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Folk Art or Fine Art in Kentucky

From paintings and sculptures by Rembrandt and Edgar Degas to interpretive creations made from common objects by mountain folk artists, Kentucky’s eclectic arts scene offers a wide range of options for nearly any group taste.

“Art is a wonderful Kentucky tradition, and it isn’t dying; it is being kept alive and is flourishing,” said Victoria Faoro, executive director of the Kentucky Artisan Center.

Kentucky Artisan Center


The great variety of Kentucky’s talented artists, artisans and crafters is on ample display at the Kentucky Artisan Center, off Interstate 75 in Berea, where a stone-faced building is filled with pottery, wood carvings, jewelry, crafts, music, books and specialty food products. You name it, and you can probably find it both on display and for sale.

“The products here represent more than 1,000 artists, including the food,” said Faoro. “We are always focused on quality, whether it costs $2 or $2,000. We have all media and different price points. We want everyone to take a piece of Kentucky.”

The displays also tell about the artists, and during Saturday demonstrations, “you can actually see the artisans and talk to them,” said Faoro.

Groups have the option of a quick snack or a meal of local Kentucky food in the cafe, shopping or just a rest break in the center’s immaculate restrooms.

“And Berea is only two miles away,” said Faoro.

The charming college town, officially designated Kentucky’s Craft Capital by the state legislature, offers many more opportunities to see and shop for quality Kentucky arts and crafts.

Shops and galleries are concentrated in two sections of town: College Square around Boone Tavern and Berea College, and Old Town.

Berea’s two-week July Festival of Learnshops, featuring numerous workshops and classes in a variety of media, has been extended to tour groups, which can arrange classes any time through the local convention and visitors bureau in crafting items such as painted gourds, Christmas ornaments, baskets and jewelry.

UNESCO Creative City


The western Kentucky river town of Paducah has parlayed its rich cultural scene into international recognition as one of seven cities worldwide to be designated a UNESCO Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art.

“Art is a huge part of who we are,” said Laura Schaumburg, marketing director for the Paducah Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The anchor of Paducah’s art scene is the National Quilt Museum. “We are the largest fiber-art museum in the world,” said the museum’s chief executive officer, Frank Bennett.

The museum’s three galleries feature 50 to 60 rotating selections of its permanent collection of more than 300 quilts, along with some 10 traveling exhibits each year. The colorful contemporary quilts range from abstracts to detailed landscapes.

The CVB recently launched a series of experiential programs “designed with groups in mind” that includes two new programs at the museum, which Schaumburg said makes it more “engaging and more immersive.”

After learning about fiber art and the tools and work that go into it, groups have hands-on experiences creating custom quilt blocks, allowing them “to take home a new skill and a souvenir.”

Another new program, Art Creating Community, is coordinated through the Yeiser Art Center and features a tour of the city’s floodwall murals.

“It brings them to life: how they not only tell our heritage and are great public art, but how they rallied the community to become more creative,” said Schaumburg.

The 51 highly detailed murals were begun in 1996 on the town’s concrete floodwall. The tour is followed by hands-on painting at the Yeiser, located in the 1905 Market House.

Paducah also gained national recognition for an incentive program initiated early this century that has attracted artists in a variety of media to Paducah to help rehabilitate the historic LowerTown neighborhood.

“It is very much a working artists community,” said Schaumburg. She said there are two creative workshops that “are excellent for groups.” Ephemera Paducah has mixed-media workshops that range from block printing to metalsmithing, and groups can attempt art projects such as painting and printmaking at hands-on workshop.