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Towns for art lovers

Courtesy Paducah CVB

Paducah, Kentucky
Quilting is booming in Paducah, a riverfront city in southwestern Kentucky, and has helped to propel the community’s ascendency as an arts destination.

“We always say that the fiber arts are the forte here,” said Fowler Black, sales director at the Paducah Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Everyone is connected to it in some way or another. We have eight art studios and galleries that are geared to the fiber arts alone. That doesn’t include the other fabric shops or art and craft workshop centers.”

Most groups that visit Paducah will tour the National Quilt Museum, which displays some of the best traditional and contemporary quilts created by fiber artists around the country. One of them, Caryl Bryer Fallert, owns Bryerpatch Studio and works with the CVB to do studio tours and arts workshops that are growing in popularity with tour operators.

“She takes them through her process of creating an art quilt from beginning to end,” Black said. “She takes them on a tour and shows them how she uses computer-generated graphics and transforms that into fiber arts.”

Bryerpatch Studio is one of several arts establishments in Paducah’s Lower Town Arts District, a 25-block area near the city center that has been revitalized since 2000.

“Artists from across the country have moved there, and their galleries and homes are one and the same,” Black said.

Bradenton, Florida

Bradenton, a city about 45 miles south of Tampa, is another up-and-coming arts and culture community. Much of its arts appeal comes from Village of the Arts, a 52-acre neighborhood full of cottages from the 1920s and 1930s that have attracted hundreds of artists.

“Village of the Arts is one of the oldest and largest live-work communities in Florida,” said Kelly Klotz, communications manager at the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The artists decorate their houses, which are also their boutiques, galleries and shops. You know you’re there when you drive by because all of the houses are really fun and colorful. The whole front yard is art.”

Visitors to Village of the Arts can admire the decors of the houses from the outside or go inside to spend time with individual artists. Along the way, they’ll see pottery, mosaics, jewelry and even art made from classic rock ’n’ roll memorabilia.

The village hosts an event called Art Walk on the first Friday of every month, with special themes surrounding interesting holidays.

“The fall ones are probably the best,” Klotz said. “They do a Festival of the Skeletons on November 1-2 to celebrate Dia de los Muertos [a Mexican tradition]. They put out luminaries and have wine tastings, Mexican food and music. They make skeletons and Mexican folk art.”

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.