UNESCO Creative Cities: The Paducah Edition

Where do I begin? The last two months have been marked by ups and downs, related to both UNESCO, and I. The USA needs to cement and solidify what it truly stands for, and our current administration must focus on preservation of culture��instead of favoring political ideology. For the past three weeks, I�ve been trying to gather my thoughts and opinions, and have been itching to talk about how amazing it has been to interact with people from diverse backgrounds and discuss cultural heritage.

UNESCO has always been synonymous with World Heritage Sites, which are man-made or natural structures that have been deemed as important towards the preservation of human culture across the globe. However, there is another aspect to culture apart from the tangible. Around 10 years ago, a motion was put in place to direct UNESCO efforts towards the preservation of the more intangible aspects of culture as well, including food, literature, folk art and oral history.

Apart from what we can see and touch, culture and its preservation is also about experiencing what is intangible, and these aspects do play an important role in defining the individuality of any culture. The UNESCO Creative Cities initiative was born out of these sensibilities, to preserve local heritage on the tangible and intangible plane.

I had the pleasure of attending the Creative City annual meeting in Paducah, Kentucky USA September 2017. You might not of ever heard of the city ever unless you were driving from St. Louis Missouri to Nashville, Tennessee and only then might you realize you�re in Paducah from the giant letters on the water tower as you�re driving past it. It�s small yes, but it makes up for it in the the rich culture it celebrates on a weekly basis. The city is unique for its frequent orchestration of heritage festivals and cultural events that make for a unique learning experience.

Paducah is known for its quilting; yes, quilting! Before you judge that, these quilts are masterpieces. Some of these quilts take literal years to complete. The museum has a vast display of quilts from all around the world and the moment you see them your jaw will drop. The craftsmanship are on par to the legends of the great renaissance painters. The attention to detail is literally amazing. But I digress, I�ll talk more about Paducah at a later time. What I really want to talk about is the UNESCO Creative City Annual Meeting!

The UNESCO Creative Cities and GoUNESCO seem to intersect in quite a few ways when it comes to making the imbibition of knowledge related to heritage more relatable. Celebrating differences, and understanding how diverse ideologies go towards building a mosaic of cultures across the globe is something that organizations like these stand for.�Delegates from all around the world came to talk about the creative cities and how we could all work together to bring people closer using each other’s local heritage. Here are some pictures from the weekend that was:

Mayor of Incheon, South Korea, Byund Don getting interviewed� Image: Mitchell Phelps
The delegates on a tour at the National Quilt Museum�Image: Mitchell Phelps
The Creative City conference with all of the delegates Image: Mitchell Phelps


Myself with the delegates after a sample quilting lesson��Image: Mitchell Phelps
Floodwall Murals depicting the history of Paducah city�Image: Mitchell Phelps
Front of the Paducah Inn Boutique Hotel�Image: Mitchell Phelps
Flight of beer being served at the Dry Ground Brewing Company.
Image: Mitchell Phelps

It was an amazing experience. I wasn�t able to spend more than 24 hours there as I needed to get back to work the next day. Sometimes it’s hard to convince Uncle Sam to allow me to skip work on behalf of Heritage and UNESCO, but I was glad to have the opportunity to be a part of this event, and to have the ability to show the creative cities what GoUNESCO was about.

The mission statement for the Creative City Network � is to strengthen cooperation with and among cities that have recognized creativity as a strategic factor involved in �sustainable development in the economic, social, cultural and environmental realms.� I encourage you to take a look their website to know more!

It�s an amazing thing to see people come together and learn about new cultures and celebrate them in a space that births from the ideology of preservation.

By learning about foreign cultures and exchanging perspectives, one can come to understand that difference is inevitable, and is something that can be used towards generating unique solutions to problems we face on a daily basis. Go out and talk to people! You might make a new friend and maybe one day they can show you around their country in person.

This is what I think the Creative Cities Network is trying to accomplish and I am extremely humbled to have gotten the opportunity to be a part of this annual meeting. I want to thank Laura Oswald, Mary Hammond and Mayor Brandi Harless for inviting me and providing me with this opportunity.

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