The Hubbard Legacy

Louisville filmmaker features
Hubbards in documentary

The late artist left a legacy with his lifestyle, work

By Don Ward

(April 2011) – Harlan and Anna Hubbard lived solitary, simple lives in Payne Hollow, nestled along the Ohio River in Trimble County, Ky. It was in this quiet setting the Hubbards lived without electricity, farmed, fished, read books and played classical music, he on a violin and she on a baby grand piano.

Harlan also painted and wrote his many books there in the hollow, drawing inspiration from his natural surroundings.

The Hubbards died in the late 1980s – Anna in 1986 and Harlan in 1988 – but now a Louisville-based filmmaker has begun work on a documentary on their lives. Morgan Atkinson has logged 30 years as a filmmaker, the past 25 running his own film production company, Duckworks Inc. He works on commission mostly but in this case has chosen to focus on the Hubbards in hopes of getting the final product aired statewide on Kentucky Educational Television and maybe even nationally on the Public Broadcast System.

“Once I get going on a project like this I typically complete it in about a year to a year and a half, but it depends on fundraising to pay the bills. And in this economy is can be tough, no matter how worthy the subject matter is,” said Atkinson, 61, during a March 24 telephone interview.

Atkinson is a Louisville native and a University of Kentucky graduate who has made dozens of films, with about 15 airing on KET and several nationally on PBS. Recent productions have focused on Louisville musician Tim Krekel, Anglo-American Catholic writer Thomas Merton and “Black Like Me” author John Howard Griffin.

Atkinson is being assisted with research on the Hubbard project by a close friend, John Kasey. He already has interviewed several Madison area residents who knew the Hubbards personally, although none of the interviews were conducted on camera. Those interviewed so far include Bob and Charlotte Canida of Madison; Joann Weeter of Louisville; Don Wallis of Yellow Springs, Ohio; Bill Cadell of Frankfort, Ind.; and Laurie Risch of Covington, Ky. Paul Hassfurder was also interviewed.

Weeter spent many hours with the Hubbards recording oral history tapes. Wallis was a close friend and has written books about the Hubbards. Caddell owns a large collection of Hubbard watercolors and wood cuts. Risch directs the Behringer-Crawford Museum, which has a large collection of Hubbard’s artwork and occasionally exhibits them.

Atkinson says he plans to interview more people and spent one afternoon in Payne Hollow with Hassfurder, who inherited the 61-acre property from Hubbard after having helped care for him in his latter years. In addition, Atkinson has spent considerable time recently at the University of Louisville Archive, where all of Hubbard’s original writings and papers are stored.

Atkinson also is trying to raise about $150,000, which he says is what he needs to complete the project. So far, the experience has been life changing for him.

“I don’t pretend to live like the Hubbards and don’t think anyone would, but we can all learn something from their lives and incorporate it into our lives,” Atkinson said. “For instance our relationships with others could be improved if we just spent more time with our spouses or friends. The story of Harlan and Anna Hubbard is so inspirational and represents something a lot of people today strive for. They found meaning and contentment while living outside the normal rat race.”

Atkinson said his decision to focus on Hubbard stemmed from his recent documentaries on Merton and Griffin, whom Atkinson says are “two distinct men of the 20th century who had impact on their times.

Although they are all very different, I can see Harlan Hubbard as a distinct man who left an imprint on his time.”

Two previous KET documentaries have been done on the Hubbards – the first in 1980 by filmmaker John Morgan and the second in the mid-1990s for KET’s “Kentucky Life” series.

Atkinson says the Hubbards’ lives were so inspirational that it bears visiting again. He hopes that when completed, it could be premiered sometime next year at Madison’s Ohio Theatre or at Hanover College, which houses a significant collection of Hubbard artwork.

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