In the winter of 2013, the Knoxville Museum of Art was a dusty, noisy construction site. It seemed impossible to imagine the sparkling, completely renovated facility that was to emerge miraculously just a few months later. The Great Hall (now Bailey Hall) was stripped to the girders, awaiting the installation of Richard Jolley’s majestic Cycle of Life. In the depths of that dark, cold season, KMA staff and trustees were hard at work on an updated strategic plan to guide the museum’s activities from the opening of the renovated facility well into 2017. Frankly, it was hard to see much beyond the completion of a project that had taken so manyyears and such hard work and sacrifice by so many. The strategic plan crafted that winter did not include any big, bold initiatives, but rather emphasized assimilating and consolidating the great leap that the Clayton Building renovation represented. We challenged ourselves to assume an even higher local, regional, and national profile, and reach for our highest institutional potential. The foundation of that plan was the robust sense of identity and mission the museum had developed. The KMA is very secure in its role as a place that is primarily about the rich and distinctive visual culture of our region, the concept that animates the museum’s flagship permanent exhibition Higher Ground: A Century of the Visual Arts in East Tennessee. The strategic plan calls for building on this area of strength, which we have done with significantacquisitions by Knoxville artists like Beauford Delaney and projects like the recent Knoxville 7 and the current Romantic Spirits exhibitions. The former drills down to reveal a particularly rich and creative period in our local art history, while the latter situates some of the Higher Ground artists within the wider context of nineteenth-century painting in the American South.Similarly, a mix of temporary exhibitions provides enriching context for the art that is alwayson view in Currents: New Art from East Tennessee and Beyond. Because we want to continue to chip away at the erroneous notion that the museum exists only for the privileged, the strategicplan also calls for expanding educational opportunities for children and adults and keepingmuseum admission free. No doubt some of the goals outlined in the plan are too ambitiousfor available resources, but we will continue to seek out innovative ways to reach larger andmore diverse audiences, and make the KMA increasingly relevant to a broad spectrum ofthe community. You can see the full text of the current strategic plan at www.knoxart.org.This fall we embark on a new round of dreaming and planning as we begin work on a newthree-year plan. We will be thinking about finding new and better ways to reflect and shape our region’s cultural identity, and securing the resources to support those efforts. We have come along way since the museum opened 26 years ago. We are still a young institution with a great future ahead of us. I look forward to figuring out together what lies just over the horizon.
The Knoxville 7 exhibition, which included more than seventy works, many of which had not been shown publicly for more than fifty years, was a revelation. Anyone who saw it will never again understand the cultural history of Knoxville in quite the same way. The Knoxville 7 exhibition demonstrated dramatically that, far from being an artistic backwater, Knoxville was a vital, confident, and sophisticated art center in the 1950s and 1960s, conversant with national and international trends, just as it had been in the early twentieth century and is again today. It is gratifying that nearly half of the works displayed came from the KMA collection. Several generous owners of Knoxville 7 material were inspired by the exhibition to enrich further the museum’s holdings in this area.
The groundbreaking Knoxville 7 show is just one of the many exciting developments that have grown out of the KMA’s strategic decision to focus on homegrown visual traditions. That effort began more than eight years ago with the installation of the museum’s flagship exhibition Higher Ground: A Century of the Visual Arts in East Tennessee, and has since been joined by the permanent installations Currents: Recent Art from East Tennessee and Beyond and Cycle of Life: Within the Power of Dreams and the Wonder of Infinity. The latter, the world’s largest figural glass installation, by internationally-known Knoxville artist Richard Jolley, spawned yet another permanent exhibition, dedicated to glass as a contemporary art medium.
Knoxville native Beauford Delaney (1901-1979) represents another fascinating chapter of our region’s rich artistic legacy. In terms of national and international reputation, and his place in the mainstream of American and European modernism, Beauford is arguably the most important artist Knoxville ever produced. He spent the last decades of his life in Paris, where much of what he produced there remains and where he is far better known and more highly esteemed than in his hometown. For the past several years the museum has dedicated itself to building up its holdings of works by Beauford, which are hard to come by, and expensive. Visitors can now enjoy a representative sampling of his output in Higher Ground, and we hope to continue to acquire more by this indispensable modernist. This past February, KMA Curator Stephen Wicks and I, along with a contingent of museum trustees and friends, were honored to attend the opening of an exhibition in Paris of works from private collections there. We were moved by the dedication of Les Amis de Beauford Delaney in preserving and honoring his legacy, and inspired to redouble our efforts to that end over here. We hope to cultivate relationships with new friends in Paris and eventually bring some Beauford Delaney works from there to Knoxville—stay tuned!
