by Emme Nelson Baxter

Paducah, KY

You don’t have to travel to Paris or Rome to visit an art destination. Just a couple of hours to our north, Paducah, Kentucky, holds surprises in store for local art lovers. The city has a wealth of artistic diversity, thanks to its 12-year-old Artist Relocation Program. This historic-preservation project has transformed a declining neighborhood into the vibrant artist community known as the Lower Town Arts District. You can even enjoy an art crawl through the district on the second Saturday of every month.

The conversion began when the forward-thinking city purchased dilapidated properties and sold them for one dollar to artists who promised to relocate and work there. About 35 artists are currently part of the program. The 20-block neighborhood features residences, shops, art galleries, studios, and restaurants. Lower Town abuts historic downtown, and both sectors are part of the city’s Renaissance Area.

While there, check out the work by these relocated artists:

Gallery 5, owned by Bill Renzulli, a self-taught landscape artist who left his practice of internal medicine in Maryland for an art career. His primary mediums today are pastel, clay mono typing, and acrylic.

Studio Miska, featuring the work of printmaker Freda Fairchild, a Kentucky native. 

Studio Mars, owned by modern painter Paul Lorenz, formerly of Chicago. The gallery is a working studio, so if you come by and it is closed, just knock on the door.

The National Quilt Museum is an absolute must-see attraction in downtown Paducah. “It is not your grandmother’s quilts,” notes Lisa Thompson, executive director of Paducah Renaissance Alliance. This destination is a perfect stop for families, modern art lovers, design enthusiasts, and history buffs. At 27,000 square feet, this cultural gem is the world’s largest devoted to the medium. The main gallery features items from the 320-plus collection, while the side galleries showcase touring exhibits of fiber art. From September 14 to December 10, the museum will host the works of Priscilla Sage. The abstract, three-dimensional textiles by this college professor and longtime fiber artist will make you rethink your definition of quilting. 

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