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Art school hits $2.5 million goal

BY LAUREL BLACKlblack@paducahsun.com

West Kentucky Community & Technical College hit the $2.5 million mark in its fundraising campaign Friday with the help of the Carson-Myre Charitable Foundation.

The foundation presented a $400,000 check to the college during a ceremony outside the Paducah School of Art & Design's campus at Ninth and Madison streets. The $2.5 million marks the required local contribution to a $10 million project to renovate the Kitchens Inc. building into space for the college's two-dimensional art programs. The remaining $7.5 million will be funded by state agency bonds.

"It's so fitting that this would be the final gift that brings this whole complex to fruition," WKCTC President Barbara Veazdy said during the presentation.

That's because it is the kind of project that Jane Myre, who established the trust with husband Dr. Louis Myre, would have appreciated, cousin and foundation trustee J. William Howerton said. The Myres were known for their love of the arts.

"I think (the school) will blossom and bring a lot here," he said. "A center for art and design is a wonderful thing for Paducah."

WKCTC represents the first of 16 schools in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System to complete the local match for Gov. Steve Beshear's  BuildSmart Investment for Kentucky Competitiveness initiative, which uses agency bonds to fund up to 75 percent of the schools' critical projects.

The renovation of the 29,400-square-foot building at 905 Harrison St. marks the third and final phase of the college's project to create a Lower Town campus for the art school. The completed buildings are the ceramics, jewelry and metals facility at Madison Hall and an adjacent sculpture facility, which opened in January 2013 and August 2014, respectively. Enrollment in the art school has grown from 160 students in the spring of 2008 to more than 425 students by this fall.

Work on the 2-D design building is scheduled for completion in January 2016. Demolition on the Kitchens building is ongoing, and renovation is expected to begin sometime in October, said Ashley Wright, vice president for institutional advancement at WKCTC.

She said that once completed, the campus will boost the local economy and stabilize the Lower Town neighborhood. And it also marks the completion of a dream that's been years in the making.

"It's finally real," she said.

Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641, or follow @LaurelFBlack on Twitter.

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