Paducah’s flourishing Lower Town fine arts district is an artist enclave. It will be dressed in seasonal wraps befitting the impending holidays, and visitors will be able to meet with the artist who created the jewelry or painting, sculpture, stoneware, quilt, woven painting, or fine-bound book or box.
Says Freda Fairchild, a printmaker and fiber artist who relocated from San Diego four years ago: “We’re all happy to show our art when visitors drop in. I sometimes give little impromptu demonstrations of my art.”
Within the 26-square-block area that makes up Lower Town, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, shoppers will find approximately 25 artists who have relocated to Paducah from all over the United States, working in all media.
Julie Shaw, originally from Colorado, designs intricate, gem-laden jewelry pieces with arresting patinas that are inspired by her travels to Turkey and Greece. Mark Palmer, relocated from Washington, D.C., creates contemporary original works of art (paintings, sculpture, ceramics, glass, jewelry, and more). William Renzulli, a native of Maryland, who opened his studio in Paducah four years ago, works in pastels, watercolor, and clay.
Founded in 2000 by painter/printmaker Mark Barone, an Illinois native who moved to Kentucky in 1989 and whose gallery, St. Luke Press, offers fine art and etchings, Lower Town is sparked with national influences, sensibilities, and quirks—so much so that the sidewalks vibrate with creative energy.
With nearly 20 galleries, it is considered to be one of the fastest growing art districts in the country, and is a fitting addition to Paducah’s dynamic cultural landscape that includes the Museum of the American Quilter’s Society, the William Clark Market House Museum, the Yeiser Art Center, the Market House Theatre, the River Heritage Museum, the new Four Rivers Center, and the Paducah Area Painters Alliance—a gallery representing the original works of 110 local artists—as well as the Paducah Film Society and the Paducah Symphony Orchestra.
It is the place to discover the fascinating fiber arts of Fairchild, who has designed a series of spectral-like imprints of women in past times.
“I create a dress from white transparent silk in period style. It’s printed with lithographs, text, and images, taken from or inspired by what I know about that particular woman’s life.”
Shoppers will also find Fairchild’s brightly colored etchings plus jewelry and muslin dolls created by her daughter, Cricket Alexander.
Celebrating its first anniversary is Dancing Dog Fine Art, the gallery of award-winning oil painter Nancy Calcutt, originally from Massachusetts. Calcutt specializes in commissioned human and pet portraits, favoring people interacting with their pets and animals in motion. Her gallery derives its name from Calcutt’s 13-year-old dog, Cody, who likes to soft-shoe on occasion, the waltz in particular.
Shoppers in need of a perk-me-up will find rich, dark coffees from Yemen and Indonesia at Paul and Monica Bilak’s Global Nomad, a shop brewing with gourmet coffee and specialty teas, and which sells European and African arts, including sculptures from Congo, Indian silks, beaded scarves, handmade paper journals, and ornaments. At Café Minou (French for kitten), diners are treated to Denise Gordon’s French- and Vietnamese-influenced and seasonally changing menu and weekend sushi, as well as the abstract paintings of co-owner Craig Kittner.
Adding their own stamp of originality to the panache of Lower Town’s studios and galleries are the dual-interest A Dog in the Garden, a unique shop stuffed with gifts and accessories for pet and garden lovers, and the Candle Station, a cutie of a boutique tucked into a circa-1930s Texaco station that boasts one of just 10 original Texaco signs in the country.
Lively Lower Town
Located just four blocks from the Ohio River, Lower Town is the oldest residential neighborhood in Paducah. Characterized by the late-1800s architectural styles of elegant Queen Anne homes and historic Italianate mansions, the area feels particularly Dickensian during the holidays.
Take a gallery stroll to see the jewelry designs at Julie Shaw’s Aphrodite Gallery and those of Sharon Elliott of Vonneshe Designs. Elliott works in 14k, 18k, and platinum, and with diamonds, citrines, and more transparent gems in her one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces, handbags, and other works of art.
Aynex Mercado is a self-taught quilt artist relocated from Puerto Rico whose quilts are a playful blending of traditional influences and brilliant color. Charlotte and Ira Erwin are Bluegrass natives. Charlotte, a painter, printmaker, and marbler, makes small books, jewelry, paper weavings, and stationery items from her marbled papers. She also marbles fabric and has a line of marbled silk scarves and wearable art. Ira produces fine-bound books, boxes, and portfolios, does edition binding, and makes artists books.
On Saturday, December 10, the area hosts its final Second Saturday Gallery/Studio Walk of the year.
For More Information
For information about travel to Paducah, contact the Paducah-McCracken County Convention & Visitors Bureau, 128 Broadway, P.O. Box 90, Paducah, KY 42001, (800) 723-8224 or (270) 443-8784, or go on the Web to www.Paducah-tourism.org. Information about individual artists and galleries can be found by clicking on the Lower Town link.
Kathy Witt is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.
