Learn and Create
Berea’s Festival of Learnshops offers more than 100 classes this July—taught by artisans, chefs, writers, and other experts—for hands-on creativity
Have you ever wondered what your artistic capacities might be if only you had the chance to take a class with a talented artisan, maybe in quilting, woodworking, blowing glass, making a fabric collage, or playing a banjo?
You might gather all those funny stories you’ve been telling your kids and collect them in a family album. Perhaps you’d like to weave a basket to haul your farmers’ market goodies home in, or make a cutting board as a special gift.
Come July in Kentucky’s Folk Arts and Craft Capital, you can unleash your creative side during the Berea Festival of Learnshops. Get in the spirit with Jammin’ on the Porch July 11, roam the 32nd annual Berea Craft Festival beginning July 12, and sign up for one or more of more than 100 Learnshop classes over 16 days, July 13-28, taught by master craftsmen, artists, musicians, chefs, award-winning writers, and experts in sustainable living.
Thursday evening, July 11, ushers in the Festival of Learnshops Jammin’ on the Porch opening festivities with classes beginning July 13.
Class skill levels range from introductory to advanced, and offerings vary from two-hour make-and-take jewelry sessions, to a daylong pastel landscape class, to a weekend of dulcimer music. Whatever your choice, the class will be hands-on.
“Learning is not a spectator sport,” says Belle Jackson, director of the Berea Tourism Commission. “We’ve found that today’s travelers don’t want to just look through a glass to see something when they travel. They want to do it, to be immersed in local culture. Berea can immerse you in a community that has celebrated its arts and culture since 1850.”
Continuing that history, Learnshops take place in Berea College buildings and in working artists’ studios, giving participants a “backstage” look at how these creative folks make a living.
Since 1984, Ken and Sally Gastineau have hand crafted beautiful metal jewelry, and both offer Learnshops at Gastineau Studio in Old Town.
“Our workshops focus on making something to take home when you’ve finished,” Ken explains. “For example, in one of our workshops, in three-hour segments, we teach people how to stamp into metal and make a bracelet or earrings. Instead of just purchasing finished jewelry, they get to be part of the process.”
On other sides of the creative scale, a class in Contemplative Poetry gives writers an opportunity to study poets such as Rumi for inspiration, and to pen original verse, while educators can earn professional development credits through such courses as Music & Special Needs, Drama, or Fiber Arts.
Berea’s mayor, Steven Connelly, planted the seed for the Festival of Learnshops in 2008 when he challenged Jackson to find a way to lure more visitors into overnight stays. Over several years and lots of community input, the idea for learning workshops, or Learnshops, emerged. Prospective artisan teachers took a grant-generated course, “Master the Art of Workshops.” And in July of 2011, the first Festival of Learnshops launched, with 60 workshops taught by 40 instructors. Over a nine-day period, 264 registrants from five states participated, generating $10,000 for the teaching artists.
In 2012, the event grew significantly: 51 instructors taught 138 Learnshops over 17 days, drawing 921 participants from 18 states and several foreign countries, earning $60,000 for its artisan presenters.
The event’s continued growth is a win-win for instructors and students, says Jackson. Teaching artists benefit financially, while participants learn life-enriching skills. She counts the festival’s success as a product of Berea’s advantages: its location smack on I-75; Boone Tavern’s retreat atmosphere; a reputation for art and craft; a rich talent pool of crafters as skilled workshop presenters; Berea College’s educational reputation; and recognition as a leader in sustainability issues.
Besides, Berea’s simply a beautiful, inspiring place.
So come join the 2013 Festival of Learnshops opening festivities—a toe-tappin’ “Jammin’ on the Porch” Thursday evening, July 11. As a bonus, on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, July 12-14, you can spend your free time between classes experiencing the 32nd annual Berea Craft Festival, one of the oldest craft festivals in the state.
Come and learn a new skill. It’s never too late!
GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY
When Belle Jackson was taking photos at the Festival of Learnshops in 2011, a woman in a broom-making class said, “Take a picture of my hands.” Her fingers were nearly black from handling broom straw, as she happily created her very first broom.
To find out about this and other Learnshop classes you can enroll in, call (800) 598-5263 or go to www.berea.com and click on “Festival of Learnshops.” Prices vary and there are classes for all ages. Advance registration is required.
Here’s a tiny, tantalizing sample: photography, beading on a loom, clawhammer banjo, glass blowing, metal necklace-making, song writing, blacksmithing, soap making, woodcrafting bowls, storytelling, drumming for wellness, mushroom identification, printmaking, culturing bonsai, and writing for children and young adults.
KEYWORD EXCLUSIVE: Visiting Berea
To plan your trip and take advantage of all that Berea has to offer, including festivals, walking tours, places to eat, and happenings, go to “visiting Berea”.