Turning 50 was the moment when Kristin Williams knew she was ready for a new adventure.
The former economic development specialist decided to put her lifelong love of art and crafting into a business that could become a haven for other creative types.
The result was Ephemera Paducah, now going into its sixth year.
The shop routinely brings in nationally renowned art instructors to lead workshops and art retreats on an array of mixed media, from fiber crafts to painting to stained glass and more.
“Ninety-five percent of my students at these retreats come from at least three hours away,” said Williams, who also offers an active schedule of one-day workshops popular with local and regional visitors.
Now that the business is booming, Williams knows she picked the perfect spot to celebrate her own creative streak — and foster others’.
“We’re in Paducah, where the National Quilt Museum attracts tens of thousands of quilters each year,” she said. “For a whole community of creatives, Paducah has become their happy place. They come here for our classes and to visit the museum five or six times a year. They want to be here as much as they can.”
As someone who’s spent a lifetime playing with felt, yarn, glitter, paper and paint, Williams loves playing such an active role in sharing Kentucky’s creative side with visitors.
“I want my classes to be fun,” she said. “We provide chocolate. I bring in lunch, and we eat on a lovely patio. Our class sizes are kept small — to no more than 24 — so participants get to know the teachers.”
Being part of Paducah’s vibrant, thriving arts scene has also been a thrill.
“When people come here, they’re always surprised by all the fine dining, great shopping and cultural things we have to do,” she said. “Paducah’s a lovely town, and it always shows so well.”
Kentucky Artisan Center
The 25,000-square-foot Kentucky Artisan Center offers a rich array of crafts and fine art for sale and routinely displays special exhibits of Kentucky artists’ work. Guests can browse and shop from among a wide selection of media that includes crafted glass, metal, jewelry, ceramics, fiber and paper crafts, specialty foods, painting, photographs and more. While in Berea, visitors may also want to make time to enjoy the downtown area, home to a thriving community of artists. The city’s Artisan Village makes it easy to stroll and explore art shops and studios.
Speed Art Museum
As Kentucky’s oldest and largest art museum, the Speed Art Museum in Louisville houses a permanent collection that represents some 6,000 years of human creativity. With masterpieces across all genres, from Native American, European and American masterworks to a rich collection of Kentucky-made furnishings and cutting-edge examples of contemporary art, the museum offers something for everyone. Guided group tours are available with three weeks’ notice. Upcoming exhibitions include “Tales From the Turf: The Kentucky Horse,” set to run November 15, 2019, through March 1, 2020.
Kentucky Folk Art Center
On the campus of Morehead State University, the Kentucky Folk Art Center houses a permanent collection of roughly 1,400 pieces of art, from carved, whimsical wooden figures to drawings, paintings, mixed-media works and more, all created by self-taught artists. The museum’s second-floor gallery also hosts an array of rotating exhibits each year that showcase fine art, textiles and photography by noted regional artists. The center is open Monday through Saturday, and admission is free.
Josephine Sculpture Park
A unique, 20-acre outdoor exhibit space, Josephine Sculpture Park showcases art as it intersects with nature. The Frankfort park is open for self-guided tours year-round, from dawn till dusk. Guests are invited to touch and even climb on many of the exhibits. Launched in 2009 by founder Melanie VanHouten, who named the park in honor of her grandmother, the park hosts frequent special events, including an annual Fall Arts Festival that features an array of artists demonstrating their creative processes and techniques and that is fun for the whole family.
University of Kentucky Art Museum
On the campus of the state’s flagship public university in Lexington, the University of Kentucky Art Museum is home to a collection of more than 4,800 objects. The museum includes works by both American and European artists and spans a diverse mix of genres, from painting and sculpture to prints, photographs and decorative arts. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, with the exception of university holidays, and admission is free.
National Quilt Museum
Every year, the 27,000-square-foot National Quilt Museum in downtown Paducah welcomes more than 100,000 visitors representing all 50 states and dozens of foreign countries, all of them drawn to the facility to see some of the world’s most beautiful and intricate quilts. The museum’s exhibits rotate frequently, as many as 10 times per year, so each visit to its galleries is different. The museum also hosts frequent educational workshops, as well as its popular annual Spring and Fall Quilt Weeks, with special events, vendor malls, workshops and more, each April and September.
Home to a host of art workshops, from watercolor painting and needle felting to art journaling, collaging and more, Ephemera Paducah has become a go-to destination for creative types searching for single-day workshops or more extensive destination art retreats. For longer workshops, food is typically provided, and the studio space can typically accommodate up to 24 students at a time. For a weekend getaway, small groups of up to eight people can rent The Loft @ Ephemera, a fully outfitted apartment studio suitable for a private art retreat.