A creative culture abounds in Paducah.
Paducah has discovered what so many communities throughout the United States and around the globe have discovered: often the greatest natural resource a community has are the artists and crafts persons who are part of the creative industries sector of the economy. These are living resources that are always renewable, or as in Paducah’s case, importable. Paducah has built an entire economic sector around artists, craft persons, performing artists, writers and the culture they create.
The spirit of the community is visually evident in its downtown revitalization efforts, where buildings reflecting restored 19th century architecture house history museums, urban boutiques, and one-of-a-kind eateries and where a once concrete gray floodwall is now the canvas for more than 50 lifesize murals depicting Paducah’s colorful past.
Paducah’s historic downtown is the home of The National Quilt Museum of the United States, celebrating its 20th year, which honors today’s quilter and showcases the vibrant rebirth of quiltmaking that began in the 1970s. The Museum draws visitors from all fifty States and more than twenty-five foreign countries. Throughout the year the Museum hosts a number of multi-day workshops taught by internationally-known instructors.
The American Quilter’s Society (AQS), based in Paducah, was founded with the vision of promoting the accomplishments of today’s quilters on a national and international scale. The National Quilt Museum is a nationally recognized art museum that exhibits the finest quilt and fiber art in the world in a 27,000 square foot facility in downtown Paducah, Kentucky. Driven by a mission to introduce the world to the work of today’s quilter, the museum features three galleries of art that rotates 8 to 10 times per year. In an average year the museum is visited by art lovers from 50 states and over 40 countries worldwide. A three-time TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winner, the museum has been mentioned in hundreds of online and offline publications including USA Today, Southern Living, and Kentucky Living. The St. Louis Post Dispatch said "It's not that different than going to the art museum in Chicago...It's all so unexpected. For more information go to www.quiltmuseum.org.
Paducah’s Artist Relocation Program has resulted in a breeding ground for creative concepts as neighbors create synergies that optimize their potential. These artists/entrepreneurs not only impact Paducah’s local cultural industries but also serve as gateways to national and international markets. The following examples show how Paducah artists are nurturing a sustainable crafts environment and in many cases linking traditional craft with contemporary industries.
Dixie Leather Works/Round Oak Leather - Phil Phillips is a master leatherworker who uses age-old techniques and equipment to produce 19th century museum artifact reproductions for the re-enacting community and the movie and television props industry. His reproductions have been used in more than 40 major motion pictures. He has supplied leather props for television documentaries, theatre productions and museums. Phillips expanded his operation in 1999 to include Round Oak Leather, which showcases his new contemporary functional one-of-a-kind leatherworks that are created without compromising the authentic process. Phillips maintains a home, studio and showroom in addition to his web-based business at his historic LowerTown residence known locally as the Dixie Rose.
Working Artists Studio - This creative enterprise is a collaborative effort of bookbinder Ira Erwin and paper/fabric marbler Charlotte Erwin. Ira specializes in fine bound books, boxes and portfolios and is an exhibiting member of the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen. Ira also works for the film industry designing and constructing period bindings. His film credits include books for Iron Jawed Angels (HBO), The Alamo (Disney) and The New World (New Line Productions). Charlotte is a mixed media artist and is one of the few established masters in the ancient techniques of marbling. Charlotte marbles paper and fabric and offers hands-on workshops in her LowerTown studio. She and Ira teach seasonal workshops at the John C. Campbell Folk Art School in North Carolina.
Miska Studio - Freda Fairchild was the first artist to move to Paducah from San Diego, California as a participant in the Artist Relocation Program. A member of the Fiber Arts Group, Fairchild works primarily in printmaking and fiber, frequently combining the two techniques - printing on transparent silk or stitching on paper and gold foil. Fairchild is a model example of how artists can make creativity their livelihood through workshops in her studio/gallery setting, large-scale commissions for artwork in corporate settings, retail sales, and exhibits of her works in galleries throughout the United States. Fairchild coordinates the Artist in Residence program, which has hosted artists from Canada and Austria, and works with arts councils to propose grants for special creative projects.
Jefferson Street Studio - Helene and Robert Davis moved to Paducah as part of the Artist Relocation Program and renovated the ‘Old Maytag Store’ building into loft-style living quarters, a spacious gallery and an expansive, state of the art textile studio. Helene is widely known for her abstract quilts which have been featured in many national exhibits. She also creates hand-dyed fabric, which is used in her own work and sold at her studio as well as quilt venues around the country. The gallery features Helene’s and Robert’s work and showcases the work of other artists. Recent exhibitions include works by John Hasegawa (ceramics), Lily Liu (ceramics, fiber and jewelry), and Paul Aho (paintings, digital photography). Helene has offered textile workshops in her studio.
HeART of Healing Gallery - East Meets West – Fiber Arts & Integrative Medicine
Dr. Christi Bonds Garrett moved to Paducah’s LowerTown Arts District in the late 1990s. She worked as a graphic artist and in textile arts prior to her career in medicine and now seeks to integrate her two careers. The HeART of Healing Gallery is located within Integrative Medicine of Kentucky and displays creative art, jewelry, sculpture and similar items made by Healers or by artists actively involved in their own healing process. Dr. Garrett is trained in both Family Practice and Medical Acupuncture utilizing both Eastern and Western approaches in her medical clinic in Paducah. HeART of Healing Gallery also has a large collection of ethnic textiles that includes vintage Japanese kimono, fukuru and nagoya obi, Hmong pandau squares, molas and molitas. Dr. Garrett is currently seeking educational venues to display her collection of molas, which showcase a wide diversity of the Kuna culture and include works by Erdiana Valquez. Valquez lives on the island of Soledad Mandinga and is considered to be one of the finest living mola makers.
Paducah Fiber Arts Group - a group of approximately 40 fiber artists and quilters from the region who meet monthly, usually at Bryerpatch Studio or Jefferson Street Studio, to exchange ideas and share dialogue. Members include professional art quilters, traditional quilters, curators, textile book editors, spinners, weavers, surface designers, ethnic textile importers, costumers, fabric and clothing dyers, teachers, and a woman who grows fiber animals (goats,rabbits, lamas and sheep). Members drive from Missouri, Illinois and Indiana to attend. An annual exhibit of this talented group’s works is held in April at Jefferson Street Studio.
Terra Cottage - Ceramist Michael Terra and his family left their New York location to join the artists community in LowerTown. The Terras creates “emotionally engaging ceramics” at their renovated 3300 square foot 1907 brick home which includes a teaching space, working studio, gallery and a cookie bar. His innovative Empty Bowls community project raised money for the Community Kitchen, a charitable organization that serves more than 50,000 meals per year to the city’s hungry. Terra provided the bowls that the Paducah community and visitors glazed and donated for a fundraiser smorgasbord provided by local eateries.
Fiber Focus - Based in Paducah, fiber artist Rachel Biel of Rayela Art has created a Social Media group called Fiber Focus for textile and fiber art enthusiasts who are curious about the world. Biel is also the originator of the Textile and Fiber Art List (TAFA), a membership organization that seeks to find new markets for its members through social media and other programs. Biel provides technical assistance to members to help them grow communities where they can network with each other and with potential customers. Biel has been working with ethnic textiles and crafts in a variety of ways since 1988 assisting artists from around the globe to promote their work or business, announce fiber events, start discussions through the forum, network with each other and share interesting stories with the group.