Artful renovation becoming a reality

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Anchor - Laura Emerson
Photojournalist - David Dycus

PADUCAH - The plan to turn a boarded-up warehouse in Paducah's Lowertown into the third, and largest, building in the Paducah School of Art and Design campus is looking more like a reality.

It could become the crowning jewel of Paducah's art education community if the money comes through.

You'll find the abandoned "Kitchens Inc" warehouse on Paducah's 9th Street, just a block from the art school's renovated ceramics building and new sculpture facility.

"I know that a lot of people from the community outfitted their kitchens here, so people have some emotional attachment to the building. They say, 'I've been in the building, I love that building'," said Paul Aho, Dean of the Paducah School of Art and Design.

While some might see decay on the walls, West Kentucky Community and Technical College sees the future of its arts program.

"We believe it's an opportunity to either let this abandoned building continue to be abandoned, or to create a beautiful entrance to the city of Paducah," said Ashley Wright, Vice President of institutional Advancement for WKCTC.

The plans have been in the works for years, but now steps are being taken to make it happen. Engineers want to tear off the less attractive, metal-clad part of the building with holes in the wood floors, preserving the more solidly built part of the century-old brick and wood structure.

The plan is to keep the rustic beauty while creating spaces to learn painting, drawing, photography, graphic arts, printmaking, and fiber arts like quilting. Space will be devoted for nationally known master artists to come and teach.

An advantage of reducing the size to around 25,000 square feet means there's less to renovate, make earthquake-proof, and to heat and cool.

Project supports argue that even if you're not an artist, a student or art lover, you'll reap the cultural and financial benefits through tourism, additional college students, attracting businesses and retaining young professionals.

Critics say that Paducah's "Artist Relocation Program" has had mixed results with some of the art leaving the area. On the upside, the program has successfully stabilized Lowertown and this would be another building saved from a wrecking ball.

A majority of the 10-million dollar price tag would be covered by bonds if the state budget item passes. The remaining 25 percent has to be raised locally. They are about a third of the way there. They hope to have the building done as soon as August 2015.

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