Kentucky Artists Pursue Passion While Crafting Careers

Ask any Kentucky artist that has attempted to be juried into the prestigious Kentucky Crafted program and they will tell you that it isn’t an undertaking to be taken lightly. For the artisans affiliated with Community Ventures’ Art Inc. Kentucky, a non-profit business and marketing incubator committed to supporting Kentucky artists and makers, help with projects such as this are just one perk—a very large one—of membership. The opportunity to apply and be accepted into Kentucky Crafted only rolls around once a year. In 2021 under the tutelage of Mark Johnson, President of Art Inc. Kentucky, a total of five of the program’s artists—Amelia Arenson, Ken Burney, Melanie Osborne, Dawna Scripps and Stephen Wiggins—were juried in.

Like Art Inc. Kentucky, Kentucky Crafted strives to provide assistance to Kentucky visual and craft artists through marketing, promotional opportunities and arts business training—an invaluable asset to artisans seeking to turn their passion into profit.

Kentucky Crafted falls under the auspices of the Kentucky Arts Council, whose mission is to promote a diverse selection of high-quality art produced by artisans across the Commonwealth.

“Art Inc. Kentucky and the Kentucky Arts Council have had a wonderful working relationship for years,” explained Christopher Cathers, Executive Director of the Kentucky Arts Council. “I see the relationship as mutually beneficial with the goals of helping artists to be successful and attain the highest quality in craftmanship. Both organizations equip artists with the tools and resources they need to be successful. Both organizations have a strong network of artists who can mentor and offer advice to other artists at any point in their careers.”

The many benefits of being a Kentucky Crafted artist include representation in the Kentucky Arts Council’s online directory, eligibility to exhibit at The Kentucky Crafted Market (an annual wholesale/retail arts marketplace produced by the Kentucky Arts Council), introductions to national wholesale marketing opportunities, opportunities to participate in various state-sponsored displays, exhibits, events and promotions as well as state and regional art shows, referrals to wholesale buyers, galleries, show organizers, state agencies, corporate buyers and the media and access to professional development through conferences, workshops and new initiatives.

The recurring theme when talking to some of these newest inductees into Kentucky Crafted is that had it not been for Johnson’s “relentless encouragement,” as Dawna Scripps, a Lexington painter of “whimsical, wonky cityscapes,” puts it, they may never have applied.

Melanie Osborne, a painter whose favorite subject matter—horses—finds her right at home in central Kentucky, agrees about Johnson’s knack for boosting confidence. She added that what helped her the most was his ability to keep her focused so that her art didn’t stray in too many different directions. “He was a big help in teaching me how to research the things I didn’t know, which was a lot,” Osborne laughed. “I’m not going to lie…I cried twice.”

“Mark explained why a cohesive body of work is important for an adjudicated process,” noted Ken Burney, whose mother first introduced him to art as a child by enrolling him in Saturday morning classes at the Detroit Institute of Art. His path to becoming the painter he is today led him to study graphic design, illustration and film in college in San Francisco, followed by a detour into the world of body art as he studied under renowned African American tattoo artists Miya Bailey and Tuki Carter of Atlanta, eventually opening a shop in Lexington. Burney, who describes his style as a mash up of impressionism and improvisational painting’ explained that the help he received from Art Inc. Kentucky went beyond encouragement, although there was plenty of that.

“Mark assisted me in creating my LLC, building my website, educating me on pricing formulas. All of these things and more were part of being prepared for Kentucky Crafted.”

“Being juried into the Kentucky Art Council’s Kentucky Crafted program is a huge accomplishment and it’s one of the greatest honors that a Kentucky artist can receive,” said Johnson. “We’re exceptionally proud of our artists and we’re also proud to support Kentucky Crafted as it is a well-known and award-winning show with an impressive 38-year history of excellence.”

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