McCann: Berea offers fun for everyone who like the arts

Published 9:32 am Thursday, August 15, 2019

Berea is a small town with big ambitions for small businesses, for artisans and craftspeople.

Whether you harbor artistic ambitions yourself or enjoy benefitting from the artistic efforts of others, a trip to Berea can be enjoyable whenever you go, however long you stay.

From fiber crafts to pottery, silversmithing to theater, watercolors to delicious homemade fudge and other delicacies, Berea has a lot to recommend, far more than can be mentioned here.

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The Artisan Village has what seems an almost infinite variety of crafts available for purchase including: Christmas decorations, year-around, at Honeysuckle Vine; glass bead jewelry at Hot Flash Beads; watercolors at Dinah Tyree’s studio; and stained glass, paintings, woodwork and jewelry are all available at (Diane) Gilliam Gallery and Studio.

Some places within the Artisan Village, in addition to selling their own crafts, offer classes so that you can develop your own artistic skills, including: fiber arts at Fiber Frenzy; jewelry-making classes at both Lindsay Gallery and Gatineau Studio; and watercolor and calligraphy classes at Painter’s Palette Gallery.

If you are looking for antiques and collectibles as well as crafts and farmhouse furniture, the Chestnut Street Mini-Mall is a good place to visit.

College Square is one of the town’s central public spaces where roads meet and visitors can find everything from a place to spend the night (at Boone Tavern) to information about Berea College (at the Berea College Visitor Center and Shoppe), fine jewelry (Estelle Fine Jewelry and Gallery 103), hand-crafted soaps (Berea Soaps and Gifts) and Berea college students’ crafts and farm products at several College Square shops.

When you get hungry or tired, Berea has lots of places to feed you or give you a place to rest up for the next day.

Dining places range from the usual fast food places to Cracker Barrel, to the Old Town Amish Store, to Yamato Japanese Steakhouse.

Not to be overlooked is Historic Boone Tavern, where you can both spend the night and enjoy Kentucky cuisine.

If you’d like more information about events, shops, hotel, and eating establishments in Berea, contact the Berea Welcome Center at 800-598-5263 or 859-986-2540 or at online at

Finally, after dinner, go out and enjoy a play at one of Kentucky’s most unique theaters.

During its 2019-2020 season Spotlight Performing Arts will perform more than 30 shows, giving more than 200 performances in its 13,000 square foot facility that houses two theaters and a dance studio.

Located on the northern edge of Berea, Spotlight is convenient to Interstate 75 and just 16 minutes from Richmond.

Spotlight Performance Arts operates a children’s theater, a theater program for adults and two acting schools — for film and theater. Performances take place at their venue, a converted box store which has a dance studio and two theaters, one of which holds 100 patrons, the other 200.

This fall the theater will produce 15 shows, six performances each, 90 total performances between Aug. 2 and Dec. 22 this year. The second half of the season will be similar, totaling 110 performances; it will also include a festival of short plays, 10 to 30 minutes in length, written by local and regional playwrights across a variety of ages.

Plays in the first half of Spotlight’s season range from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” to the children’s musical “‘Twas the Week After Christmas.” The first show will feature adults, and the last show will be performed by students aged 4 to 9.

Other fall shows for adults include “Little Shop of Horrors,” “The Drowsy Chaperone,” “Dracula: The New World” and “Murder on the Orient Express.”

For children the fall shows include “The Rainbow Fish Musical,” “Beauty and the Beast Jr.” and “Winnie the Pooh Kids.”

Each show runs two weekends (Friday and Saturday nights, Sunday afternoons) and is followed by the next show.

According to Spotlight’s owner and artistic director Chad Hembree, “We run a children’s show starting at 6:30. That’s a bit early. But it works; they’re kids.”

And that is followed by the adult show.

“We have to do that to pay the bills — our staff, our facilities; we don’t rely on handouts,” he said. “So we run shows for two weeks. We’ve discovered that with the third week attendance drops off, ticket sales drop off. But there is enough support for two weeks. This year we will do two hundred performances.”

For more information about their season, their school, or to purchase tickets contact Chad Hembree at 859-756-0011 or visit their website:

Bill McCann is a playwright, poet, flash fiction writer, and teacher who writes about arts events and personalities. Reach him at