[Visionaries in Craft] Crafting Diversity, Berea College

[Visionaries in Craft] Crafting Diversity, Berea College

Aaron Beale, Erin Miller, Emerson Croft, Philip Wiggs, Rob Spiece, Jedidiah Radosevich, Hunter Elliott, Chris Robbins, and Steve Davis-Rosenbaum; visiting artist Stephen Burks | Berea, Kentucky
Published on Thursday, July 7, 2022. This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of American Craft Magazine.
group of students wearing masks working on a wood projects aroumnd a table in a workshop

Students in Berea College's work-service Labor Program. Photo by Justin Skeens.

Founded in 1855 as the first coeducational, interracial college in the South, Berea College has a proud tradition of equity. It has also been committed to craft since the late 19th century. But four years ago, staff in the college’s craft division, Student Craft, realized that they needed to improve the representation of students of color in the craft area.

teacher and student wearing masks and working at table saw in a workshop

Aaron Beale (left) with a craft student. Photo by Justin Skeens.

In the college’s work-service Labor Program, students work at least 10 hours a week in various settings on campus; 100 of them work at woodcraft, weaving, broom making, and ceramics in Student Craft. The Crafting Diversity initiative was begun in 2018 to draw more underrepresented students into that cohort.

“We wanted our students to see themselves as creators and designers and not just as laborers,” says Student Craft Director Aaron Beale. “To know that they have a voice.”

teacher wearing a mask providing instruction to two students in a workshop

Stephen Burks (center) with craft students. Photo by Justin Skeens.

In 2019, Student Craft called upon designer Stephen Burks to support this work with new designs for the program and share his experience with students. This and other elements of the program have borne fruit, says Beale. “I believe the vast majority of our students feel safe, respected, and valued here. And our Labor Program students now recognize that they are creatives, that they have artistic talent and skill. That’s a very exciting start.”

bcstudentcraft.com | @bcstudentcraft

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