In Berea you can celebrate Kentucky crafts by visiting dozens of artist’s studios, galleries, and stores.
The Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky, Berea is ranked among the top art communities in the U. S. Nestled between the Bluegrass region and the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains, Berea offers visitors over 40 arts and crafts shops featuring everything from handmade dulcimers and homemade chocolate to jewelry stores, art galleries, quilt-makers, and even glassblowing studios.
Sculptures of mythical beasts, vibrantly painted open hands, and historic architecture are a few of the delights as one wanders the town and college. Berea is a growing, unique, and creative community—a place where it can indeed be said that the—Arts are Alive!
Since the number of craft shops can be intimidating, stop by the Berea Welcome Center, housed in a restored 1920 L&N Railroad Depot, and pick up information and maps that will help you plan a tour of the town.
Perhaps Berea’s most famous craft shop is Churchill Weavers, one of America’s largest hand-weaving studios. Besides offering self-guided tours of weavers at work, there is a gift shop featuring the work of top artisans in various fields.
Boone Tavern, an imposing white-pillared structure located in downtown Berea, was originally constructed in 1909 to accommodate visitors to Berea College. Today, the hotel is the cornerstone of the town. Just off the lobby, the Berea Students Craft Store sells exquisitely crafted items produced by talented Berea College students, ranging from a simple rolling pin to a drop-leaf dining room table.
The story of Berea’s artisan community is interwoven with the historic Berea College, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South (1855). Many factors distinguish Berea College, including no student pays tuition; each student receives a Tuition Promise Scholarship worth nearly $100,000 over four years.
One of only seven federally recognized Work Colleges in the U.S., Berea College is home to 1,600 students who demonstrate great promise yet have limited economic resources. These students hail from various places, cultures, perspectives, and experiences. Every student receives a full-tuition scholarship, a campus job, and a high-quality liberal arts education, making Berea like no other college in the nation.
Because Berea and the surrounding area has so much to offer, you might want to stick around for several days or longer. The Oh! Kentucky Campground & RV Park in Berea is easy-on, easy-off I-75 at Exit 76, and can accommodate rigs of all sizes. Our pull-through campsite (# 63) was in the 75-foot range and level with utilities centrally located, and reliable Wi-Fi.
Berea is well known for its craft history and traditions as well as the wealth of talented artisans, fine craft galleries and shops located throughout Old Town, College Square, and Chestnut Street. New to this mix are exciting events and learning activities that are now available to visitors, RVers, and residents alike.
Another great place to stop is the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea situated alongside Interstate 75 at exit 77, only 2.5 miles from downtown Berea. The Center showcases innovative works in four to five special gallery exhibitions each year. Visitors can watch demonstrating artisans, musical performances, book signings, food tastings.
The Berea Arts Council offers a variety of year round arts experiences including exciting gallery exhibits and first-Friday readings. And Berea is also home to two exciting arts and craft fairs, both held annually in the beautiful woods of Indian Fort Theater.
Demonstrating artists and children’s activities are always a part of these enjoyable fairs making them a true family destination. The Berea Craft Festival is held annually in July, and the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsman’s Fall Fair is always held during the height of the autumn color season (October 14-17, in 2017).
Berea is a growing, unique and creative community—a place where it can indeed be said that the—Arts are Alive!
Crafts make us feel rooted, give us a sense of belonging and connect us with our history. Our ancestors used to create these crafts out of necessity, and now we do them for fun, to make money and to express ourselves.