Important Murals Restored, Music History Mural Returns

Walt Fieldsa, Knoxville Music History Mural Restoration, Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, June 2017

There’s been a lot of action going on in the Old City recently. The streets – first Central and now Jackson – remain in a state of upheaval that will result in buried and modernized utilities, wider sidewalks and repaved streets. Construction on the Crozier is now progressing rapidly and other plans are being announced. New businesses have opened in recent months – Rala moved to the Old City – Merchants of Beer has been a success from the beginning and Body Mind Realign opened months ago. Post Modern Spirits and Pour are coming soon.

In the middle of all the construction noise and dust it might be easy to miss another important development. It’s a quieter pursuit at which you’ll find artist and muralist Walt Fieldsa at work. Starting in April he restored the train mural you’ll see in what is currently the Lonesome Dove courtyard. He painted the original mural in 2001 with the support of Keep Knoxville Beautiful. Noting its deterioration after fifteen years, the organization began raising funds in late 2016 to fund the restoration.

Train Mural Restoration, Central Street, Knoxville, May 2017 (Photos Keep Knoxville Beautiful)

The mural, located on a building currently owned by Laura and Shawn Lyke, who have been very supportive of the project and assured its protection, needed significant help. Restored at a cost of around $4,500, financial support was provided by many individuals and by significant gifts from the CBID, Historic Southern Railway Station, and Blue Slip Winery & Bistro. The artist returned in April , “repairing cracks, securing plaster, brightening faded colors, and sealing the public artwork to protect it against future damage.”

The press release pointed out that, “The Historic Train Mural was created during a time when the Old City was nearly derelict. The site was deliberately chosen both to memorialize the nearby train line, which transformed Knoxville from a small river town into a major wholesale center, and to elevate the surrounding area.” Keep Knoxville Beautiful Executive Director Patience Melnik added, “It not only commemorates the dramatic impact the railroad had on our city, it preserves and celebrates a time not very long ago when a different type of pioneer was transforming our downtown.”

Knoxville Music History Mural, October 2010

Knoxville Music History Mural, Knoxville, October 2016

Knoxville Music History Mural Restoration, Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

The context of that planned restoration provided additional urgency: a nearby mural, the Knoxville Music History Mural located on Jackson Avenue, just across from Barley’s and painted in 2000 by a team led by Walt Fieldsa, had been painted over. Reaction was swift and very negative on social media. In the linked article above, building owner Leigh Burch III said the mural had been defaced and he felt there was no other option.

Fortunately, this past winter wheels began to move in the direction of returning the mural to its original location. Walt told me that he was surprised at the intensity of the reaction to the destruction of the mural and that so many cared, but he admired that, “Knoxville will take care of Knoxville.” Saying his, “message is to avoid cultivating conflict,” he began to reach out to those involved.

Walt Fieldsa, Knoxville Music History Mural Restoration, Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, June 2017

He sat down with Mr. Burch and told him the mural could still be restored, despite the coatings. He’d researched mural restoration and talked to people across the country, ultimately settling on a citrus solution which removes a layer at a time. Understanding, “many people felt a strong connection with the work and wanted it preserved,” he readily agreed not only to allow its restoration, but to pay for the work, himself.

Portraying such a wide range of Knoxville’s musical past, it really is an important reminder of those whose music has graced the city. In one of my early articles, as I got to know downtown better, I covered it on the blog. There are, as I noted then, a number of easily recognized artists, such as Dolly Parton, the Everly Brothers, R.B. Morris, Brownie McGhee, along with many to whom the years have not been as gracious and their stars have faded.

Walt had to wait until the temperatures held between 65 and 85 for the solution to work its best and he’s now been able to move on to re-applying paint. This time around he plans to do all the work himself and he promises it will be better than before. He’s noted several mistakes from the first time around and he’s correcting those. The image was projected the first time around and he says that resulted in some errors of perspective.

Knoxville Music History Mural Restoration, Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, June 2017

Walt Fieldsa, Knoxville Music History Mural Restoration, Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, June 2017

Walt Fieldsa, Knoxville Music History Mural Restoration, Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, June 2017

He’s also repairing the wear that resulted from the sixteen years that had passed, such as cracks in the building which he has filled with, “acrylic golden paint.” When the work is complete he’ll coat it with a barrier and a lacquer which should last forty years. He said at that point, the lacquer should be easily removed, leaving the protective barrier in place and it can be re-coated. In other words, there is no reason the mural shouldn’t last as long as the building.

