Thursday, December 1, 2011


803 Madison St....our "dream" home

In 2001 I wrote in my journal…Why Paducah?

“One of my enduring fantasies over many years has been to have my own gallery as a part of my to the public and selling my art. I envisioned myself in a neighborhood/ community, where I could leave the house and walk “into town”, exchanging greetings with neighbors and other merchants. This has been my dream, and I believe Paducah offers me the opportunity to make it happen. Of course there are no guarantees, but there never are in life, only windows of opportunity, and it is up to us to be willing to act on them….

Within the past year the city opened a new art cinema, and more recently broke ground for a 34 million dollar performing arts center. All of these attractions, plus the Market St. Theatre, are located within 4 or 5 blocks of one another, along with several delightful restaurants, antique shops, and an elegantly restored B&B.

Patience and I will join a growing number of other artists in reviving an old Victorian neighborhood with our homes, studios, and part of the city’s “artist relocation program”. Eventually there will be trolley service to the various studios and galleries.”

Lofty dreams and high hopes for both the city and myself. How did we fare? Ten years later I would offer that we did pretty well. Within a year about a dozen artists from all over the country responded to the city’s call and the excitement and anticipation in Lowertown were palpable. It quickly became a desirable place to live. More artists arrived, but the most telling sign of the neighborhood’s rebirth was the return of out of town and local non-artist citizens, a trend that continues today. Paducah, heralding itself as a creative art community, achieved national acclaim for its Artist Relocation Program, one that has become the prototype for communities around the country.

Lowertown was transformed…old homes were restored, new homes were built, new sidewalks and period lamp posts appeared, as well as galleries, shops, and restaurants; the people of Paducah made all of us feel welcomed and appreciated.

The performing arts center was completed, Maiden Alley Cinema introduced an annual film festival, the Paducah School of Art was born, and new restaurants opened downtown. Life in Paducah was good. A bustling arts district replaced the blight and decay of the neighborhood and Paducah was introduced to the phenomenon of opening receptions and gallery walks as the galleries welcomed visitors from regional cities (Chicago, Nashville, St. Louis, and Memphis). It wasn’t easy…selling fine art never is…but most of the galleries and studios survived, even if they didn’t thrive. Of course that level of energy and excitement could not sustain itself, and the growth slowed considerably as fewer available properties were available, and the neighborhood gradually assumed an air of maturity and stability.

As would be expected some of the transplanted artists realized Paducah was not meeting their needs, and they moved on, to be replaced by new faces with new hopes and new missions. Sadly, some left because of significant health issues. But the most crippling blow to the art community was the great economic recession. With fewer visitors and sales some of galleries were forced to close, joining hundreds of galleries throughout the country. Today there are still over a dozen galleries, shops, and studios that are open on the monthly gallery walk, and about half that number that are open with regular hours during the week. New artists continue to arrive in Lowertown, though not in the same numbers. The impact of the economic difficulties on our art community has been significant.
Fortunately there is more to Lowertown than the commerce of art.

If there is one word that captures the essence of Lowertown and explains the amazing success of the Artist Relocation Program it is community. Lowertown has become, and remains, an incredibly creative community, a place where artists can live and work together, inspiring and nurturing one another. This is, in my humble opinion, the result of the union of two forces: the influx of dozens of artists with different backgrounds and interests, and a city with a creative spirit, receptive and responsive to the promises of art. Although Lowertown is a physically prescribed area, this powerful sense of community and creative spirit have gradually erased artificial boundaries, creating one very exciting small river city, a city that has enriched my life and enabled my dreams.

That is “Why Paducah”.

803 Madison year later

1 comment:

Gus said...

You epitomize the "follow your dream" edict...hoping business and sales will improve also.