Red Bird Mission was started in 1921 by members of the Evangelical United Brethren Church as a religious, educational and medical outreach. By 1922 a school building was in place serving 100 grade school children and six high school students taught by two teachers from IL and PA. Over the years the mission expanded into a complex organization that by 1980 included 21 churches, an accredited K-12 school, an early childhood development program, a hospital, an outpatient clinic, a craft sales outlet, used clothing store, and summer work camp program.
Red Bird Mission Crafts began as a mission project by dorm parents, Chet and Martha Cramer in the 1960’s in order to defray student costs for living in a dorm. Visitor demand for crafts led to the idea of generating income for local crafts people. Soon a retail shop was built in Beverly, and purchased crafts were sold at craft shows and through mail order. Red Bird Mission Crafts joined the Southern Highland Handcraft Guild and the Kentucky Guild of Artists & Craftsmen in the late 1970’s. The wholesale operations began when Red Bird Mission Crafts were juried into the Kentucky Craft Marketing Program in 1982.
The core purpose of the Red Bird Mission Craft Program has always been to provide economic opportunities for Appalachian craft families. Marketing their crafts, training them in good business techniques and teaching new craft skills help to accomplish this mission. Craft items sold by the Craft Program include a variety of wooden toys, ornaments, kitchen items, along with cornshuck angels and honeysuckle and willow baskets made by fifth generation basket- makers.
Works by Red Bird Mission can be found at Appalachian Fireside Gallery, Berea, KY; Top Drawer Gallery, Berea, KY; Completely Kentucky, Frankfort, KY; and the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea.