KMA celebrates re-opening of its signature collection — and a $3 million gift from Ann and Steve Bailey

Ann Bailey and David Butler, the retiring executive director of the Knoxvile Museum of Art. Bailey and her husband, Steve, are donating $3 million to fund an endowment at the KMA.

Supporters of the Knoxville Museum of Art gathered last week to celebrate the re-opening of the museum’s signature “Higher Ground” exhibition which showcases art and artists with connections to East Tennessee.

But they also were delighted with an unexpected announcement. Ann and Steve Bailey, after whom the museum’s Great Hall already is named because of their past support, have pledged $3 million to endow the David L. Butler Executive Director position. That’s in honor of David Butler who is retiring from the post at the end of this year after holding it since 2006. What a wonderful night!

The “Higher Ground” exhibit is important because it demonstrates the evolution of the mission of the Knoxville Museum of Art, which was opened in its current location at World’s Fair Park in 1990. When the beautiful $11 million Tennessee marble-clad Clayton Building — designed by renowned architect Edward Larrabee Barnes — opened its doors, the KMA didn’t own a great deal of art. Instead, it made a name for itself by bringing in huge traveling shows by artists like Rodin, Warhol, and Chihuly.

But, under the direction of Butler and the museum’s first and current curator Stephen Wicks (who left in 2003 and returned in 2007), the KMA has found a voice for itself — and for Knoxville and East Tennessee. It currently holds 200 works with connections to our region. Seventy of those are on display in the new “Higher Ground” exhibit now located in its new home in two large galleries on both sides of the museum’s first floor entryway. Continue reading

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Larry Cox truly embodied slogan of Fulton High School, his alma mater: “Enter to learn; go forth to serve.”

Brenda and Larry Cox in May 2014 when U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner came to Knoxville to speak at a fundraiser for Congressman John J. Duncan Jr.

Larry Gibbs Cox was remembered last Saturday as a dedicated 20-year City Council member, an enthusiastic community volunteer and, most importantly, as a friend.

Cox, 81, passed away Oct. 18 following a series of strokes. His funeral service, which more than 200 people attended, was held in the auditorium of Fulton High School, from which he graduated in 1960. The school’s slogan, “Enter to learn; go forth to serve,” was prominent throughout the building. Larry Cox did just that.

Steve Diggs, the president and CEO of Emerald Youth Foundation, officiated at the services. Cox was a dedicated supporter of EYF. “Larry was the founding force of Emerald Youth Foundation,” Diggs said. “Larry was more than a mentor to me. Thanks to his family for sharing him with me and with our community.”

Rev. Bob Bean, the retired pastor of Emerald Avenue United Methodist Church, where Cox was a congregant, recalled Cox’s willingness to help. “Larry was always ready to serve; he never turned down a request to be on a committee,” Bean said. “Every pastor needs a Larry.”

Former Fulton head football coach Buck Coatney recalled Cox’s dedication to Emerald Youth Foundation, Fulton High School, St. Mary’s Medical Center and numerous youth sports endeavors and called Cox “the most genuinely charitable man I’ve ever met.” Continue reading

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Nourish Knoxville fetes friends with farm day!

Amanda Mohney of Libacious, provided specialty cocktails. Alan and I enjoyed one called, appropriately, October Sky. It was described as “an effervescent highball with gin, hibiscus, ginger and rosemary.” It was delicious.

This past Sunday, supporters of Nourish Knoxville, the non-profit organization that produces the local farmers’ markets, among other things, held a sweet celebration at the fabulous Strong Stock Farm on Rutledge Pike.

Called “Friends & Farmers,” there wasn’t really an agenda for the event, but simply music, food, drinks, pony and wagon rides, corn hole, a cake walk and just hanging out. The planned hot air balloon rides did have to be canceled, though, due to winds being a little too high.

The lucky invitees were those who supported Nourish Knoxville at the Steward Level ($150 or more), those who volunteered 10 hours or more, farmers’ market vendors or various event sponsors.

The day couldn’t have been more perfect, as you will see from these photos. Although, once you get there, Strong Stock Farm seems like it is very far away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Knoxville, it’s really only 11 miles! It was enough to make this committed city girl really appreciate how many options we in Knox County are lucky enough to enjoy. Continue reading

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YWCA honors outstanding women for 38th year

Knoxville’s former poet laureate, Rhea Carmon, wowed the audience with her dynamic message of empowerment.

The YWCA of Knoxville and the Tennessee Valley recently honored seven local women who best exemplify the Y’s core mission: empowering women, eliminating racism and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

In a festive gathering at The Mill & Mine event center one block north of Knoxville’s Old City, the finalists and their supporters gathered in a joyous mood to nosh and raise a glass to the contestants and the YWCA. The winners were selected by a panel of judges who live outside of Knoxville.

A highlight of the evening was a poetry reading by Rhea Carmon, Knoxville’s former poet laureate.

The YWCA serves women and their families year-round. Founded in 1899, YWCA offers transitional housing and supportive services to women who would otherwise be homeless; advocacy, outreach, support groups, counseling and prevention services for victims of domestic violence; youth and family development services; and after-school programming. Continue reading

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Tennessee Theatre turns 95: Fun pictures alert!

Becky Hancock, executive director of the Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation, welcomed guests to the iconic facility’s 95th birthday celebration.

The iconic Tennessee Theatre turns 95 years old this month and the folks there threw a little party on the stage to celebrate. Guests were encouraged to dress in 1920s attire to reflect the time of the beloved institution’s birth.

When the Tennessee Theatre opened in October of 1928, it was a single-screen movie theater. After a lifetime of ups and downs, today it is a venue for all kinds of musical performances, Broadway shows and, still, the occasional movies.

During the 1970s, the Tennessee Theatre’s future looked dim. It was closed and shuttered several times as downtown Knoxville also looked forlorn and abandoned. But the Tennessee took a turn for the better when businessman and philanthropist James A. Dick purchased it in 1981 with the intention of saving it.

In 1996, Dick turned the facility over to a new non-profit organization, the Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation, whose first president was Bruce Hartmann, then publisher of the Knoxville News-Sentinel. (At the time, there was still a hyphen in the newspaper’s name!)

Led by Hartmann, the foundation after several years of study and preparation, launched a campaign to raise $30 million to restore the theater. As part of this project, the theater’s stage was expanded by cantilevering it over State Street, making it suitable for many more performances such as the ones we see there today.

The foundation hired a downtown public relations firm called Moxley Carmichael to assist in the fundraising project. As the CEO of that firm, one of my fondest memories is of re-opening night in January 2005 when the entire community was invited to see the “big reveal” after the Tennessee Theatre had been closed for 18 months.

Before the doors were opened to the public, I was standing in the back of the darkened auditorium next to Mayor Bill Haslam watching the folks on stage get ready. We were both a little overwhelmed by the stunningly beautiful interior of the hall. “Well, Mayor, what do you think?” I asked. He sounded like a small child on Christmas morning when he answered: “I just can’t believe we get to keep it!” Continue reading

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Butler honored by Knoxville Museum of Art: ‘He helped us conquer our innate inferiority complex!’

Knoxville Museum of Art Executive Director David Butler and Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon at the James L. Clayton Awards Luncheon held in the KMA’s Ann & Steve Bailey Hall.

David Butler and his husband, Ted Smith, were honored recently at the 25th annual James L. Clayton Award Luncheon at the Knoxville Museum of Art. The Clayton Award is presented annually to the individual, family or institution whose support of the museum is uncommonly generous and sustained.

Butler has been the KMA’s executive director for the past 17 years. Smith, a retired IBM executive, has been his unwavering supporter in that demanding endeavor.

Liza Zenni, executive director of the Arts & Culture Alliance of Greater Knoxville, heaped praise upon Butler during her poignant remarks at the luncheon. “He helped us conquer our innate inferiority complex,” she said, referring to the town once labeled by a Wall Street Journal reporter as “a scruffy little city on the Tennessee River.”

The outspoken Zenni accurately said she herself often is described as “a pugilist.” She said people tell her that if they ever were in a war, they’d want her on their side! “Well, if I’m ever in a war, I want David on my side!” she exclaimed.

Taylor Wortham, the chair of the museum’s board of trustees, said the KMA “is stronger and better off than it’s ever been” thanks to Butler’s leadership. Continue reading

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Evening Under the Stars even better with fun addition

Natalie Dowling, left, and Mollie Turner were co-chairs of this year’s Evening Under the Stars.

One of Knoxville’s best fundraisers — Evening Under the Stars benefiting the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra — has gotten even better this year.

