BEREA, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Berea College Broomcraft Program — which marks its centennial anniversary this year — is highlighted in an online feature article in the Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/this-kentucky-college-has-been-making-brooms-for-100-years-180976106/
While Berea is a liberal arts college, not a craft or art school, it is home to the country’s longest continuously operating broomcraft workshop and carries on an American craft tradition that’s rarely practiced today.
In the article, Chris Robbins, director of Berea College’s broomcraft program, estimates there likely are less than 200 people worldwide who make brooms by hand for a living.
Yet brooms seem to be having a renaissance, he said, perhaps due to a market trend for handmade items or to the popularity of the Harry Potter book series (Berea has a “rocket broom” in its product line).
More than 60 brooms were ordered on the morning the article appeared.
The broomcraft program, which typically has 10 student workers, is one of about 120 departments on Berea’s campus that employ students as part of the College’s labor program. Every student at the College works at least 10 hours per week earning money and learning hard and soft work skills.
Berea College, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, focuses on learning, labor and service.
The College admits only academically promising students with limited financial resources, primarily from Kentucky and Appalachia, although students come from 40 states and 70 countries. Every Berea student receives a Tuition Promise Scholarship, which means no Berea student pays for tuition.
Berea is one of eight federally recognized Work Colleges, so students work 10 hours or more weekly, earning money for books, housing and meals.