Paducah Officials Speak On U.S. UNESCO Decision

Oct 13, 2017

A banner in the Carson Center welcoming UNESCO Creative City delegates and candidates to Paducah in September.
Credit Matt Markgraf, WKMS

UPDATE 10/13: Paducah Mayor Brandi Harless and the Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau issued a joint statement on Friday following the announcement that the U.S. will pull out of UNESCO.  

The full statement: “Paducah officials are closely monitoring news from the U.S. State Department regarding their withdraw from UNESCO. However, this change will not affect Paducah’s status as a UNESCO Creative City of Crafts & Folk Art. Paducah’s dedication to culture, creativity and global connection through the arts, led to the city’s designation nearly four years ago.  We will continue our work with our global partners towards our common goals, to foster creative industries for sustainable development.”

10/12: Paducah officials are so far quiet on how Thursday's announcement that the U.S. will pull out of UNESCO will affect the city. Paducah is a designated Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art in the United Nations cultural, scientific and educational agency. 

As of Noon on Thursday, neither the City of Paducah nor the Paducah Visitors Bureau have yet issued formal statement or offered comment as to what the decision means for a city that has invested heavily in its UNESCO designation, which it gained in 2013.

Iowa City is a designated City of Literature. The official city account tweeted Thursday morning that the decision "should not affect our status."

(The Iowa City Press-Citizen has more information on this.)

The Trump administration says it is parting ways due to "continuing anti-Israel bias." The move won't take effect until December 31, 2018. The UNESCO Director-General issued a statement of "profound regret" following the decision.

Last month, Paducah hosted a UNESCO Creative Cities network meeting - the first meeting of its kind in the United States. International delegates from South Korea to Saudi Arabia attended, as well as candidate cities, including Lexington and Kansas City. 

In an interview with WKMS during the conference, Paducah Visitors Bureau Executive Director Mary Hammond said the city "found an identity" in UNESCO Creative Cities, "We found an organization that values culture, creativity and innovation."

"We've latched onto this organization and have loved it and grown with it, but within the UNESCO organization you've got all of the things that are most precious to us in a community and we're seeing them come together here - that education, that natural resources, live under the water, life above the water... Sustainability. Everything's just coming together with this," she has said.

Paducah was lauded in the conference as an example of a 'micropolitan' city positioned well for future rural-urban divide, due to its size, investment in arts and culture and centralized location between larger cities. Representatives from other counties remarked on the success of the LowerTown revitalization effort and expressed an interest in applying lessons learned in Paducah to their own communities. 

Hammond has said, "With the sustainability agenda, these are all goals that [impact] our communities as well. If it be equality, education and eradicating poverty - all of those different items, when you are with other like-minded communities around the globe and you all have those same goals, you're much farther ahead." 

This story will be updated.