Handmade crafts have long been a part of the culture in the Appalachian region. Even before the collective regions had a specific name, there was a need to make functional crafts. These were not only to use, but also to trade and sell for profit. These crafts were often passed from one generation to the next for many years. Now, younger generations have a dwindling interest in the art of making, and a part of the culture - a culture that once tied these mountains together - is slowly fading away.
Berea College stepped in with a plan to decrease such cultural detachment. In 1893, after a summer long excursion into the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina, President William G. Frost saw a potential for preserving a craft tradition and developing a new market for Appalachian crafts (Glotzbach). He created a weaving program at Berea College, where women could earn their education through their craft. Today, the program has expanded to host over 100 students In 5 different areas of craft. But there was still this fading of the culture outside of the College and towns similar to Berea.
Tim Glotzbach, the since retired director of the Berea College Crafts Program, decided that there needed to be a program specifically made for the purpose of educating people in the Appalachian region about their heritage. The Berea College Craft Education & Outreach program was designed to serve the Appalachian communities who are underserved in general, but also underserved in the arts. The program provides a unique experience to schools and communities that they otherwise would never have. According the Craft Outreach website, the BC Craft Education & Outreach mission is “to inspire a generation to be creative through exposure to traditional media and exploration of their connection to the Appalachian tradition of making (Gallimore).”
Students at Berea College who participate in this program learn skills from all five of the craft areas offered at the college: wood working, weaving, ceramics, broom making, and jewelry. This is not a production studio, though products made by the CEOP staff are sold through the college’s craft program. The main goal of the program is to teach others about the crafts program at Berea College. To do this, the staff demonstrate their crafts at the Visitor Center & Shoppe, providing visitors to campus a look into how the crafts are made.
The most important aspect of the CEOP is the outreach portion of the program. The student craftspeople are responsible for teaching other people how to make their crafts. Schools, communities, and organizations attend workshops at the Craft Education Center on Berea’s campus. These workshops are hands-on experiences in the traditional Appalachian style of hand making items. They also provide an arts perspective so that teachers can meet their expectations with the STEM focused curriculum they are required to teach. The program also travels to underserved communities and schools to provide workshops to those who cannot afford to travel to Berea College. The program is a great way of teaching people in the Appalachian region just how important crafts were, and still are, to the culture that reigns here, and to give those same people a look into their own heritage.