By Jacob Appelman, ’15
Not every community offers access to a quality arts education. At a time when many public schools across the country are cutting arts programs due to budget constraints, fewer options are available for children in underserved areas to learn arts and crafts skills. The Berea College Crafts Outreach Program, now in its fourth year of operation, was formed to provide greater access. Steve Davis-Rosenbaum and Tim Glotzbach, craftsmen and staff of the Berea College Student Crafts program, put together this initiative to spread educational opportunities to areas of need, and to preserve and pass on artistic traditions to a new generation.
When the outreach program began, its focus was on Appalachian communities near Berea, although it sometimes went to other states to provide arts demonstrations and workshops for students in kindergarten through high school. “During the first year the program traveled to Washington, D.C.” said Glotzbach, where “they demonstrated at a predominantly African-American inner-city school.” Davis-Rosenbaum leads these outreach expeditions, bringing student craft workers who are part of the College’s labor program. Trips in Kentucky, where arts education is a necessary part of the Common Core Curriculum, directly support educational goals by providing students hands-on experience. One teacher who participated in the program wrote, “Being able to make real connections to ideas taught in the classroom and being included in the production process gave a real sense of pride in the students.”
In addition to the outreach efforts, there are also several programs, demonstrations and workshops available on the Berea College campus. For the past few years, Student Crafts has partnered with the Berea Arts Council to provide a two-week Summer Art Camp to K-12 students in the community and surrounding areas who can make it to campus. The camp sessions are also taught by student workers, and the offerings include jewelry making, woodworking, broomcraft, pottery throwing and weaving. “We’re passing on a tradition of ‘making’ that’s been a part of this region for as long as people have been here,” explained student worker Amy Morgan, ’15. Glotzbach added, “I had a grandparent come up to me the other day, and she said ‘Thank you; my grandson is here and he can’t stop talking about this. He loves coming here, he loves it!’ That was nice to hear from a grandmother.”
The collaboration with the Berea Arts Council has expanded from initial one-day demonstrations to the two-week camp. Katie Morgan, a sixth-grade student at Berea Community School, said, “I learned how to make coil pots and jewelry; I like how it’s really fun and you get to know people better.” Justin Dean Burton, the student manager at Broomcraft, said that he would have loved to have had an opportunity to learn these traditional crafts in high school.
In addition to the Art Camp, Student Crafts also works with Berea Tourism’s Festival of Learnshops, an opportunity for “teachers to gain summer credits to fulfill their requirements by teaching the teachers about art,” Davis-Rosenbaum explained. The Craft program also reaches thousands of people yearly by attending various arts and crafts fairs and Berea tourism events. The program currently employs 32 student workers. Student Crafts has a new demonstration area housed in the Berea College Visitor Center & Shoppe on Main Street. Student Crafts also participates in the Brushy Fork Institute, Berea Buddies, Adopt a Grandparent and other CELTS service programs. Davis-Rosenbaum explained that, “We not only teach and run these workshops and demonstrate the crafts, we are also providing opportunities for other organizations to engage in the arts using our expertise, our facilities and our ability to provide programming at no cost.”
In the near future, Davis-Rosenbaum and Glotzbach hope to expand the scope of the crafts outreach, possibly offering impromptu classes to tourists and people who come to visit campus. In addition to these potential classes for visitors, they want to expand the outreach to include communities that are further away. This would involve telecommunications equipment to provide instruction through an Internet conference. Short videos are also being made about the crafts processes at Berea College. In addition, the Student Crafts program has ambitions to increase the availability of instruction to faculty, staff, students and community members.
“We’re passing on a tradition of ‘making’ that’s been a part of this region for as long as people have been here.”