Public welcome to board 1940s Shantyboat and attend talks about its daring voyage

Paducah Arts Alliance (PAA) Artist-in-Residence Wes Modes, from Santa Cruz, invites visitors to step back in time and board the 1940s era shanty boat docked in front of the River Discovery Center at 117 S. Water Street during special Open House hours. Modes will be on board to share sea stories with visitors. He will also present his talk Secret History of American River People at two times and locations this week.

ShantyboatModes embarked on his epic journey on the Tennessee River this summer—a research voyage that started in Knoxville, Tennessee, progressed through northern Alabama, and concluded at the Port of Paducah last week—to discover, present, and connect the personal narratives of river people from the deck of his 1940s era shantyboat. “It appears that Paducah has managed to both create a lively downtown and preserve its history. Not many of the towns we’ve passed through have managed this,” said Modes.

Open House hours to see the shantyboat are:

  • Tuesday, August 30, 3-5 pm
  • Friday, September 2, from 4-7 pm
  • Saturday, September 3, 10 am – 2 pm

Modes’s artist residency, which runs through September 6, includes a Secret History exhibit (on display at the River Discovery Center), interviews with local residents who share their riverlore, and talks about the project.

“Some of our time in Paducah is spent exhibiting the project and the shantyboat. The rest of the time we are doing the important work of conducting oral history interviews with river people in the area,” said Modes. “Through the oral history interviews I do, I’m hoping that river communities have something to learn from each other. While people living along the Tennessee have different lives than people living along the Upper Mississippi or the Hudson or the Yukon, river people have many of the same concerns. Pollution, invasive species, flooding, the difficulty making a living in river communities, and the difficulty in preserving river history in the face of development pressure.”

Modes will present his talk, Secret History of American River People, at the following times/locations:

  • Tuesday, August 30 at 6 pm at the McCracken County Library, 555 Washington Street
  • Saturday, September 3 at 3 pm in the River Discovery Center’s Founders Room

The shantyboat will also participate in Paducah’s Labor Day Parade on Monday, September 5.

For interviews, email Wes Modes or call him at 831.704.6690. View more project photos here.

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