Frank Bennett, CEO of the National Quilt Museum, had a promising statistic to share Wednesday with Paducah Rotarians.
"In seven years, we have grown 50% in front-end visitors," he said. "Let's put that in perspective to Paducah. For every two people who traveled to Paducah to see the National Quilt Museum seven years ago, now three people do."
Bennett discussed his own history with the museum and presented a wealth of information during this week's Paducah Rotary Club meeting at the Carson Center, where he broke down the kinds of visitors that make up the roughly 41,000 people who walk in the doors every year. They hail from all over the U.S. and from more than 40 countries worldwide, keeping museum staff busy year round.
He divided the visitors into three groups: front desk admissions, workshops and events, and free programs, including student tours.
"Front desk admissions is like the movie theater," he said. "You see it every single day. They either come in buses or groups or individual cars. Most of them come off the interstate. They come in, buy tickets and go in and they experience the museum."
Bennett displayed a bar graph that charted front desk admission growth since 2011, which started at 22,461 and increased to 25,416 in 2012. The upward trend continued until 2016 when it dipped to 28,182, before bouncing back with 33,897 for 2017.
The average visitor through front desk admission travels 180 miles and 45% of them are quilters, while 50% are tourists. They also spend an approximate $300-$400 within the community during their visit, according to his numbers. Bennett described it as a massive increase for what was already a "significant economic engine" for the area.
"We get a whole myriad of people every single day," he said. "Our audience is a global audience."
That global audience can be seen through the reach of its traveling exhibits at dozens of locations, such as the Quilt Time Festival in Japan, which featured a replica of the quilt museum's building inside of a convention center.
"The point is that we've reached the point of being a global brand where really there are people all over the world in quilting that are watching Paducah all the time and interacting with us," Bennett said.
The quilt museum also boasts more than 100,000 followers on Facebook, along with an active Block of the Month Club group with nearly 12,000 members. In an average month, Block of the Month Club garners 50,000 comments and interactions.
He called the quilt museum a "gem" in the community and urged Rotarians to support it.
"We need funding as much as anybody else," he said. "We're a 501c3 nonprofit organization. We rely on individuals who care about this museum for our funding."
Visit quiltmuseum.org for more information on its various exhibits, events and educational programs. The quilt museum is located at 215 Jefferson St. in downtown Paducah.