Paducah Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Mary Hammond has been appointed to the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO. On Sounds Good Matt Markgraf speaks with Hammond about how this opportunity came about, how the UNESCO designation has changed Paducah, how area residents can get involved and other events and efforts on the horizon.

Hammond serves through December 2018 as a representative of state and local interests. She said the appointment came about by being active in cultural efforts that set Paducah apart from other river cities. She said Paducah was a good fit for the requirement for crafts and folk art and quilting and fiber art.

"If we don't carry this through for the future, what will we be here in Paducah? We have to preserve our culture, our identity. And I think this gives us the platform to do that," she said.

By not being a cultural "silo" Paducah has engaged in partnership efforts - like bringing artists in from Italy to demonstrate their work to community members and in schools.

"It's not about us. It's not even just flat tourism. It's our community and who we are and taking it to a global awareness. Being a part of a global effort. To identify yourself and preserve your culture," she said.

By working with UNESCO and collaborating with other cities, she said, the recognition gives Paducah a platform of global recognition and sustainability. It's not so much the historical buildings, she said, but the 'intangible cultural efforts' inside the buildings that sets Paducah apart. 

Hammond said she hopes to overcome challenges of funding for arts and culture. The best way for area residents to get involved, she said, is to visit the flood wall and read the plaques describing the city's history or visit the River Discovery Center to learn how people came to the region.

"We just forget what life would be like without this identity of who we are. And although there are people out there who may not think that this is who you are - it is," she said, through the history of the river, as a center of trade on the river - then railroad - then I-24 and the influences that brought quilting to Paducah. 

In two weeks, Hammond is heading to Sweden to collaborate with representatives from other cities with the goal of developing ways of generating economic development through cultural identity. In 2017, Paducah will host other cities of Craft and Folk Art, inviting mayors and administrators.

In 2013, Paducah joined the United Nations organization as a City of Crafts and Folk Art in 2013 as part of the Creative Cities Network.

Listen to the full interview here: