August, 2016

Just Over the Horizon

Just Over the Horizon

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 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.

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