One of the first acts scheduled for the Oct. 11 Debate Festival at Centre College was in town this week getting an early look at the leafy venue he hopes will be even more pristine after his performance.
Lanny Smith, better known as Earthman, is scheduled to present his combination of what he calls “commercial music with a message” about keeping a clean environment at the festival’s noon start time. He may dabble in different musical genres, but the message is consistent and fairly simple.
“My focus is using music and the arts to motivate, to inspire, people to take care of the environment,” said Smith, who produces music videos and creates environmentally-minded arts curricula for schools in addition to his performance schedule.
Smith was booked for the concert by Donna Fechter, Boyle County solid waste and recycling coordinator, through a Kentucky Division of Waste Management grant received by Boyle County Fiscal Court. He is currently artist — or “eco-artist,” as he puts it — in residence in Clark and Madison counties.
Fechter said she had heard of Smith but became better acquainted with his work since he has been in the state.
“We’re really excited about it, because it is something kids and grownups can enjoy, and we want whole families to come out for this together,” Fechter said. “I’ve listened to his music, and I think people will be entertained. He’s very talented.”
Smith resides in the West Palm Beach, Fla., area but said he came out of the peace movement of the 1960s and spent decades on and off as a songwriter in Nashville. Although climate change and other environmental issues have become heavily politicized, Smith said the message of never spoiling the earth with any kind of garbage is one that can resonate with anyone.
“I want people to realize we’ve got the power to change the future,” Smith said. “If we can put a man on the moon and create computer chips that do these amazing things, we can do things like turning off the water when we brush our teeth.”
The Earthman act and persona — easy to identify when he dons his globe costume — appeal to children, but he said he performs at colleges, churches and conferences with audiences that span generations. He has worked with the South Florida Water Management District, Miami-Dade School System and the Florida Marlins, among other groups, and has won accolades for his songs.
Fechter hopes the performance has green ripple effects for people in the audience. Her crews won’t be able to be everywhere inside the debate area because of security, but she said there will be numerous large and small recycling containers so nobody will even have to consider going against Earthman’s values.
“No matter who you are, or what political position you take, people don’t like to look at litter,” Fechter said. “We’ve got company coming here, and we want people to see how beautiful what we have here is.”