Guild Train - 1961 to 1967

Paper delivered to Appalachian Studies Association, 2017 by Kelsey M. Wagner, Appalachian State University:

"On Track to Empowerment: The "Guild Train" of the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen"

Abstract: In 1961, The Louisville and Nashville Railroad donated two train cars to the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen (KGAC) for an innovative project that would work to both showcase exceptional craft and teach community members and children textile based craft skills for enjoyment and profit. The guild gutted the two train cars, turning the cars into a truly mobile workshop on wheels.

From 1961 to 1967, the KGAC “Guild Train” travelled the train line, stopping in towns throughout Appalachia and offering citizens the chance to learn ceramics, weaving, woodworking, metals and other valuable skills that could be turned into small forms of income. In areas where poverty was prevalent, the KGAC took extra care to promote the community strength of guilds and helped artisans and crafters build networks and even start their own co-ops in order to sell their work, connect with other crafters, and find educational and material resources.

Through archival research at Berea College and oral histories with locals who frequented train workshops, this paper examines the effects the KGAC had both on the community members they trained as well as the community development and economic benefits that came about as a result of this guild. Using intersectional theories and looking to KGAC as a seminal example of guilds, this paper explores the dynamics of race, gender, and class when applied to guild membership and creative output.