The National Quilt Museum: Bringing the World to Paducah

2013 Jan/Feb Edition

Every day people travel thousands of miles to visit Paducah. They are travelling to visit the largest tourist attraction in Western Kentucky. The destination they seek has won numerous national awards, including the Trip Advisor “Certificate of Excellence” and The Kentucky Governors Award in the Arts and is on most national “Must See Museum” lists. It has been mentioned in dozens of respected publications including Southern Living Magazine, Forbes Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and The Chicago Tribune. In an average year, over 40,000 art enthusiasts from all 50 states and over 45 foreign countries come to Paducah to visit The National Quilt Museum making a significant cultural and economic impact on our community.


Over 90% of museum visitors come from outside of the region. Having travelled hundreds, and sometimes thousands of miles, to get here, visitors spend significant dollars at area hotels, restaurants, businesses, and other tourist attractions. According to Drury Hotels Area Sales Manager Tracey Bettinger, “Every day we receive visitors that are here to see The National Quilt Museum. Annually, our four area hotels get more visitor nights from people in town to see the Museum than from any other single source.” The Museum’s overall tourism impact has been estimated to be between $6-8 million annually.


While the Museum is a top tier destination art museum often compared to museums such as the Chicago Institute of Art, in the local community, the National Quilt Museum is often misunderstood. One of the most common misunderstandings about the quilt museum has to do with the artifacts they display. A quilt museum is essentially a niche art museum. Artists use many different types of materials; some use clay, others paint, others pencils, and the list goes on. A quilt museum is simply an art museum in which all of the artists have chosen to use some form of fabric to create their art. I guess if you are not familiar with the art form, the words ‘quilt museum’ conjure up images of grandma’s hobby quilting. A quilt museum exhibits the finest quilt and fiber art by the most skilled artists in the profession. What you will see here is at the same level as the art you would see at any national art museum, it just happens to be made with fabrics.


The Quilt Museum is a true destination art museum. There are fewer than 50 art museums in the United States that draw visitors from such a broad geographic spectrum. There are people all over the world that know of Paducah because of the Quilt Museum.


Just last month, I ran into Paducah native Ann Denton who had recently done some travelling in Europe. While in London, she ran into four women that had just come back from a trip to Paducah to see the museum!


It was the museum’s significance in the art community and its potential for growth that brought me from Texas to Paducah in mid-2011. While it was difficult walking away from a consulting business I invested several years into, it didn’t take me long to decide that I wanted to be involved with the Quilt Museum. It’s a phenomenal facility with a worldwide following that will continue to grow. I’m honored to be a part of it.


Many people in the community think the Quilt Museum is related to the AQS Quilt Show. I guess it’s just because we’re both involved with quilting, but we are actually as separate as Microsoft and Google. Our audiences are quite different, too. Their event brings thousands of quilters to Paducah. The museum brings a diverse audience that includes art enthusiasts, cultural tourists, and fiber artists.


If you’ve never experienced the museum for yourself it truly is a “must see.” It features three galleries of quilt and fiber art. The exhibits are rotated 8-10 times each year so there is always something new to see. The museum is open Monday through Saturday, 10 AM to 5 PM. Additionally, it is open on Sundays from 1 to 5 PM from March through November. The National Quilt Museum offers an annual pass for local residents that would like to see the changing exhibits throughout the year.



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