Emily Dickinson is considered a great American poet, yet fewer than a dozen of the 1,800 poems she wrote were published in her lifetime because she cached them away. Vincent van Gogh, today considered one of the greatest painters in history, sold only one painting during his lifetime.

The world would never have been amazed by the creations of these artists if others had not ushered their works into the world.

In Dickinson's case, Lavinia, Emily's younger sister, took Emily's poems from hiding, and Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, Vincent's sister-in-law, donated some of his paintings to retrospective exhibitions, eventually enabling the world to admire "The Starry Night" and "Irises."

Local business owner and artist Bill Ford, 80, may not have discovered greatness in a drawer, but he is Paducah's arts ambassador, sprinkling art wherever he can and letting the public know how truly vibrant and varied the art scene is here by championing the creative efforts of others.

The owner of Bill Ford Interiors Inc., Ford has done so much to promote arts and artists in the area that his name adorns the Bill Ford Gallery at the Paducah School of Art & Design in the Lower Town Arts District.

Ford's artistic sensibilities, however, extend to creative realms that are not displayed in galleries. Ford said of Paducah's vibrant art scene, "The recent Broadway tours of 'Cabaret' and 'Jersey Boys' have sensationally graced the stage of the Carson Center. These shows were beautifully performed and artistically staged, blessing us with live productions on our Carson Center stage."

He said art patrons from outside the city and the commonwealth subscribe to the Carson Center's Broadway series and to the Paducah Symphony Orchestra.

"'Jersey Boys' and the Symphony's (An Evening with John Williams & Friends) concert were both complete sellouts," Ford said.

"As long as I'm giving praise, I proudly recognize the Market House Theatre and its masterful production of Katori Hall's 'The Mountaintop,' with award-quality performances by Richard Abraham and DaNiesha Carr. The reproduction of the Lorraine Motel room in Memphis was brilliantly reproduced by set designer Logan Regan. The perfection of Michael Cochran's direction brought to life a production that will be forever remembered by our community," he said.

Whenever Ford dines in a restaurant, he presents his server with a unique rack card that displays his personalized, artistic appreciation of the service he's received on one side and an advertisement for his hand-painted aprons on the other.

"I find it hard to believe that a city of less than 30,000 people can have all the theater, films and art that we presently offer to our citizens" he said.

An accomplished illustrator, Ford has six coloring books published, including one whose proceeds go to benefit children in Uganda.

"I give a standing ovation to all those in this community that have worked hard, donated money and now financially support the arts in a most beloved and caring artistic community," he said.

Ford uses pen-and-ink to produce most of his works, though he also paints with watercolors. He doubts his talent enough that he doesn't display any of his work in his home.

He is dismayed that more people don't attend the live presentations from New York City's Metropolitan Opera shown at Cinemark Paducah.

"These performances are never advertised by Cinemark," Ford said. "If we don't keep everyone informed of what's happening throughout our county and our world, we are depriving them of the vast knowledge or theatrical and arts events."

As concerted as his efforts are to promote art, however, Ford doesn't just talk the talk. He creates it and supports others. "I collect a lot of local artists," he said.

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