It's no secret that eastern Kentucky has a lot of talent, but only at the Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg can you find a place where that local talent is put on display.
It's not just musical talent that the Mountain Arts Center specializes in, their mission goes far beyond that.
From dueling pianos, to comedians, the Kentucky Opry and everything in between, since 1996 the MAC stage has been home to performers of all kinds, but it's where the performers are from that make the Mountain Arts Center so special.
"We love to get the locals on the stage. Our Kentucky Opry which was why the building was built and the Kentucky Opry Junior shows, all the people in those shows are from eastern Kentucky. We are proud of that fact," said Executive Director Keith Caudill.
Caudill was there when the idea first spawned from founder Billie Jean Osborne.
"From day one we realized this place was something special . We all had in our minds what we thought it would be, and what would happen, but we had no idea that it would become as important as it is," said Caudill.
Now, more than 15 years later, The Mountain Arts Center is thriving, providing locals with the opportunity to do something they love right in their own back yard, but it's off the stage where Keith Caudill believes they have the most impact.
"A lot of people think about The Mountain Arts Center, they think about shows, and shows are just a small part of what we do. There are so many other things going on. We have 250 students taking lessons here at the center every week. We have student matinees, audio visual classes," said Caudill.
They display a different local artist in the lobby every month, and even have a mining display to show off artifacts and pictures of the most important industry in our area.
"I have not been to another part of the country that has something like this," said Caudill.
Caudill says visitors come in amazed by what's going on at the Mountain Arts Center and ask why they don't have one of them in their community.
"I think we take them for granted here sometimes because for us it's normal. You know our visitors come in and they are blown away by the level and caliber of talent, and we look at them and say well that's just normal level for us," said Caudill.
The MAC is only possible with the unending support of the community.
"It's had such a positive influence on the region and not just with our local performers and doing the shows, but with all the other things: the lessons, the arts education classes, the students matinees," said Caudill.
But as with any visionary, Caudill says there is still more that can be done here.
"If anything I feel bad about is that we can't get more people on the stage from our area because its such an important part of our mission, is to get our local performers up here on this stage," said Caudill.
The 2012 East Kentucky Leadership Award for the Arts and Culture goes to Keith Caudill and the Mountain Arts Center.
Several individuals and organizations will be honored with East Kentucky Leadership Awards next Thursday in Prestonsburg.
There is still time for you to register to attend the ceremony.
You can contact the Prestonsburg Convention and Visitors Bureau at 606-886-1341or on line by going to www.eklf.org.