West Kentucky Community and Technical College President Dr. Barbara Veazey says plans to renovate the Kitchens Building to accommodate the expansion of the Paducah School of Art and Design has been years in the making. On Sounds Good, she gives some historical context to the project and hopes for securing artistic and economic growth in Paducah.
"It's a project that has been in the planning for several years. It's gone through different phases, but the vision has never changed."
WKCTC was approached about starting an art school in LowerTown Paducah between 2006 and 2007. In October of 2007, the Paducah School of Art opened (later adding "Design" to the name). City officials believed an art school in LowerTown would be a catalyst for continuing Paducah's arts movement and for establishing the city as an arts destination. At the time, the focus was on the 50,000 square-foot Kitchens Building. President Dr. Barbara Veazey says from the beginning "the plans were great, the visions were there." But then the economy took a turn for the worse in 2008 and the visions were put on hold.
During the economic downturn, artists in Paducah were struggling and together WKCTC and city officials wondered what they could to do keep LowerTown vital. WKCTC purchased Madison Hall and turned it into a ceramics and jewelry studio, something that wasn't possible in a downtown facility. This building opened in 2013.
To keep the vision going, the city worked with WKCTC and began construction on a second facility adjacent to Madison Hall, for a building devoted to sculpture, set to open this fall. Now with two new facilities, the final phase is to go back to the Kitchens Building and do the renovation. Starting last year, the school looked at how it could actually happen, what kind of money it would take to transofrm the buliding into classrooms housing painting, drawing and graphic design courses (with room for later printmaking and fiber additions).
They began a fundraising campaign last November, kicking off with a $500,000 gift from the board. Bonding for the community college system in Kentucky was approved in the 2014 Legislative Session, so that if the college were to raise $2.5 million, bonding capacity would match $7.5 million, making the entire project $10 million. Renovations are set to begin this October.
Dr. Veazey believes the focus of the college, in addition to nurturing students, is about the growth of the community as well, to help the community grow economically.
"When you look to economic development, look to what we can do to grow this region, we embrace working with Paducah, working with the City of Paducah, and certainly now the designation of Paducah as a UNESCO city, it ties it together for recruitment for businesses outside, but also I think adding a component to our cultural value as a community that we've all partnered together to make happen."