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Craft Center Moves to Art Barn From Historic Building

Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 03:01


Madeleine Thompson


Courtesy of Greenslade Special Collections


Courtesy of Greenslade Special Collections


Madeleine Thompson


Madeleine Thompson

This spread of photographs documents the progression of the Craft Center from John Crowe Ransom’s, historic home to its new location in the recently renovated Art Barn. The new location will house student facilities, and allow for more activities at the Center.


The Craft Center, long located in the former home of John Crowe Ransom, founder of the Kenyon Review, has relocated to the newly renovated Mayer Art Building, colloquially known as the Art Barn. 

A grand opening on Saturday, Jan. 26 made the move official. The building, once run by the art department, has also been renovated to include a lounge, kitchen and laundry facility. 

“Other than the fact that there are two floors, everything is different,” Craft Center Student Manager Max Elder ’13 said. In addition to the new kitchen and laundry room, the Barn features classrooms designed to host a range of activities such as weaving, digital photography and woodworking. 

A multipurpose room will have closets filled with supplies available to members of the Kenyon community, even those not enrolled in a Craft Center class. 

Celebrated with sushi and a performance by student band Giant Squid, the opening attracted students who were venturing inside for the first time. 

“I’d never been to the Craft Center before, and I didn’t even know it existed,” Eleanore MacLean ’15 said. “Now that I’ve seen it and how cool the space is, I want to take all the classes.”

The Center offers a wide range of classes covering all the craft basics — knitting, pottery, glass-bead-making, weaving, silver-jewelry-making, woodworking, sewing and cooking. 

“It’s very exciting,” said new sewing teacher Kristina Sullivan. A seamstress all her life, Sullivan has projects such as pillowcases, pajama bottoms and basic shirts lined up for this semester. On the importance of her craft, Sullivan said, “Anybody who wants to be a surgeon ... or needs to mend their clothes, needs sewing skills. They’re all around us, and they’re very, very practical.”

The new and improved Craft Center now has the capacity to host its own workshops, which Craft Center Director Erin Ciarimboli is excited about.  “We will ... have a handful of workshops throughout the semester for students who don’t want to commit to a whole class,” Ciarimboli said. One such event coming up is chocolate-making, in anticipation of Valentine’s Day.

Previously located across from what is now the Alumni Relations Office, the old Craft Center building was moved north in 1885. Ransom lived in the house from 1945 until 1972, when the Craft Center moved in as part of the Experimental College, where students could teach and take classes not traditionally part of the curriculum. 

Since then, the Craft Center has established “stable classes,” according to Elder, “with local artists teaching every semester.” The teachers include Kenyon graduate and woodworker Rick Yorde ’71 and his wife, both of whom have taught at the Craft Center for 20 years.  

President S. Georgia Nugent said she thinks the current plan is to have the old Craft Center demolished, due to its structural deficiencies. “I don’t think everybody’s going to be happy about that. It’s pretty decrepit,” she said.

 Sullivan, who taught in the old Craft Center for a semester, acknowledged that the old house was “pleasant,” but is happy to have moved out of a building she described as “falling apart.” 

The Art Barn is not only free of the ventilation and flooding problems that plagued the old house, but it also gives the Craft Center potential to expand its capabilities. 

“Historically, we always had a problem of having higher demands than we could meet,” Elder said. “There are always students who want to take classes and can’t, and to us that’s a huge problem. It goes against the ethos of who we are, so this is going to allow us to do a lot more in terms of meeting those demands.”

No matter the location, the Craft Center will stay true to the goals upon which it was founded. 

“The idea is to be a space for the campus where the students can go and be creative and expressive but have no deadlines, and no pressure of grades,” Elder said. “It’s supposed to be not only an avenue in which you can foster creativity and learn a new skill but also an outlet for stress. People take classes to be productive and learn a skill, but also you go and put on music and hang out with your friends.” 

With the move, Craft Center teachers hope to attract students who wouldn’t have otherwise used the space.

The Craft Center is open from 7:00 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. 

Madeleine Thompson contributed reporting. 

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