This is a piece that I wrote for someone about my experience in Paducah...
I am Victoria Terra. My husband, Michael Terra, is a sculptural ceramicist. We have lived part time on Lopez Island in WA State and part time in Saratoga Springs, NY since 1999. We make our living by selling Michael’s ceramic art at art shows. It has been our intention to live on Lopez full time but we realize that the way we make our income is not a good way for us to ‘make it’ on our beloved island at this time. We need time to grow Michael’s ceramic business to a point where we don’t have to travel as much as we do. We don’t resonate with Saratoga Springs and the family need that brought us here has come to an end so… we are in the market to move.
An artist friend of ours from San Francisco told us about the Artist Relocation Program (ARP) in Paducah, KY. We were intrigued and looked into the city’s incentives for artists. Here is what they offer for artists wanting to move into Lowertown (their historic arts district):
• Lowertown is dual zoned for commercial and residential use. This enables residents to have gallery/studio, restaurant/ café, etc. and living space all under one roof.
• 100% financing for purchase and rehabilitation of an existing structure or the building of a brand new structure.
• Basic loan package is 7% - 30yr. fixed rate up to 300% of appraised value.
• Free lots for new construction as available.
• City will pay up to $2500 for architectural services or other professional fees.
• National marketing of Lowertown Arts District and Paducah.
In our exploration we found other ARPs in the Midwest and Northeast. It became quite clear to us that Paducah’s program is the ‘mother’ of them all. It was started in 2000 and the city is committed to marketing its Arts District.
Michael and I decided to take a trip down there to ‘kick the tires’. We felt that the location was a good fit for us. Paducah is closer to most of the urban cities of our client base than either place that we live in now.
We were in Paducah for all of 2 full days and I walked away with a smile on my face. What a wonderful group of people (and not just the artists that we met). We stayed with Bill & Patience Renzulli in a room that they rent in their house. They couldn’t have been more hospitable to us. Bill and Patience are one of the first artists to have moved into Lowertown. They hosted a dinner party for us on our second night there and invited 4 other couples that live/work in the neighborhood. We had a delightful time full of the sense of support and community. At the end of the evening as we are all saying our good-byes, we were being hugged and given encouragement to come and live with these fine folks. Every person that I met invited me to come and make my home in Paducah; from the cashier at Krogers, to the owner of the coffee shop, to the waiter at the Mexican restaurant. Everyone was incredibly nice!
We sat in Paducah Bank with Larry Rudolph (the VP that works with the artists getting loans) and Monica Bilak (the representative for the ARP) and we heard all about the plans for the city. They are going to build a marina on the Ohio River, a River Heritage Museum, a convention center, and a new hotel complex. The city is revitalizing its downtown and it is going to be the home of the Paducah School of the Arts. There is a huge performing arts center, The Carson Center. My feeling is that this town is on the verge of exponential growth.
The only downside for us is that we are now on the second/third-ish wave of growth in Lowertown. The first wave of artists have come in and done beautiful renovations to old Victorians. The price of these beauties is out of our budget but there are still some ‘diamonds in the rough’ to be had. We looked at so many properties that my head is still spinning.
After being home for a week we have decided to make the move into Lowertown. Everything and everyone just felt ‘right’. So, we are going to look no further and my husband is busily putting together a proposal to the city for a house that we are very interested in.
I must mention here that it was made abundantly clear to us by many of the artists living there and by town officials that Paducah is not the place for a working artist to come and think that they are going to set up a gallery/studio in Lowertown and hunker back and live off of selling their artwork out their front door. Don’t get me wrong, there are many galleries that are doing well there. But if an artist walks in and thinks that they can have little savings to open up shop and solely depend on that for their income they are sadly mistaken. There are a percentage of artists that have come and gone solely for that reason. Luckily for us our income is primarily based on our traveling to art shows peppered with some wholesale accounts and gallery representation. We have every intention of opening up our own gallery/studio in Lowertown for another ‘small’ income stream. Hopefully we are not walking into this project with allusions of grandeur.
Go figure, I’m moving to Kentucky. I will now have lived in every time zone in the United States.
To find out more about the Paducah Artists Relocation Program go to their website at www.paducaharts.com.