We are still in the early, foundational stages of rediscovering the rich visual legacy of our East Tennessee home. That story continues to unfold in unexpected and delightful ways, and I look forward to seeing what lies just over the horizon.
For several years now, an overarching institutional priority of the KMA has been the promotion of our region’s art history. It is a long, rich, and fascinating story, with
unexpected turns and surprises, vivid personalities, false starts, dead ends, and thrilling achievements. When Higher Ground: A Century of the Visual Arts in East Tennessee opened in 2008, no other institution had ever dedicated itself to telling the story of the development and significance of the visual arts here (although the East Tennessee History Center has done a magnificent job of documenting and promoting the broader social, economic, and cultural history of our region, including some of its artists).
When Higher Ground opened, our aims were modest, and we just managed to fill the gallery dedicated to the purpose, largely with borrowed works. We had a strong suspicion, however that there might be a lot of material out there we didn’t yet know about. We hoped fervently that creating a permanent installation dedicated to the art history of East Tennessee would change local perceptions about the visual arts, send a powerful signal that the KMA wanted to be a repository for East Tennessee art, and attract donations and financial support for purchases. We had no inkling that the response would be so powerful and so positive. Since the opening of Higher Ground, the KMA has acquired 180 works by artists from or working in our part of the world, largely through gifts, and we continue to discover new artists from our area or artists with strong connections to Knoxville and East Tennessee. The story just keeps getting more and more interesting.
The Knoxville 7 exhibition opening at the end January is the first harvest of seeds planted in the fertile acreage cleared for Higher Ground (if you will indulge some unartfully mixed metaphors) and represents a prodigious curatorial effort. These innovative artists, many of whom were connected to the founding of the art department at the University of Tennessee, introduced modern art to East Tennessee. Remarkably, this is the first time these artists have been brought together since they exhibited as the Knoxville 7 in the mid-twentieth century. Many works in the exhibition have been held locally—and not exhibited publically–since they were purchased from the artists who created them, and have been loaned or gifted to the KMA. This show will knock you over. Don’t miss the preview reception on January 29.
You still have a few weeks to catch the wonderful exhibition at the East Tennessee History Center on Gay Street dedicated to Lloyd Branson, Knoxville’s first academically trained artist (although the details of his education are still sketchy) and the city’s first full-time painter. Branson was very much a man of the nineteenth century—he was born in 1853—but was a mentor to and advocate for Knoxville’s two most important and talented twentieth-century artists, Catherine Wiley and Beauford Delaney (both now prominently featured in Higher Ground). We are exceedingly proud that this important exhibition, which travels to the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville this summer, features several Lloyd Branson paintings from the KMA collection. Much of the art of East Tennessee remains to be discovered and collected, and we are just getting started. Stay tuned . . .
–David Butler, KMA Executive Director
It has certainly been a remarkable few years for the KMA: the completion of a successful capital campaign; the unveiling of Richard Jolley’s Cycle of Life, the world’s largest figural glass installation; the completion of comprehensive building renovations; and the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the museum’s 1990 opening in the landmark Clayton Building. Adding to that impressive list of achievements, the museum has again achieved accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition for a museum. This is the KMA’s third accreditation, a status it first attained in 1995. In its notification letter, the AAM Accreditation Commission noted that the KMA “demonstrates best, and often exemplary, museum practices in many areas… We commend the museum for taking a risk and employing a smart strategy to focus its exhibitions and collections on the art and artists of East Tennessee as a way to strengthen community participation and support. Likewise, new educational programs and free admission show the institution’s commitment to better connect with the regional community.”
AAM reaccreditation is a resounding affirmation of the KMA’s strategic direction and in the community’s capacity and will to support a first-rate cultural organization. This honor reflects years of hard work and dedication by paid and volunteer staff and extraordinary and sustained commitment by the museum’s stakeholders and its board leadership over the past decade. We are particularly grateful to departing board chair Bernie Rosenblatt for seeing us through an eventful and productive two years, and are looking forward to working with his successor, Richard Jansen, who continues a great tradition of outstanding volunteer leadership. He will enjoy the support of incoming board members Mary Beth Browder, John Cotham, Monica Crane, Shohreh Hashemian, Courtney Lee, Madeline McAdams, Ellen Robinson, Richard Stair, Rosa Toledo, John Trotter, and Ron Watkins who are beginning their first three-year term. For a complete list of KMA board members, visit http://www.knoxart.org/info/trustees.html. AAM accreditation brings national recognition to a museum for its commitment to excellence, accountability, high professional standards, and continued institutional improvement. Developed and sustained by museum professionals for nearly 45 years, AAM’s museum accreditation program is the field’s primary vehicle for quality assurance, self-regulation, and public accountability. It strengthens the museum profession by promoting practices that enable leaders to make informed decisions, allocate resources wisely, and remain financially and ethically accountable in order to provide the best possible service to the public. Of the nation’s nearly 17,500 museums, only about 1,000 are currently accredited. For more information about AAM accreditation and its significance, visit www.aam-us.org.
As we head into summer 2015 I want to pause momentarily to reflect on an exceptionally active and eventful twelve months at the KMA. It was barely a year ago that we celebrated the much-anticipated unveiling of Richard Jolley’s Cycle of Life and the completion of the comprehensive restoration, preservation, and improvement of the KMA’s landmark facility, The Clayton Building first opened to the public on March 25, 1990. We gathered on March 25, 2015 to commemorate a successful run of twenty-five years. That joyous occasion also marked the official conclusion of the 25th Anniversary Campaign, which raised approximately $12 million (including estate commitments and the value of the Jolley installation) to fund building renovations, establish a dedicated art acquisition fund, and add to operating and program endowments. What a memorable year!
We’ve all been reminded in the course of observing this milestone anniversary of the seemingly superhuman effort and determination required to build the Clayton Building and the vision, courage, and commitment of those who made it happen, against all odds. We also celebrate the no less important achievement of supporting and sustaining the institution that was so grandly installed on World’s Fair Park. So many donors and volunteers gave so much over the years to nurture the fledgling KMA, and it is hard to express adequately the depth of our gratitude. As the museum evolved, its collecting and programming focus eventually settled on the visual culture, old and new, of the Southern Appalachians. The museum’s permanent exhibitions, Higher Ground: A Century of the Visual Arts in East Tennessee and Currents: Recent Art from East Tennessee and Beyond, foster an appreciation of the rich visual culture of our region within a global context. A third permanent exhibition, devoted to the museum’s growing holdings in modern and contemporary glass, showcases a growing and increasingly rich area of the collection. These permanent exhibitions are complemented and supplemented by a lively schedule of temporary exhibitions that explore additional aspects of East Tennessee’s regional artistic legacy, international contemporary art, and how the region connects to the wider world.
The KMA begins its second quarter century in sound financial condition, with a beautifully renovated facility, a powerful sense of identity, and deep roots in the community. The KMA’s permanent and temporary exhibitions, the education and outreach programs that grow from them, and a policy of free admission for everyone nurture a strong connection with local audiences. The successful effort to fund and build an art museum on World’ Fair Park was a triumph over the naysayers and those who doubted Knoxville’s ability to achieve greatness. What a privilege it is to build on the vision and hard work of so many who gave so much to realize the ambitious vision of a great art museum for Knoxville and East Tennessee! None of what has happened in the past few years would have even been remotely conceivable without the monumental achievement represented by the construction of the Clayton Building. Future generations who benefit from the presence of a vibrant, engaged, and relevant cultural organization like the KMA will forever be in the debt of those who dared to dream and build big.
I had something of an epiphany in October when I stayed one evening after work for the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra’s innovative Concertmaster Series in the Ann and Steve Bailey Hall. Gabriel Lefkowitz played brilliantly for several hundred people, with the “Sky” section of Richard Jolley’s Cycle of Life glittering overhead, spotlights casting a lacy network of shadows on the ceiling and increasingly complex reflections of reflections in the plate glass as daylight faded. It was a remarkable experience in a unique setting–with amazing acoustics–that made everyone there feel, as I did, that they had enjoyed their own private recital. Great art and great music. A treat for the eyes, for the ears, for the soul. A moment to feel truly alive, when all seems right with the world. This is why the KMA is here, I thought. The euphoric mood continued outside in the blue twilight, where new exterior lighting cast a soft glow on the building and gardens.
I had a very similar experience the next night, when an even bigger crowd squeezed in for a different sort of musical experience and the walls vibrated to the sounds of SoulConnection with special guest Clifford Curry,part of the museum’s perennial Alive After Five Friday-night music series. There was also that thrilling moment back in September when a hundred or so vintage motorcycles roared up World’s Fair Park Drive for the first-ever Art Fair KMA, organized by the KMA Guild, an event that attracted more than 2,000 people, many of them first-time visitors. And how could I forget the excitement of the Sarah Jane Hardrath Kramer Lecture earlier that same week, when Dallas Museum of Art curator Sue Delaney thrilled an overflow crowd with a valentine to hometown hero Beauford Delaney? And then there were the nearly 600 museum professionals from around the region who came to Knoxville in October for the Southeastern Museums Conference annual meeting. They loved the KMA and Knoxville and reminded me why I love it here, too.
Are they technically still epiphanies if they occur on a daily basis? I still pinch myself every time I walk through the (new) front doors of the gorgeously renovated Clayton Building. The same thing happens when I stroll through the beautiful new North Garden, the foliage changing with the seasons and plantings starting to mature and fill in as the designers envisioned, or when I see the wonderful new works on display in the galleries, or watch a group of young people in the galleries discover their own artistic heritage.
I hope the coming few months will bring you many such moments of discovery and wonder. There is much to engage, to delight, to challenge. To cite just a few examples:
–Discover the new space dedicated to glass as a sculptural medium, on the garden level off the Ann and Steve Bailey Hall, intended to frame and provide context for Richard Jolley’s masterwork a few feet away. Not so long ago we only a handful of works in glass; now we will have to rotate the spectacular examples we’ve acquired in a very short time, thanks to the extraordinary generosity of donors. I think this area will be a favorite for lots of people.
–Enjoy the new material that’s been added to our flagship permanent installation Higher Ground, especially recent acquisitions by Beauford Delaney, and the loan from the University of Tennessee of Marion Greenwood’s monumental mural, History of Tennessee. Her work celebrates our state and region’s rich musical heritage. Perhaps even more importantly, the history of its reception at UT—the mural was hidden for years because of its portrayal of African-Americans made it a target of controversy—tells us a great deal about our history as a community and keeps open an important and sometimes difficult conversation about race and our connections to one another. Oh, and the amazing Karen LaMonte glass kimono in Currents . . .
–Lift: Contemporary Printmaking in the Third Dimension brings exciting new work from all over in conjunction with an international conference organized by the Printmaking Program at the UT School of Art.
–The KMA will be a major venue for Big Ears 2015, Knoxville’s international new music festival coming in March. Two words: Kronos Quartet.
–You’ll be hearing more soon about the celebration in late March of the 25th anniversary of the KMA’s opening in the Clayton Building.
These and so many other wonderful things are happening because of your support. There are many, many more opportunities for epiphanies large and small listed throughout this edition of Canvas. Dive in and enjoy!
I hope you are enjoying the beautifully renovated and renewed KMA. The landmark Clayton Building sparkles inside and out, looking even more handsome than when it opened to the public on March 25, 1990. This gorgeous container, now enhanced by the new North Garden, offers three floors of important, interesting, and engaging works (including Richard Jolley’s Cycle of Life, the largest figural glass installation anywhere) that connect us to rich local traditions and to artistic developments around the globe. We have much to celebrate as we begin the KMA’s twenty-fifth year in the Clayton Building!
Despite the noise, dust, and disruption of construction last fall, our board committees and staff managed to craft a roadmap for the next three years to guide us beyond the exciting transformational period we have just completed. Vision 2018: Realizing the Potential of the Renewed KMA sets out a framework for thinking about how and where we will grow, change, and improve. The question is not whether the museum can continue to do well, but rather how it can now leverage its considerable advantages to assume an even higher profile locally, regionally, and nationally. In short, how can the KMA achieve its highest potential?
I invite you to visit www.knoxart.org to read Vision 2018 in detail. You can dig into the details of the numerous steps we have outlined to move forward; here I can only touch lightly on some of our general goals for the next few years. In brief, we want the KMA to:
. . . reflect and help shape the region’s cultural identity and nurture its aspirations.
. . . meaningfully engage diverse audiences.
. . . attract visitors and support from a wide area.
. . . generate the diversified revenue streams that will sustain operations and foster future growth.
. . . adhere to the highest and best professional practices in administration and governance.
Some of the specific actions that support these goals, like the new exhibitions and public programs featured elsewhere in this edition of Canvas, will be highly visible. We are especially excited about showing the work of acclaimed photographer Danny Lyon beginning in August. This exhibition, organized by The Menil Collection, Houston, has also provided the occasion to enrich the KMA collection with several dozen prints of the images Lyons created on a sojourn in Knoxville in 1960s. Other activities outlined in Vision 2018 will take place behind the scenes but are no less important. Looming large this fall is the task of preparing for reaccreditation by the American Alliance of Museums. Accreditation is a distinction achieved by only very small percentage of museums across the country, and we have been working the past several years to update policies and procedures, address facility issues, and make sure that every aspect of the museum’s operations conforms to the highest professional standards. If all goes according to plan, the rigorous accreditation process should be mostly complete during our twenty-fifth anniversary year.
We enter this milestone year with such high expectations thanks to the success of the 25th Anniversary Campaign, which has made possible so many improvements and upgrades. Just over $9 million has been pledged to date. We are confident that, with the announcement of the public phase of the campaign, we will reach our ultimate goal $10 million in pledges. Even though construction has been completed and is (mostly) paid for, we still need to add to our operating and program endowment and create a reserve capital fund to ensure that this beautiful facility stays this way. The completion of the capital campaign goes hand in hand with preparations to celebrate a landmark anniversary, throwing the spotlight on the museum’s history, growth, and development, and what it has meant to this community. The coming year provides a wonderful opportunity to recognize our founding mothers and fathers, those who have sustained us since 1990, and those who have contributed to the current campaign and supported the KMA’s brilliant renewal. I have said elsewhere, and it bears repeating, that while the completion of building repairs and campus enhancements might represent the end of a long process, we are now embarking on a vibrant new phase in the history of the museum and the community it serves. I remain convinced that our best years lie ahead.
We have BIG plans for May’s First Friday – a GLASSBLAST street party in front of the KMA featuring live glassblowing, food, music, and dancing!
The event is part of the highly-anticipated GLASSFEST14 – a celebration leading up to the reveal of the KMA’s largest installation to date, Cycle of Life: Within the Power of Dreams and the Wonder of Infinity, by artist Richard Jolley.
Taking over our block of World’s Fair Park Drive is just the start! Come relax, enjoy wine, beer, food, and most exciting of all the opportunity to witness the beauty of live glassblowing at night.
See live hot glass working demonstrations outside the museum by The Corning Museum of Glass Hot Glass Roadshow, which travels around the world and features artist amongst the world’s experts in glassblowing. During GLASSBLAST witness the stunning and spectacular show after hours!
Food and beverages will be available for purchase including eats from local food trucks Tootsie, Savory and Sweet, Hoof, Dale’s Fried Pies, and Cruze Farm. The evening will also feature cover band Vibraslaps.
This Street Party is for everyone – from those interested in glass art to connoisseurs. It will be a First Friday event like ever before and we can’t wait to share it with you!
The Friday, May 2 GLASSBLAST Street Party will be held from 5-9pm; admission is $20 per person.
Additional information about other festivities commemorating this momentous reveal can be found on the GLASSFEST14 page.
As the world is becoming increasingly aware, the Knoxville Museum of Art will soon house the most ambitious and monumental figural glass sculpture anywhere, the work of internationally renowned artist and Knoxville resident Richard Jolley. This dazzling 185-foot-long, 14-foot-high sculpture, titled Cycle of Life: Within the Power of Dreams and the Wonder of Infinity is the generous gift of Ann and Steve Bailey. The eyes of the world will be on Knoxville as art lovers from around the world make the pilgrimage to the KMA to experience this unparalleled masterwork when it is unveiled in the spring of 2014. This is a defining moment and unrivaled opportunity for the KMA and for Knoxville. Installation will soon begin, and will continue through winter as we prepare for an exciting week of opening celebrations April 30-May 4, 2014.
The gift of the Jolley sculpture is but the latest in a decades-long legacy of remarkable and generous gifts that have created and sustained the KMA. The largest single gift in the museum’s history, by local philanthropist Jim Clayton, led to the construction of the current building, which opened in 1990. The KMA’s Clayton Building is a true American masterpiece. As the building nears its 25th birthday and the Jolley unveiling approaches, long-deferred maintenance and cosmetic work is being undertaken, and the museum’s landscaping and exterior areas are being upgraded and improved. Thanks to the success of the 25th Anniversary Campaign, this vital work is well underway, and visitors to the museum can already see dramatic improvements to the exterior. Beginning August 26, 2013, repairs and upgrades to the interior will necessitate closing the building to the public for several months with plans to reopen in late November 2013.
Cycle of Life stands as a spectacular affirmation of the museum’s mission to celebrate the richness and diversity of the visual arts in East Tennessee past and present. Higher Ground: A Century of the Visual Arts in East Tennessee, our flagship permanent exhibition, has inspired an outpouring of generosity that has allowed us to make several spectacular acquisitions by homegrown artists such as Knoxville Impressionist Catherine Wiley. To fulfill the parallel mission of presenting new art and new ideas, a new permanent installation, Currents: Recent Art from East Tennessee and Beyond, stresses the connection between what happens here and in art centers elsewhere in this country and abroad. A rich mix of temporary exhibitions and education programming complements and supports these core initiatives and serves a broad and diverse audience, particularly young people and underserved populations.
Now is our time to shine!
Here at the KMA we love everything art! So when a group from Young Professionals of Knoxville
approached us about an idea for a new event that combined delicious food, specialty brews and art, we
had to be a part of it.
As the manager of the museum’s largest fundraiser – a wine auction – I often feel like my world revolves
around wine. I have come to really appreciate savoring an amazing glass of wine especially when paired
with the right meal. But, as a pizza-loving, music festival and football fanatic, sometimes I just need a
Just like wine, brewing beer is a craft and so is pairing it with foods that bring out the flavors in each.
That’s exactly what Art on Tap, held in April at the KMA, was all about!
Guests sampled five specialty beers. My personal favorites included Leinenkugle’s Summer Shandy,
which had a hint of lemonade, and the hoppy and malty sweetness of Third Shift. Amazing food was
paired with each brew provided by Central Flats and Taps (who knew bacon and a prune could be so
delicious!?), and five artists created works live inspired by each beer. One of my favorites was created by
artist Ashley Dawn Addair who used acrylic, vellum, thread and charcoal to create her piece Blue Moon
in Mexico (see picture to left).
Hands down my favorite part of the event was watching the crowd enjoy sampling each beer and food
pairing, and watching the artists. I have to wonder if they knew it was all about art: the art of brewing
beer, pairing it with food and, of course, creating live music and art.
It was a blast to be a part of planning the event and even better to be a part of the evening’s festivities.
My advice? Don’t miss this event next year!
Carla May Paré
Manager, L’Amour du Vin Wine Auction and Dinner
Thank you to the committee, Central Taps and Flats, Tenth and Blake Beer Company, the Knoxville News
Sentinel, Crossfit KTown and Bold House Renegades for making this event possible. And a special shout
out to all of the artists: Sarah McFalls, Jessie Van Der Laan, Mike C. Berry, Alison Oaks and Ashley Dawn