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.