I can remember how indignant I felt when I read that article.
I recall how much I wanted to write a letter refuting its claim that Paducah was a cultural and artistic wasteland before the Artist Relocation Program was implemented.
I may have even drafted a response that mentioned all the artists and independent businesspeople I grew up around in Paducah.
But for the life of me, I can’t remember much else about the article. I don’t know the author’s name, or the publication that ran it. I don’t know if it was a story or an opinion piece.
When I search for it with the words “Paducah” and “artistic wasteland,” Google comes up with only one result — a blog about how Washington, D.C., became an artistic wasteland in the ’60s, with a link to an article about Paducah’s Artist Relocation Program — and it makes me wonder if I imagined the whole thing.
But if I search for “Paducah Wastelanders,” it’s a different story. Google offers about 3,590 results for that one, and most of them actually have to do with the local artists’ group.
When the group of artists now known as the Wastelanders decided to adopt that moniker, they created something more enduring than the original insult.
The best way to refute such a statement was to show through actions exactly how inaccurate the statement is. By forming a group that showcases the work of artists who have been active in and around Paducah for decades, the Wastelanders made that article irrelevant.
With very few words, the artists pointed out that most shrewd people don’t stumble across a barren landscape and think, “This would be a great place to grow an orchard.” They stop where the soil is rich, or where they find other plants thriving. They start where they see potential.
Nearly six years have gone by since the group was born, and they’re still going strong. Having watched over my mom’s shoulder as she helped organize the Wastelanders, I’m certain she’d be proud of what they’ve done.
On New Year’s Eve, I will take a short walk down to the Yeiser and visit the Wastelanders’ party. I’ll look around, as I do when I walk through the Lower Town Arts District, and feel fortunate to be surrounded by this wealth of people, relative newcomers and long-timers, who are dedicated to making work in the place I call home.
Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641.