|By TIM THORNBERRY
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Craftspeople in Kentucky have been known for their expertise in everything from pottery to painting; and for nearly 25 years, they have had a resource to help them market their goods - not only here - but around the world.
The Kentucky Craft Marketing Program (KCMP), a division of the Kentucky Art’s Council has provided a way for resident individuals or groups to become craft professionals through economic opportunities and training in order to sell their goods to craft retailers, organizations and community and government agencies as well as the general public.
The program works year-round to promote its artists, but once a year (the first weekend in March) KCMP hosts an event known as Kentucky Crafted: The Market, which takes place at the Kentucky Exposition Center and features nearly 300 exhibitors of traditional, folk and contemporary crafts, two-dimensional visual art, musical recordings, books and food.
The Market has grown so much that for the 11th time in 12 years, the Southeast Tourism Society (STS) has named it as one of the Top 20 Events in the Southeast.
The Atlanta-based society recognizes unique and diverse events in the southeastern region. Its member states are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
“STS has established itself as a leader among other travel organizations nationwide,” said Fran Redmon, KCMP director. “The recognition and additional marketing support STS gives the Market makes it possible to reach new and expanded audiences we could normally not afford.”
KCMP started in 1981 by former Kentucky First Lady Phyllis George with the goal of “developing the state’s craft industry, support and empower Kentucky artisans and craftspeople, create an economically viable environment for craft entrepreneurs, preserve the state’s craft traditions, stimulate and support product development, and generate public awareness, public support and public/private partnerships.”
Through production and sales, the craft industry contributes $252 million to the state’s economy with an additional impact of $147 million realized through sales made outside of Kentucky making the state a major player in the $14 billion national craft industry.
The Market, which is a collaborative effort among several state agencies, including the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, generates $2-$3 million in direct sales.
The Kentucky Commerce Cabinet oversees KCMP and Cabinet Secretary George Ward said that Kentucky recognizes the value of its artisans.
“We are known both nationally and internationally for our high quality crafts, visual art, food, books, and music that reflect the Commonwealth’s unique flavor, culture and traditions,” he said.
This year the Market saw the return of the Osram Sylvania Designer Showcase. University of Kentucky interior design students in conjunction with KCMP and The Market’s silver sponsor, Osram Sylvania, created this showcase. The students arranged products from Market exhibitors to feature in room settings, illustrating how Kentucky’s cache of arts, crafts and other products can be used in everyday settings. Osram Sylvania also designed the home lighting techniques in each room.
Another feature of this year’s Market was the Demonstration Area, sponsored by the Kentucky Folklife Program, which featured a cultural corridor in Eastern Kentucky - Route 23.
This National Scenic Byway was officially designated the Country Music Musicians Highway because it is the home of more country music stars than any other road.
Musicians and craft artists met visitors and talked about how life along Highway 23 influenced their art.
Master fiddler Roger Cooper represents a unique Northeastern Kentucky fiddle tradition influenced by early French and German settlers.
Cooper and his apprentice Michael Garvin discussed their techniques and how they learned their tunes from other master fiddlers from Lewis County.
Members of the artist community started by Minnie Adkins shared their folk art, while young musicians from the Cowan Creek Mountain Music School explained their passion for stringed instruments. Also present were the Mt. Sinai Volunteers, who represent generations of gospel singing that comes from African-American coal-mining communities.
One of the most popular features is the food section filled with Kentucky cuisine and Kentucky Proud products ranging from salsa to cookies to coffee.
For more details about KCMP and Kentucky Crafted: The Market, visit www.kycraft.ky.gov