Founded in 1961, the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen (KGAC) is headquartered in the Artisan Village in Old Town Berea and is Kentucky’s oldest statewide visual arts and crafts organization. The first president was Berea artist Lester Pross, and its current director, Jeannette Rowlett, has led the organization since 2007.
The Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen is a leader in the national art and craft movement and was one of the most active and highly visible organizations promoting national awareness from the 1960s through the 1970s. However, the Guild has been especially connected to Berea, Ky., since its inception. During that time, it was common to have Guild Fairs draw over 20,000 visitors to Berea. The Guild has remained an integral component to Berea as it continues building the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s national and international reputation for a rich heritage of visual art and fine craft.
The Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen’s Guild Train, pictured here, was the nation’s first rolling art train. The Guild Train ran from 1961 through 1967 in two L&N train cars – one for exhibition and one for hands-on demonstration. It introduced hundreds of thousands of young people and adults across Kentucky, especially in the Appalachian region, to the world of art and fine craft.
The renowned Kentucky Guild Art and Craft Fairs, held in the spring and fall at Indian Fort Theater in the beautiful Berea College Forest just east of town, were established in the early 1960s. At the time, the Guild Fairs were one of the few opportunities for artists and craftsmen to sell their work to the public.
The fairs have been a long-standing tradition associated with Berea, but the spring fair moved to Bowling Green in the early 2000s. The reasoning for this move was to fully offer Kentucky artists throughout the state the more opportunities to build their businesses and spread local art from Missouri to West Virginia.
Both fairs are still annual events that draw visitors from across the country. In addition, the KGAC is currently placing emphasis on introducing a new generation to Art and Craft in Kentucky. In the original spirit of mobile learning, the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen is preparing to take the show on the road once again for a series of Pop-Up Art Shows to be held across the state throughout the coming year.
Executive Director Jeannette Rowlett has announced that the 2019 Spring Fair in Bowling Green will be April 5-7, 2019, at the Sloan Convention Center at the University Plaza Holiday Inn at 1021 Wilkinson Trace. The 2019 Fall Fair will be held October 12 and 13 at the historic Indian Fort Theater off Highway 21E in Berea.
The KGAC continues to seek ways to knit together the diverse art and craft related resources throughout Kentucky with a common focus on educating artisans, youth, and the general public about art and craft and the value of quality work. They welcome visitors to their Visual Arts Gallery in 116 North Broadway in Old Town Berea Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to to 5 p.m.
Teaching the next generation is ongoing with the Kentucky Guild Visual Arts Academy, housed above the Visual Arts Gallery. With a course cap of six students per instructor, it offers individualized attention to those who desire expert instruction in any number of arts and crafts from basket weaving to jewelry making to painting and more. For more information, call them at 859-986-3192 or visit them online at www.kyguild.org.