The Northern Kentucky Heritage League was formed in 1967 by three friends -- Ben Baker, George Dreyer and Luella LeVee -- who met to discuss the beginning of a fine arts association for Northern Kentucky. Another purpose was to support the grassroots effort to establish a gallery for the exhibition of works by the famed Covington artist Frank Duveneck. Originally, the organization was called the Northern Kentucky Fine Arts League, but the name was later changed because of complaints from Cincinnati’s Fine Arts Fund and to be more descriptive of its purpose: "To foster all forms of art, music, and architecture that make up our heritage and culture."
In the summer of 1967, the Frank Duveneck Gallery was established at the Covington Library, which was then located in the Carnegie Building at Scott and Robbins Streets. The dedication of Northern Kentucky’s first public gallery was a celebration attended by such dignitaries as Senator John Sherman, the Director of National Galleries, then Governor Edward Breathitt, and Duveneck’s son and granddaughter.
The NKHL was appointed to make a complete inventory of the landmarks in Northern Kentucky. This was forwarded to the Kentucky Heritage Commission, which recognized and erected markers at 12 sites (later 18 more were added). By the end of the first year the League was embroiled in two controversies – the bringing of a floating restaurant to Riverside Drive and an urban renewal project that called for all riverfront structures between the Licking River and Greenup Street to be razed and replaced by hotels, apartments and other commercial uses.
Joining with the residents of the area, League members did manage to stop the renewal project, and the houses on Riverside Drive and the north side of Second Street were saved. This was a tremendous victory for the organization. The League won the approval of Covington commissioners to reconstruct and beautify George Rogers Clark Park. When the work was finished in the spring of 1969, an art show was planned. This became the annual Duveneck Art Show and the tradition continues today.
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Through the NKHL President’s Project, we often invest in other organizations by presenting grants of $1,000 or less to aid non-profit groups with their projects.
Since its inception in 1980, more than 50 organizations have benefited for a total of more than $50,000. Most groups are local, but we have also supported state and national projects.
The list of local groups that have received President's Project grants includes Baker Hunt Art and Cultural Center (in memory of Bernie Moorman), Episcopal Memorial Garden (in memory of David Stolberg), St. Walburg Monastery and the Covington Ladies Home
The NKHL has also given more than $44,000 in prize money to regional artists at the Duveneck Memorial Art Show that's held each spring.