In the 1970s, art activities were almost nonexistent in Texas and the Southwest. Elected officials realized the benefits of arts and crafts activities in other states, so a Texas venture got underway. The Texas Tourist Development Agency (TTDA), established in 1963 by Texas Gov. John Connally, was organized to promote Texas as a visitor destination. In 1970, the tourist agency, inspired by successful art fairs in West Virginia and Michigan, began the search for a perfect place to hold an
Arts & Crafts Fair. Kerrville was chosen as the host city, approved and endorsed by the Texas Legislature and plans were soon underway for the first fair to be held during the 1972 Memorial Day Weekend. Schreiner College (now Schreiner University) in Kerrville agreed to let the Fair be held on its campus annually. This turned out to be a good location, where attendees could easily park in close
Davis contacted his old friend, music impresario Rod Kennedy who was running a music venue in Austin called the Chequered Flag, to see if Kennedy could pull together a concert so fairgoers would have something to do at night. Kennedy’s folk-music complement to the arts and crafts fair ran for two years on Memorial Day Weekend at the Kerrville Municipal Auditorium, and later became the Kerrville Folk Festival at Quiet Valley Ranch.
The fair and the music festival were both founded in 1972.
The Texas Tourist Development Agency, ran the air for three years, with Davis as temporary director. After this period, a committee headed by Kerrville’s Gene Lehmann, a well-known businessman and local volunteer, was formed to work with and observe air operations. In 1975, after three very successful years, the directorship was turned over newly formed sixteen-member oard of directors of the Texas Arts d Crafts Foundation. In later years, Audie Hamilton and Annette Butler served as executive directors of the fair. Wanda Cash, event director at the Hill Country Arts Foundation has served as director since the HCAF revived the fair in 2018.
As a non-profit foundation, the air is committed to offering educational programs in the arts and to sustain its financial responsibility. Being solely a State of Texas project, only Texas artists are selected to exhibit and market their original hand-crafted work at the
Fair. In 1995, the Texas Legislature elevated the status of the air to the Official Arts and Crafts Fair for the State of Texas.
In 2002, the fair’s foundation entered a forty-year lease agreement with Kerr County for 7.5 acres of land adjacent to Flat Rock Lake Park on the Guadalupe River. The property itself was named River Star Arts & Event Park and was made available as rental property during the year. Following the decision to move the air from Schreiner University to a new location, a local foundation gave a 2003 grant in the amount of $198,643 for initial infrastructure and facilities at the park. A Small Business Association loan funded the move to the new property, plus the handicap-approved, rest rooms, office buildings, roads, utilities installations, pads for large tents, and fencing the property. In 2003, the fair was held at the new location at 4000 Riverside Drive, adjacent to the Hill Country Youth Exhibit Center.
Due to financial challenges, the fair foundation declared bankruptcy in 2013.
After a five-year hiatus, the Hill Country Arts Foundation relaunched the “official” Texas Arts and Crafts Fair in 2018 on its 13-acre campus in Ingram. That year, the fair partnered with the Kerrville Folk Festival with a concert at The Point Theatre on the opening night of the fair, as the two iconic Hill Country events enjoyed a reunion.