January, 2015

Epiphanies – Both Large and Small

Epiphanies – Both Large and Small

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!

September, 2014

Shiny and New

Shiny and New

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 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.

April, 2014

KMA Plans First Friday Party Like Never Before – it’s a GLASSBLAST!

KMA Plans First Friday Party Like Never Before – it’s a GLASSBLAST!

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.

August, 2013

Now Is Our Time to Shine

Now Is Our Time to Shine

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!



May, 2013

An Evening of Beer, Food, and Art!

An Evening of Beer, Food, and Art!

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
good beer!

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






March, 2013

New Works Added to the KMA’s Higher Ground Exhibition

New Works Added to the KMA’s Higher Ground Exhibition

As curator of the KMA, I get the fun and sometimes complicated task of planning updates and changes to our permanent exhibitions. Our curatorial staff has been working hard over the last month to add more than a dozen new paintings and photographs to our signature exhibition, Higher Ground: A Century of the Visual Arts in East Tennessee.

Among the works we added to Higher Ground are new acquisitions by key East Tennessee artists. Smoky Mountains, by Rudolph Ingerle, represents a scenic view of East Tennessee’s rugged landscape during the 1920s by a prominent Chicago artist who became one of the leading painters of the Smokies. Etruscan Still Life, by Charles Rain, is a minutely-detailed canvas by a Knoxville-born artist who possessed a talent for using ordinary objects to construct mysterious, dream-like scenes rich with symbolic references. These two acquisitions are especially exciting for me because they are the first works by Ingerle and Rain to enter the KMA collection. Morning Milking Time by Catherine Wiley reflects the Knoxville artist’s mastery of Impressionism, and her ability to convey through the use of vibrant color and bold brushwork the heat and light of the late morning sun on her sister’s farm in northwest Knox County. Just a year or so ago, the KMA owned only one major painting by Wiley. With the purchase of Morning Milking Time this year and Untitled (Woman and Child in a Meadow) last year, we now own three outstanding examples that enable us to do justice to her immense artistic talent. One artist whose paintings we do own in depth is Carl Sublett, but Sign Language is the first that represents his experimentation with Pop Art during the early 1960s. The artist’s son, Eric, explained to me how was inspired by a “See Rock City” birdhouse his father encountered during one of his regular summer trips to Maine. Other recent acquisitions on view in Higher Ground include works by Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, Lloyd Branson, and Walter Hollis Stevens.

Paintings borrowed from public and private collections add significant strength to the new display. Beauford Delaney’s Scattered Light is a spectacular example of the legendary Knoxville artist’s ability to distill the visual world into dabs of brilliant color in a manner reminiscent of Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet. Helen Ross by Edward Hurst offers a strikingly candid likeness by one of Knoxville’s most recognized portrait painters. The portrait’s casual pose and loose brushwork suggest the influence of Hurst’s Art Students League mentor George Luks. Untitled (At the Blacksmith’s Shop) reflects Gilbert Gaul’s masterful ability to construct poignant narrative scenes of everyday life. In Early Autumn, Louis Jones applies thick dabs of paint to construct a rustic scene that likely depicts woods near his beloved Gatlinburg. Although Gaul and Jones were born outside East Tennessee, they were lured to the region by its beauty and spent significant parts of their careers here. The KMA is grateful for the generous support from lenders and donors who made possible these additions to Higher Ground.


Catherine Wiley (1879-1958)
Morning Milking Time, circa 1915
Oil on canvas
40 x 29 ¾ inchesJoint Purchase of the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection, Knox County Public Library, and the Knoxville Museum of Art with funds provided by the C. M. McClung Collection Endowment, Natalie and Jim Haslam, Ann and Steve Bailey, Ellen “Sis” Mitchell, Kay and Jim Clayton, Laura and Jason Bales, Patricia and Alan Rutenberg, John Thomas, and Kimbro Maguire and Penny Lynch, 2012.

