Lower Town Arts and Music Festival in Paducah features 60-plus artists

PADUCAH — There’s glasswork, sculptures, paintings and more — all from dozens of artists and all in one place. The Lower Town Arts and Music Festival has returned to Paducah.

The festival runs from 3:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Friday, May 17, and from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 18, in the area of 7th and Madison streets. The event is free to attend, but donations are welcome to benefit programs at the Yeiser Art Center in Paducah.

This year’s festival features artwork by 66 artists from Kentucky and neighboring states. Yeiser Art Center Executive Director Lexie Millikan said artists within a 250-mile radius of Paducah can apply to have a booth.

Michael Terra, who served as the co-director of the festival for eight years, said in order for artists to participate in the festival, two professional jurors look at the artists’ work. Only those who score the highest can have booths.

Terra said when he and fellow artist Stefanie Graves co-directed the festival 10 years ago, there were about 13,000 visitors. The year before they took over, only about 800 people attended.

The festival’s attendance has grown to about 17,000 people annually, said Terra. Roughly 15 to 20 percent of visitors stay at local hotels, which injects money into the economy.

Millikan said the economic impact goes beyond that.” Just the impact in general that all of these visitors bring in is really great. So not only for the festival, but for local hotels and restaurants and other shops that people will visit while they’re here for the festival,” she said.

One of the artists at this year’s festival is Peggy Schuning, who brought her mosaics all the way from Cincinnati, Ohio. Each of her mosaics — made from glass, slate and stone tiles — can take weeks to make. Schuning said she finds inspiration when she visits communities like Paducah.

“Right now, I’m looking behind you at the bricks — and just the colors that are seen on the bricks. So, that kind of steadiness and smoothness or texture — textures that I see and colors really influence how I want to use them in my artwork,” said Schuning.

In addition to the 66 artists featured during this year’s festival, there are about 15 more on the waiting list. Will Brandon, co-director of the festival, said that says a lot about the interest in the art community.

“People think all the time that we’re exaggerating a little bit, maybe something like that. But we have an art community that cares about art,” said Brandon.

For more information on the festival, visit lowertownamf.com. For a full lineup of musical performances, click here.

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