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!