The annual dinner and dancing soiree, held in a huge tent at the beautiful lakeside home of Sherri Lee, was tweaked to add a pre-dinner cocktail hour on a lovely lawn area near the tent. The benefit of moving the cocktail hour out from under the tent is that it was easier to talk and to circulate before being seated for dinner and dancing.

The party was a sellout, as usual, with tickets going for $275 each. By The Tracks Catering did a great job — especially with the inspired passed appetizers, as you will see in these photos. Of course, the highlight of the evening always is the live performance by the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra both prior to dinner and during dancing later. Another great addition this year: high school prodigy Mimi Terry performed on keyboards during the dinner portion of the night. Continue reading

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Knox Heritage names Mike Hatcher and Tim Hill ‘Preservationists of the Year’ at packed soiree

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon, left, poses with Tim Hill and his daughter, Kendall Hill Crisp, at the Scruffy City Soiree, where Hill and his business partner were named Preservationists of the Year.

Mike Hatcher and Tim Hill, who founded Hatcher-Hill Properties in 2004, were named Preservationists of the Year last month during the Scruffy City Soiree, a popular annual fundraiser sponsored by Knox Heritage.

Over the years, Hatcher-Hill has been responsible for saving many historic structures, often repurposing them for modern use. A prime example of that is the J.C. Penney Building on Gay Street, which has been turned into condominiums. (Alan and I are lucky enough to own one unit in the J.C. Penney Building.) For that  project, Hatcher-Hill partnered with David Dewhirst and Mark Heinz in 2014 to bring back to life the historic structure that was originally built in 1898.

The Scruffy City Soiree, held in another downtown structure, The Mill & Mine, is one of the most fun and well-attended events in Knoxville. This year was no exception, as you will see from these photos. It raised more than $118,000 for historic preservation and sold 296 tickets — up from 238 last year.

Tim Hill is in the middle of a run for Knoxville City Council. He is seeking to unseat Amelia Parker for the At-Large Seat C position. Hill currently serves as chair of the Knoxville-Knox County Planning Commission and the Knoxville-Knox County Sports Authority, both posts he will give up if elected to Council. Continue reading

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‘Drink Up the Moon’ — and feel free to snooze

DeLena Feliciano, KMA’s assistant director of education, adjusts the microphone prior to artist Jane Cassidy’s remarks to a group gathered for a “Cocktails and Conversation” program.

If you go see artist Jane Cassidy’s two installations at the Knoxville Museum of Art — and you really should! — and you happen to fall asleep, she will consider her art to have been a success!

Cassidy, from Galway, Ireland, is a multi-disciplinary artist. She told a group gathered recently for a “Cocktails and Conversation” program at the KMA that most of her artwork involves at least two senses. The two on display at the KMA’s second floor Exhibition Gallery make use of sight and sound. And some of the sound is her own voice humming or chanting.

It really is relaxing. That’s why the KMA has thoughtfully provided comfy beanbag chairs for you to snuggle into!

“If anyone falls asleep during my work, I consider it a success” she assured us.

Cassidy said much of her latest art was born out of the pandemic. To escape lockdown, she often would swim — and record what she saw and heard on her cell phone. She swam during frigid temperatures, during rain and even during a hailstorm! And she used each experience in her eight-minute piece called “You Never Regret the Swim.” Continue reading

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Carol Mayo Jenkins retires at UT; ‘We need more people like Carol,’ says friend and acting colleague

Actors Carol Mayo Jenkins and Michael Cerveris at a dinner to celebrate her retirement.

Carol Mayo Jenkins, who has been an artist in residence in the University of Tennessee’s Department of Theatre for 22 years, retired earlier this month but told those gathered to celebrate that she’d still be around, hopefully performing at the Clarence Brown Theatre.

The veteran stage and television actress was feted by fellow thespians – in person and in videotaped tributes — during a dinner at Bridgewater Place in West Knoxville. She was visibly touched when her “Fame” television series co-star, actress Debbie Allen, announced via video a gift of $10,000 to an endowment established in Jenkins’ name. That fund will be used to assist outstanding undergraduate acting students at UT.

Tony Award-winning actor Michael Cerveris attended in person and praised Jenkins for her commitment to teaching. “We need more people like Carol,” he said. “She brings optimism, hope and is forward-looking. Plus she brings history and a grounding in tradition.”

Actress Jane Alexander, via videotape, also praised Jenkins as a teacher. “Teaching is the greatest gift we as actors can give,” she said. Continue reading

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