Although best known for her depictions of women and children in quiet domestic settings, Wiley here depicts a male worker on her sister’s farm in northwest Knox County.  This painting reflects the Knoxville artist’s mastery of impressionism, and her ability to convey through the use of vibrant color and bold brushwork the heat and light of the late morning sun as it falls on the East Tennessee landscape.


Rudolph Ingerle (1879-1950)
Smoky Mountains, circa 1925
Oil on canvas

Gift of the Haslam family in honor of Steve Bailey’s 60th birthday, 2013


Louis E. Jones (1878-1958)
Early Autumn, circa 1930s
Oil on canvas
Tennessee State Museum, 93.60.2A native of Pennsylvania, Louis E. Jones became known for his vibrant paintings of the Smoky Mountains rendered in a broad palette of thickly applied pigment. Unlike most visiting artists who came to the Smokies to paint during summers, Jones permanently settled there around 1930. Soon thereafter, he established a studio in downtown Gatlinburg, The Cliff Dwellers, a distinctive chalet-style building that still stands.


Beauford Delaney (1901-1979)
Scattered Light, 1964
Oil on canvas

Estate of Beauford Delaney, by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esq., Court Appointed Administrator


Charles Rain (1911-1985)
Etruscan Still Life, 1968
Oil on canvas

Bequest of Henry W. Grady, Jr., 2012


Carl Sublett (1919-2008)
Sign Language, 1963
Polymer, oil, and pencil on canvas
Museum purchase in memory of Helen and Carl Sublett

Sublett was a versatile, prolific painter and a core member of the Knoxville Seven, a group of forward-looking artists active between 1959 and 1965. Sign Language represents Sublett’s experimentation with Pop Art during the early 1960s. The painting was inspired when Sublett was on one of his many trips to Maine and happened to encounter a birdhouse in the shape of one of the many barns throughout the Southeast that advertise the roadside attraction “Rock City” near Chattanooga.


January, 2013

As We Peer into the Future, We Say Farewell For Now to the “Eyes”

As We Peer into the Future, We Say Farewell For Now to the “Eyes”

“The eyes need to be removed so the building can be cleaned.”  My initial response was “Nooooooooooooooooooooo…not the eyes.”  Now, it’s not that I will be personally harmed by the removal, nor do I get a kick-back from any optical sponsors, but I do feel like it’s the end of an era.  I have plenty of blood, sweat, and tears invested in those giant baby blues. (I exaggerate only slightly.)

The eyes were added to the back of the museum in 2008 as the brain child of then-advertising consultant Dean Bastian (who now owns and operates Hard Knox Pizzeria) as part of a branding campaign and have become an iconic symbol in the World’s Fair Park area.  The tag line “Open Your Eyes, Open Your Mind” was created and was further enhanced by the eyes peering over World’s Fair Park. It was exciting and edgy – the building had become its own billboard. The eyes made an austere and aloof building friendly and approachable.  People commented that they felt the eyes were “following them” as they walked around the park below.  Some said it was a great landmark and helped when giving directions to people from out of town. “Look for the two giant eyes and turn left.”  Whatever the reason, the eyes became a comfort and a staple, and brought the otherwise non-descript back of the building to life.

My fondest memory of the eyes being installed was a funny one. (Or at least I could laugh about it after the fact.)  As the giant crane was hoisting the banners up and the multiple contractors were in the bucket working to attach them to the building, I decided to step out back to check on the progress.  As I looked up at the right eye, I thought something seemed odd.  Why was the tear duct on the outside corner of the eyes instead of on the inside?  Wait…oh no….the right eye has been installed on the wrong side.  So there I am, all 5 feet, 4 inches of me, waving my arms wildly and shouting up to the crane, “It’s on the wrong side! It’s on the wrong side!”  Yes, I can laugh about it now.

