Berea: Where Art's Alive
Officially designated as the arts and crafts capital of Kentucky, Berea is a favorite shopping destination for those looking for handmade Kentucky items. Located in Madison County just south of Lexington on I-75, Berea is situated between the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains and the Bluegrass plains. The city is unique in having cultural assets in several distinct clusters within the city boundaries, including College Square, the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea, Old Town Artisan Village and Chestnut Street.
The community’s history is intertwined with that of Berea College, founded in 1855 by an abolitionist minister as a model for educating men and women of all races. After 1904 the college largely served Appalachian students, charging no tuition and requiring all students to work in a college industry. Fireside Industries, Berea’s student craft business, began in 1883, and thus began Berea’s reputation as a center of craft tradition and production. Today, through Student Craft Industries, more than 200 students and craft professionals in the community produce weaving, woodcraft, needlecraft, ceramics, broomcraft and wrought iron products that are marketed internationally. Berea is also home to the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen.
College Square and Chestnut Street have many shops featuring art and craft as well as restaurants. Berea Arts Council presents visual arts exhibits, workshops, literary readings and summer art camps. Open artist studios and shops selling hand-crafted products abound in Old Town, where you can watch the artists at work. Berea’s Festival of Learnshops presents hands-on art workshops twice a year. Participants can choose from dozens of sessions and work one-on-one with professional artisans.
The Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea has a 25,000 square-foot retail and exhibition gallery featuring only Kentucky-made products. The finely-crafted works on display are accompanied by information about the artisans and the materials they use to create their work. Regional cuisine at reasonable prices is available at the center’s café.
Berea Cultural District
Berea Tourism Executive Director
Berea Cultural District links and attractions: