Kentucky School of Craft has new focus

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Associated Press

Posted on January 2, 2014 at 10:02 AM

HINDMAN, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky School of Craft is hoping for a rebirth as it prepares for dozens of students this month.

The school in Hindman was originally envisioned as part of a strategy to diversify and improve the economy. However, it has struggled to maintain staff and funding.

Hazard Community and Technical College oversees the school.

Community college Dean Leila Sandlin Smith told the Lexington Herald-Leader (http://bit.ly/1eTzGSh) the focus of the craft school has changed. It now will focus on turning out graduates with associate degrees who can transfer elsewhere for a higher degree.

"It is first and foremost a transfer program," Smith said.

She says a total of 40 to 50 students are enrolled for spring classes.

Students taking a class in making handcrafted jewelry will be at workstations that haven't been used in two years.

Michael Flynn, who was hired as program coordinator in the fall, said he wants to increase the profile of the school and help produce students skilled in making handcrafted items.

"That's one thing I'm very passionate about, is to make things happen," Flynn said. "I know there's been some turbulence in the past, but we have potential to succeed."

Knott County resident Dan Estep, who was laid off from a job in the coal industry two years ago, will be among the new students.

Estep has spent 30 years making knives and other items in his blacksmith shop, but said he still has much to learn, including the business side of being a craftsman.

"Art with function, at a realistic, down-to-earth price, is what I hope to do," Estep said. "I want to help my neighbors and myself."

While preparing students to pursue higher degrees is the main goal, Flynn said he also wants to increase awareness of art and help students improve their abilities whether they pursue further education or not.

He believes the School of Craft can still have a positive impact on the economy.

"We can make local products better than anything that is imported," Flynn said.

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Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, http://www.kentucky.com

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