In March 2000, the city of Paducah, in partnership with Paducah Bank, launched its award-winning Artist Relocation Program as a means of revitalizing its historic LowerTown neighborhood. This highly successful program has infused over $30 million into the local economy, earning Paducah international recognition as a historic cultural destination and significantly enriching the cultural life of the region.
In August 2008, a collaborative effort between the city, West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC), and regional interests created Paducah School of Art to serve the region and anchor the LowerTown Arts District through the creation of a world-class art school. The school opened in temporary studios in downtown Paducah and immediately exceeded expectations for its growth.
As part of a larger vision for the school’s expansion, in April 2013, the school changed its name to Paducah School of Art and Design (PSAD), reflecting an expanded vision for its programming and the art school’s absorption of the college’s long-standing visual communication and multimedia programs. In January 2014, Paducah School of Art opened the Ceramics and Small Metals Building on Madison Street in LowerTown. This historic structure allowed for a greatly expanded, state-of-the-art ceramics studio, as well as studios for the launch of new programs in jewelry and metals to further serve the community.
PSAD expanded again in August 2014 with the completion of its 7,000-square-foot Sculpture Building located adjacent to the ceramics and small metals studios. The Sculpture Building houses fully equipped studios for clay modeling, large-scale projects, wood and metals fabrication, along with a foundry and studios for mold making and bronze casting.
Also in August 2014, renovations began on the 2D and Graphic Design Building in a historic building adjacent to PSAD’s other LowerTown studios. This 30,000-square-foot expansion opened in January and houses the school’s programs in drawing, painting, photography, visual communication, and multimedia. It also includes a resource library and dedicated galleries for an enhanced exhibition program, further serving the region and the goals of WKCTC.
“Completion of PSAD’s new 2D and Graphic Design building will allow us to properly house all of our 2D and media programs in one location, expand our Master Artists Workshop program, increase our public programming and community outreach, and continue to build on our noteworthy exhibition program,” said Paul Aho, Dean of PSAD.
In support of Paducah’s emergence as a cultural and arts destination, and an eye toward national recognition for its programs, PSAD launched its first Master Artist Workshops in the summer of 2014. The program featured national artists and educators and attracted students from across the country. With the advent of new classes and faculty come new opportunities for students seeking to launch their college experience as well as significant new resources for emerging and established artists to enhance their career opportunities in the region and beyond.
Paducah Bank supported the completion of PSAD with a $150,000 gift and the naming rights for the Paducah Bank Kitchens Café.
Paducah School of Art and Design is a division of West Kentucky Community and Technical College, a regionally accredited college recognized by The Aspen Institute as one of the top ten community colleges in the nation three consecutive times and twice as a Finalist with Distinction. “At PSAD, a diverse mix of traditional and non-traditional students and studio artists from the community work side by side in the studios,” said WKCTC president Dr. Barbara Veazey, “sharing insights, experience, and ideas to the mutual benefit of all.”
Paul Aho is the Dean of Paducah School of Art and Design, where he also teaches digital photography. He earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Florida State University and his Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of South Florida. Paul has also taught at Palm Beach Community College and Florida Atlantic University. He has twice been awarded South Florida Cultural Consortium Visual and Media Artists Fellowships, and his work is represented in numerous public and private collections. “The entire art school campus anchors Paducah’s growing creative economy and adds weight to the region’s recognition as a cultural destination,” says Aho. “I am pleased and proud to have worked with so many extraordinary individuals in making the community’s vision for a world-class art school a reality, and I am delighted with what we have accomplished.”