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Renowned Muralist to Teach Workshop at Paducah School of Art and Design This Summer

City of Paducah

Renowned muralist Robert Dafford will offer his first master mural workshop this summer with Paducah School of Art and Design. Dafford speaks to Tracy Ross about the upcoming master class and what made him decide it was time for a master workshop.

Robert Dafford and his team have painted over 500 murals across the globe, one of which is Paducah's iconic Wall to Wall mural on the downtown floodwall. Though he has taught and worked with several artists over the years, he was always hesitant to teach a master class.

"Throughout most of my career, we developed our own processes and combinations of materials and processes. There weren't a lot of opportunities to work on projects like that. Once I got them, I didn't want them to just slip away or let other people compete with me. I was very cautious about giving away any of my information."

To Dafford's surprise, the global art community's interest in mural painting has skyrocketed since he first started 50 years ago. The difference now, Dafford notes, is a lack of longevity in the materials and processes used. "Most of the work you're seeing now is very big, bold, splashy, fast. They're very quick, and they're not going to last very long at all."

This trend toward quick, disposable art and a slight change of heart convinced Dafford to share his skills in a master class. "I can't do everything, and neither can anybody. The more art, the better."

"It pains me to see so much public art being made without any knowledge of longevity. So that's part of what this workshop is." Additionally, Dafford will share his concept planning process, picking color and scale, image transfer, and finally, the actual process of painting the mural.

"I've been painting outside since I was in high school in the '60s," Dafford says. "I've learned a lot about a lot of different kinds of paints and materials and processes, and it's time to find some new, younger people who want to know that. A classroom experience will be new to me, but I'm looking forward to it."

The workshop will involve classroom experience and hands-on practice on Paducah's flood wall. Dafford and the class will finish the final ten segments of the Wall to Wall mural project over two decades after it was first started. The last segments will highlight the famous train route that stretched from New Orleans to Chicago, passing through Paducah.

Because of the workshop's hands-on nature, the class size is limited to 20 participants. Dafford also advises that this workshop is not meant for beginners or mural hobbyists.

"If you're truly interested in painting murals, you will have been doing it. You will be taking this class, this workshop, in order to further your career. It's not for hobbyists. It's not for absolute beginners because you would have too far to go to get to the level we're going to be working at."

The twelve-day lecture and hands-on workshop will be held June 6-18, 2022, from 8 am to 5 pm, in PSAD's 2D and Graphic Design Building (905 Harrison Street) and onsite at Paducah's downtown floodwall.

Artists may apply to participate by submitting works samples through CaFE, an online application and jurying site at with no entry fee. Submissions must be received by January 31, 2022. Accepted applicants will be notified by February 18, 2022.

Those accepted through the jurying process will register through West Kentucky Community and Technical College's (WKCTC) Community Education program. All supplies will be provided through a partnership with Paducah Wall to Wall.

Tuition for the workshop is $795. A limited number of scholarships will be available for accepted veterans, artist residents of UNESCO Creative Cities, and graduates of Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) art programs.

For more information about the Dafford Murals Master Workshop, contact PSAD Director Paul Aho at

Tracy started working for WKMS in 1994 while attending Murray State University. After receiving his Bachelors and Masters degrees from MSU he was hired as Operations/Web/Sports Director in 2000. Tracy hosted All Things Considered from 2004-2012 and has served as host/producer of several music shows including Cafe Jazz, and Jazz Horizons. In 2001, Tracy revived Beyond The Edge, a legacy alternative music program that had been on hiatus for several years. Tracy was named Program Director in 2011 and created the midday music and conversation program Sounds Good in 2012 which he hosts Monday-Thursday. Tracy lives in Murray with his wife, son and daughter.
Melanie Davis-McAfee graduated from Murray State University in 2018 with a BA in Music Business. She has been working for WKMS as a Music and Operations Assistant since 2017. Melanie hosts the late-night alternative show Alien Lanes, Fridays at 11 pm with co-host Tim Peyton. She also produces Rick Nance's Kitchen Sink and Datebook and writes Sounds Good stories for the web.
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