You can find all kinds of gifts all over Kentucky. In Shelbyville, holiday tradition shows up each winter in the main showroom at Wakefield-Scearce Galleries in the guise of a floor-to-ceiling evergreen crammed with glass ornaments and twinkling lights. Joining it in this splendid 1846 brick abode are 12 to 15 themed trees in rooms filled with fine English antiques, porcelains, silver, and intriguing knickknacks.
“At Christmastime,” says Pat Burnett, president of the world-renowned business, “we really sparkle!”
As do silver julep cups that are a hefty part of his holiday business. During Harry Truman’s presidency, gallery founder Mark Scearce began making the $19.95 gems, dating them with only a tiny eagle and the president’s initials HT for those first created. Today’s $225 descendants sport a GWBII, for second-term Bush. Twenty of the Kentucky-made treasures reside at the Western White House.
Sharing the building with Wakefield-Scearce are the eight Shops of Science Hill, offering a gamut of gifts, from clothing to linens to silk flowers. A temporary Yule Shop boasts exquisite handblown, hand-painted glass ornaments made by Eastern European artisans.
From Tuesdays through Sundays, Science Hill Inn, a bastion of Southern cuisine and gentility, serves such a popular pre-Christmas luncheon that advance reservations are necessary…and worth it for the luscious bread pudding alone.
Walk those calories off wandering Shelbyville’s myriad antiques shops on Main Street.
If you’d rather buy a handcrafted item that will become an antique, sidle down I–75 to the Crafts Capital of Kentucky, where artisans have been making furniture, pottery, fine art, baskets, handblown glass, rugs, and corn-shuck dolls for more than 150 creative years.
“Berea goes all out for Christmas,” laughs Belle Jackson, executive director of the Berea Tourism Commission. “The shops filled with handmade crafts have open houses, and somewhere someone’s always serving holiday cheer. Plus, we have the largest live Christmas tree in the state. It’s so big that the college students decorate it with a forklift!”
For a full day of shopping, this folksy burg offers three distinct areas—Old Town Artist Village, Downtown, and the Kentucky Artisan Center.
Stop for a map at the Berea Welcome Center in the historic L&N Train Depot in Old Town. Then take a gander at the handmade glass in Hot Flash Beads, Bybee Pottery in Honeysuckle Vine, pewter jewelry at Gastineau Studio, and fine furniture at Haley-Daniels.
Catch an impromptu dulcimer concert at Weavers Bottom, watch Lindy Evans sculpting at Images of Santa, and gobble up fantastic fudge at Family Tree.
On or near College Square, you’ll find the town’s oldest and largest craft gallery, the Log House, showcasing Berea College’s Student Craft Industries; world-famous Churchill Weavers; and Appalachian Fireside Gallery, chock-full of quilts, natural wreaths, and corn-shuck flowers.
Just a short drive away, the Kentucky Artisan Center showcases craftsmen during ongoing, on-site demonstrations in an expansive shop complete with specialty foods, music, and books.
Sate your super shopper’s appetite at the Artisan Center Café and Grill. Or tuck in your napkin for “pass the bowls and eat till you can’t hold anymore” Kentucky down-home cooking at Boone Tavern.
Berea and Shelbyville
For more information on shopping in Berea or Shelbyville, contact: Berea, (800) 598-5263 or www.berea.com; Shelbyville, (502) 633-6388 or www.shelbyvilleky.com; Wakefield-Scearce Galleries, (502) 633-4382 or www.wakefield-scearce.com; Science Hill Inn, (502) 633-2825.
Other Shopping Areas
Through December 31, Christmas ’Round Bardstown includes distillery open houses, candlelight home tours including My Old Kentucky Home, carriage rides, and shopping weekends; (800) 638-4877 or www.bardstowntourism.com.
The Chicken Coop, Grayson
More than 180 antiques, collectibles, and crafts vendors, from handmade country furniture to quilts, in 7,200 square feet; (606) 474-9690 or http://chickencoop.cartercountymarket.com.
Antiques galore. Christmas tree lighting December 2, parade December 3, shoppers’ Festive Fridays through December 23; (888) 863-8600 or www.georgetownky.com.
Special event for Christmas shoppers every Saturday in 16 shops, including Santa’s Little Sisters Shop, five antiques stores, and three antiques malls; (800) 308-0364 (Petticoat Junction B&B) or www.historicglendale.com.
Established in the 1890s, this town of 440 residents south of Murray has a dozen shopping malls and antiques stores. More than 500 dealers; (270) 492-8872 or www.hazelky.com.
Marion: Amish Country
At Yoder’s General Store, beautifully handmade furniture, clocks, and needlework. Two Amish bakeries for holiday goodies; (800) 755-0361 or www.marionkentucky.us.
25 charming retail shops, seven restaurants, and two bakeries. December 10, Woodford County historic home tour, Santa arrives in horse-drawn carriage, caroling; (859) 846-4632 or www.midwayky.net..
Newport on the Levee
21 riverside shops and 10 restaurants. Kids Fest with holiday activities December 3, scuba-diving Santa at Newport Aquarium through January 1; (800) STAY-NKY or www.staynky.com.
Katherine Tandy Brown is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.