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Pearl on Union Set to Open This Fall

Shaun and Meg Parrish, Owners of Old City Java, Wild Love Bakehouse and Pearl on Union, Knoxville, June 2017

It’s been rumored around downtown for nearly a year while one of downtown’s best locations sat empty. Shaun and Meg Parrish are now prepared to make a big announcement: The owners of Old City Java and Wild Love Bakehouse plan to open Pearl on Union at 513 Union Avenue in the Daylight Building.

The Daylight Building on Union Avenue is one of downtown’s most successful buildings during the current renaissance. Opening in 2011 after sitting empty for years, the building was quickly filled with businesses in every storefront and residents in every apartment. When it converted to condos last year a feeding frenzy resulted.

513 Union Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

Businesses have largely thrived. Union Avenue Books remains in its original location and continues to thrive. Two other businesses got successful starts in the building before moving to other locations. Wild Lavender opened nearly two years ago and recently added staff. Coldstream Market, after a successful beginning on Market Square in 2013, moved to the block a year-and-a-half ago. J.C. Holdway opened nearly a year ago to nothing but rave reviews.

513 Union Avenue in the building operated as Just Ripe from May 2011 to its closure April of last year. Several re-organizations and two different owners never quite found the right formula to make the shop profitable. It was filled almost immediately with the first incarnation of Cruze Farms Milk Bar, before falling silent after their planned departure. The space was still leased to Century Harvest Farms and much of the subsequent time has been consumed with shifting the lease agreement to Shaun and Meg.

The couple has long been interested in having a presence in the uptown section of the center city, while continuing to remain invested in their original Old City Java business and their newer Wild Love Bakehouse. The latter business, the opening of which they announced in September 2015 (this link includes much of the background on Old City Java and the couple) and officially opened three months later has been a huge success as exemplified by their recognition last January on Afar.com as the best bakery in America.

They will now bring their special blend of excellent coffee and perfect baked goods to 513 Union under the name “Pearl on Union.” The business is named for Shaun’s great-grandmother and the couple is very excited about the location. They’ve loved it since its incarnation as Just Ripe and Shaun said, “I think it’s one of the prettiest spaces in Knoxville.”

The Daylight Building, 500 Block of Union Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

Currently in the design phase, under the direction of Sanders Pace Architecture, they’ve already given considerable thought to the flow and arrangement of the new business. You can expect a new counter in place of the previous counter, bar seating at the window facing Union Avenue and built-in wall seating with tables along the left-hand side as you enter. They also plan to have outdoor seating, which they see as very important to the business. As they imagine it, it will have a smaller capacity than the other two businesses they operate, but the number of seats might be surprising.

Meg said they are menu-testing already, though they will have similar foods to those currently found at Wild Love Bakehouse. Emphasis will be on fresh-made, healthy grab-and-go food. Salads, sandwiches, wraps, soups and both breakfast and lunch foods will be available along with the full complement of pastries and baked goods that have made her reputation.

Shaun and Meg Parrish, Owners of Old City Java, Wildlove Bakehouse and Pearl on Union, Knoxville, June 2017

The two are also excited to join their neighbors in the Daylight Building and like the synergy of being located betweem a top-flight restaurant in J.C. Holdway and Knoxville’s independent bookstore, Union Avenue Books. Plans include opening each morning (seven days a week) at 7:00 AM and, while they will be open at least until 9:00 PM each night, they may extend evening hours to match those of J.C. Holdway. It might be a perfect spot for dessert and coffee after a good dinner and they’ll offer plated desserts at night to provide that option.

Expect the shop to open this fall as quickly as they are able to make the necessary changes and preparation required. You’ll find the familiar – the good food, Counter Culture coffee with all the coffee drinks and familiar faces inside a space many of us have appreciated over recent years. You’ll also find something fresh and new as the couple plans to make it unique as compared to their other businesses.

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Is Boulder the “Knoxville of the West?”

Lest anyone prepare to blast me for blasphemy before finishing the first paragraph, let me point out that I'm referencing an article I wrote just over a year ago: "Is Knoxville the "Boulder of the East?" It was in reference to an article published … [Continue reading]