Once building renovations are complete, new eyes will once again adorn the back of the building, but they won’t be the same eyes as before.  I am already looking forward to the installation process and all the fun that will go along with it.

Change is good. The temporary absence of the eyes heralds a period of renewal and transformation as the KMA prepares for the opening of the Jolley installation in 2014.   Once the new eyes are up, we will all come to count on them as we did with the old ones.  I encourage everyone to keep a close watch on the museum and visit frequently to see all the exciting things the KMA has in store.  It promises to be an eye-opening experience!


November, 2012

Big, Exciting Changes Are Coming to the KMA

Big, Exciting Changes Are Coming to the KMA

One new thing at the KMA is this blog, a more timely, immediate, and interactive vehicle than Canvas, its quarterly paper counterpart. This new (and as yet unnamed) blog provides more substantive content than the quick emails we send out regularly, plus a richer mix of media to give you better information and greater insight.

The museum begins a period of change and growth in solid financial shape and with a strong sense of identity and mission:   “The Knoxville Museum of art celebrates the art and artists of East Tennessee; introduces new art and new ideas; engages, educates, and serves a diverse community; enhances Knoxville’s quality of life and economic development; and operates ethically, responsibly, and transparently as a public trust.”  Higher Ground: A Century of the Visual Arts in East Tennessee, the museum’s flagship installation, has definitively established the idea that the KMA is first and foremost about the rich and distinctive visual culture of our region. A lively schedule of diverse and sophisticated temporary exhibitions presents the best of our own local traditions in the context of national and international artistic developments.  A new ongoing installation—Currents:  Recent Art from East Tennessee and Beyondthat opened in November brings up to the present the story of the visual arts in our region and their relationship to the wider world.  (Curator Stephen Wicks will be sharing more about Currents in this space soon.)

We were gratified that Allison Glock in the August/September 2012 issue of Garden & Gun noted the KMA’s deep roots in its community:

“The KMA knows where it lives. Thus, cocktail parties with local swing and countrypolitan bands. Kid-friendly exhibits, camps, and student shows.  Adult art instruction and education classes. It’s made it a mandate to be part of the community, not a rarified cultural orchid. That said, the art rocks. To wit, its permanent installation Higher Ground: A Century of the Visual Arts in East Tennessee, an internationally regarded show of the long neglected visual tradition of the region.”

Driving many of the upcoming changes is the projected April 2014 opening of Richard Jolley’s monumental glass installation in the museum’s Great Hall, the generous gift of Ann and Steve Bailey. There can be no stronger affirmation of the KMA’s commitment to the art and artists of our own region. Here are some images of Richard and his crew in the West Knoxville studio creating elements of this amazing, 180-foot-long composition, probably the largest figural glass assemblage in existence when it is finished.

(Photo credit: Hei Park)

This momentous occasion for the KMA provides an unparalleled opportunity to refurbish and upgrade the landmark Clayton Building, complete the long-vacant North Garden, create a dedicated art acquisition fund, grow the operating and program endowments, and build cash reserves for facility maintenance and repair. The KMA Board of Trustees and museum staff have been working hard to get everything ready to take on the formidable task of raising the funds needed to carry out these vital tasks.  The Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Campaign (the opening of the Jolley installation coincides with the beginning of a quarter century of museum operations in the Clayton Building) will not only get us ready to welcome the world to Knoxville, but will also leave the KMA in better shape physically, financially, and programmatically.  The campaign will be announced officially once pledges have been confirmed from museum trustees and key stakeholders.  And we’ll keep you apprised of any public access changes or building closures that might be necessitated by construction and repairs in the coming months.

I want to thank Cat Coombs, who was tremendously helpful in gathering material on the Jolley installation and laying the groundwork for this blog during her internship last winter supported by the Windgate Foundation Internship Program, Center for Craft, Creativity & Design, UNC Asheville.

Help us find a name for this blog!  We have a nice gift certificate to the museum shop for the person who sends us the best suggestion.