designated areas, with shuttle buses taking guests to and from the festival. Admission is free.

For more information about the festival, and to see all of our sponsors, please visit For the latest updates, like the festival’s Facebook page at

Photo: Minnie Adkins and Mike Norris of Kentucky will attend the Foothills Folk Art Festival on Saturday, Oct. 1, where they will sell folk art and Appalachian-themed children’s books. They will also be Artists in the Schools in the days leading up to the festival.