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Paducah celebrating 10 years as a UNESCO Creative City

Paducah Convention and Visitors Bureau

Paducah, Kentucky, is one of fewer than 300 places in the world designated as a Creative City by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

The far western Kentucky city – nicknamed Quilt City USA for its dedication to textile arts – is celebrating a decade as a member of the Creative Cities Network this year.

Mary Hammond is the executive director of the Paducah Convention and Visitors Bureau. She said Paducah’s creative culture is the city’s identity and that its culture of creativity is what connects the McCracken County seat with nearly 300 cities across nearly every continent – including London, Buenos Aires, Beijing and Dubai.

“This small creative city is on a world platform with every big city you can imagine,” Hammond said.

The city is hosting artists-in-residence from UNESCO Creative Cities throughout the year like ceramic artist Jaime Romero of Manises, Spain. Romero is currently visiting Paducah and sharing some of his art and culinary skills with the community.

Hammond said events and activities recognizing the 10th anniversary of Paducah’s UNESCO Creative City designation will take place throughout the year leading up to Nov. 20, the date the Quilt City joined the UNESCO Creative City Network’s ranks in 2013.

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network launched in 2004 to promote international cooperation between cities that share a common goal of placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of development plans at the local level. Cities are categorized in one of seven creative fields: Crafts and Folk Art; Media Arts; Film; Design; Gastronomy; Literature; and Music.

In 2013, Paducah was named as UNESCO’s seventh City of Crafts and Folk Art in recognition for its connection to the fiber and textile arts. Paducah is home to the National Quilt Museum and annually hosts the American Quilter’s Society QuiltWeek show every April. Hammond described Paducah as the “Mecca of quilting.”

The city’s Artist Relocation Program, which encouraged artists to buy homes in the city’s LowerTown district and renovate them to include studio and living spaces, has brought together artists of all different mediums over the last two decades to far western Kentucky.

Paducah is the smallest of the nine cities in the United States designated as a UNESCO Creative City. Other UNESCO Creative Cities across the U.S. include Seattle, Detroit, Santa Fe, Iowa City, Austin, Tucson, San Antonio and Kansas City. The United States has the second-highest number of UNESCO Creative Cities, only behind China.

For Hammond, keeping Paducah’s creative culture at the heart of the city is key for development and growth.

“Creativity, to me, it's what keeps our world going, how we move forward,” she said. “It's the basis of entrepreneurship, looking at new and better ways to do things. It's energized by it.”

Hannah Saad is the Assistant News Director for WKMS. Originally from Michigan, Hannah earned her bachelor’s degree in news media from The University of Alabama in 2021. Hannah moved to western Kentucky in the summer of 2021 to start the next chapter of her life after graduation. Prior to joining WKMS in March 2023, Hannah was a news reporter at The Paducah Sun. Her goal at WKMS is to share the stories of the region from those who call it home. Outside of work, Hannah enjoys exploring local restaurants, sports photography, painting, and spending time with her fiancé and two dogs.
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