Judge J. William Howerton and Bill Ford at gallery reception
PADUCAH, KY (February 4, 2016) - Recognizing that her only child had artistic talents, Louise "Babalou" Ellen Ford sought to nurture those talents any way she could. In the late 1940s, she hired students from what was then Mississippi State College for Women in Columbus, Miss., to teach her 7-year-old son about art.
Those young college students inspired interior designer and artist Bill Ford. The Paducah resident has spent a lifetime working to inspire others to appreciate the arts as much as he does.
"Art enriches our lives. I love working with children and showing them the wonder that is art," Ford recently said. "I just can't imagine life without the arts."
The main gallery in Paducah School of Art and Design (PSAD)'s new 2D and Graphic Design Building has been named in Ford's honor, officials announced during a private reception at the building Thursday. The gallery is one of several named areas in the new building as a result of the successful campaign to fund PSAD.
The Carson-Myre Charitable Foundation's significant donation brought the campaign to closure last year. During Thursday's reception, Judge J. William Howerton, chair of the Carson-Myre Charitable Foundation Board of Trustees, praised Ford's charitable work and commitment to the arts and to the community. Howerton said the foundation's board felt strongly about naming the gallery in honor of Ford. "If anybody had anything they wanted to do, raise some money or promote something, he was always the first one to step up and participate," Howerton said. "Who in the world could be more deserving to have some kind of recognition in an art school, especially one of art and design, than Bill Ford."
Ford said he was overwhelmed and deeply humbled to have the gallery named in his honor. "I'm still living and something's named after me," Ford announced to laughter from the crowd.
Ford has been a leading residential and commercial interior designer and artist in Paducah for more than 25 years. As an artist, he does calligraphy, watercolors and pen and ink renderings. He has been a vital part of the arts having served on the boards of Paducah Chamber of Commerce, Child Watch, Yeiser Art Center, Paducah Day Nursery, Paducah Symphony Orchestra, and Market House Theatre. He has exhibited his work in the member shows at the Yeiser Center and had his first one-man show at Ruth Baggett Gallery in 2013.
Ford's signature always includes a "B" at the end of his name in memory of his mother's nickname, "Babalou." "Everything I paint and draw is dedicated to my mom," he said.
A Memphis, Tenn., native, Ford said he loves working in people's homes and seeing others' as well as his own artwork hanging on their walls. "We have such a wide array of artists in Paducah," he said. "I have a lot of respect for the many artists we have here."
Known for his signature bowties, Ford has a strong passion for his adopted home. In May, he will release a collection of original pen and ink drawings that accompany articles from the community about memories of Paducah titled, "From Paducah With Love."
"The citizens of Paducah radiate a lot of love. Everyone is so progressive," Ford said. "The people really inspire me, and I love Paducah."
PSAD will host a public open house for the 2D and Graphic Design Building at 5 p.m. March 31. For more information about the art school, call (270) 408-4281 or at firstname.lastname@example.org