Stop 20. Kentucky Artisan Center
After a tornado ripped through Berea in 1996, destroying several artists’ shops, area artisans, city officials and representatives from local universities gathered to develop a plan for an artisan center to revitalize the community and keep the city’s important crafts industry alive. Over time the project became a state project developed by the Tourism Development Cabinet in partnership with the Education, Arts and Humanities, Finance, and Transportation Cabinets. In 2003, the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea opened with the dual mission of providing a venue to showcase and offer for-sale products made by Kentucky artisans, authors, musicians, and specialty food producers and to serve as a gateway to tourism in Kentucky. Located just off I-75 at Exit 77, the Center is the only full service travel stop along I-75 in Kentucky. In 2012, the Center welcomed its two millionth visitor. The limestone in the building is Kentucky limestone, and the stonemasons who laid it were all Kentucky stonemasons. Though it appears to be a cluster of individual buildings, it is in fact one continuous structure containing areas dedicated to travel information display, sales of artisan works, and dining. The architects have described the 20,000 square foot building as having the look of an older barn that has been updated. In its design and construction, the Center exemplifies the high-quality Kentucky artisanry it was created to display. The art glass windows were designed and created by Kenneth Von Roenn of Louisville. On permanent display in the lobby are three enormous handblown glass vessels made by Stephen Rolfe Powell of Danville and a metal wall sculpture created by Berea blacksmith, Jeff Farmer. The lobby always has a special exhibit, either medium or theme-based, and a display case of regional events. There are live demonstrations, readings, or performances every Saturday. The Center is free and open to the public every day (except holidays) from 9 am to 6 pm. Even the restrooms receive meticulous attention, with fresh cut flowers renewed daily.