Kentucky Tourism

Highlights of the Center's History

The Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea began as a local initiative in Madison County, following the tornado that struck Berea in 1996, damaging a number of artisan shops and weakening artisans' ability to market their work. Area artisans, legislators, city officials and representatives from Berea College and Eastern Kentucky University gathered to develop plans for an artisan center that would provide new visibility for their artisans' and the products they create while boosting Kentucky culture.

The Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea was created as an economic development initiative. Though it began locally, it became a state project. Guidance for the development of the Center and its activity continues to be provided by a 13-member board, the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea Advisory Board, and assisted by numerous partnerships among cabinets of state government, with city and county government, with colleges, with other organizations and agencies, and with individuals interested in the Center's mission and goals.

Construction for the Center was funded by the 1998 and 2000 Kentucky legislatures, and the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea Authority was established in March 1999.

In 2000 the building design began. In March 2002 its logo was unveiled. In April 2002 a ground sweeping with Berea College brooms was held to initiate construction. The building was under construction April 2002- July 2003 and a ribbon cutting ceremony with a "ribbon" woven by Churchill Weavers was held on July 30, 2003. The Center continues to be guided by the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea Advisory Board, a 13-member board representing local, regional and state partners.

In June, 2005 the Center co-hosted the annual CODA (Craft Organization Development Association) conference with the Kentucky Craft Marketing Program. In 2007, NPR aired a story nationally on the Center's rest rooms featuring fresh cut flowers gathered and arranged by maintenance staff. This followed a designation of the Center as having the "cleanest and best designed restrooms on I-75" by Dave Hunter, publisher of the respected ALONG I-75 Travel Guides.

In July, 2008, just weeks before its 5th anniversary, the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea welcomed its millionth visitor.

In fall 2010 the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea operated a satellite store on the Kentucky Horse Park grounds in Lexington, KY during the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games September 25 - October 10. This store and the Center's artist demonstrations were part of the Kentucky Experience, which introduced thousands of people from around the world to great Kentucky culture, art, products and experiences. 

In July 2013 the Center celebrated its tenth anniversary and later that year the Center was recognized with the 2013 Governor's Award in the Arts in the government category.