Lily Liu says working in Paducah as an artist is like being an octopus.
"Here, I’ve met so many artists [who work in] so many different mediums, I feel like I have grown to become an octopus with tentacles," she says. "Each tentacle is grabbing and growing stronger in an area [of art]."
And according to her, Paducah is the perfect place for such a sea creature to thrive.
Lily moved to Quilt City USA from Emporia, KS, in 2008. At the time, her husband, John Hasegawa, had accepted a job at the Paducah School of Art and Design as an associate professor.
Both have been artists for many years—he specializes in ceramics and she in textiles and multimedia. When they arrived, Paducah seemed like a good fit for their creative proclivities. They fell in love with the city’s galleries and with the other artists who stocked them. They dug Paducah’s eclectic vibe.
"This place has so much going for it," John says. "I’m always shocked at all the things to do here--the restaurants, the performances that are coming in, how much people really embrace the art and artists that are here. I think that it’s just incredible."
Although Emporia has a population comparable to Paducah’s, the couple really enjoys Quilt City’s artist’s community and variety of events and festivals. To John and Lily, the city has created a very rich culture and the surrounding areas complement it nicely.
For example, Paducah’s location to Land Between the Lakes offers their two young sons access to vast amounts of beautiful land and forests and to The Nature Station, where they can view animals any time they wish. The couple believes the city’s close proximity to outdoor activities combined with its quality local schools and access to art galleries and theaters make it unique.
"A lot of cities don’t have this ... in this part of the country," John says. "We’re really lucky."
Their kids also like to spend time sipping orange bubble tea at Etcetera Coffeehouse. Lily says the family once took a six-week trip to China, and their sons wanted to fly back to Kentucky so they could curl up on the coffeehouse couches with their tablet computers.
"That’s where they get lots of attention from people," Lily says. "It’s like a big family there."
That local family has helped John and Lily create a home for their children during the past seven-and-a-half years, and it has even helped them develop as artists. Lily now owns Lilyliudesigns Studio on North 5th Street, and works in a wide variety of media including jewelry, textiles, ceramics and more. John teaches at the Paducah School of Art and Design and gives classes in ceramics, digital photography and arts appreciation. Both agree that influence from other Paducah artists has made their work more complex and more creative.
"My work has definitely changed since I’ve been here," John says. "I think it’s about the state of the people, the attitudes that we have here. Also, the facilities are really good here [at the Paducah School of Art and Design], which allows me to ... explore different things I wasn’t able to in Emporia."
And his art will continue to evolve locally. John and Lily currently have no plans to leave Paducah. At the moment, they are content to live in the city as "octopus" artists, grasping hungrily at the creativity and inspiration around them.