April First Friday, What to do?

New Sculpture, Krutch Park, Knoxville, April 2012

Happy Friday to everyone. It looks like the weather will be awesome for our monthly street party in the city and the crowds promise to be huge. As usual, there is so much to do in such a short amount of time, there is no way to catch it all. The most complete listing of events I’ve found is here.

A typical First Friday involves art openings all over downtown. Restaurants in particular are often the site of exhibitions of local or regional artists and this month is no exception in that regard. You might want to arrive in the downtown area as early as possible if you’d like to eat in a restaurant as the wait list grows rapidly throughout the evening. With any luck you’ll be able to enjoy some art and good food without too much wait.

New Sculpture, Krutch Park, Knoxville, April 2012

While there is still daylight left you might want to wander around Krutch Park where you will find a number of new sculptures which have been installed in the last couple of weeks. The Dogwood Arts committee decided to expand this great program last year to allow for the displays of these works of art for an entire year. I always miss some of the ones to which I’d grown accustomed, but it is also exciting to see the new works as they arrive. I’m already feeling more connected to this group than the last as a whole.

New Sculpture, Krutch Park, Knoxville, April 2012

I also enjoy watching the people, of course. Some great people watching is to be found on Krutch Park where you might typically enjoy a drum circle. Gay Street and Market Square are packed with people ranging from west Knoxville suburbanites to friends from areas surrounding the city and the usual cast of characters from downtown. The crowd is never dull.

New Sculpture, Gay Street, Knoxville

An unusual addition to this First Friday, is  the second annual Salvage Show presented by Knox Heritage. The show includes art made from architectural salvage by a list of prominent area artists. The exhibition will be held on the second floor of 36 Market Square, meaning you get the added bonus of seeing the inside of that great renovation. More details may be found here.

Morelock Music 411 South Gay Street, Music Until Late

The heart of First Friday is the arts and, in addition to art in restaurants and music spread in every direction, there are, of course, the formal galleries and this is their night to shine. The Art Market on Gay Street often has the coolest music going and featured artists from their co-op on hand to tell you about their works of art for purchase. Music is also generally found nearby at Morelock Music (standing room only) and WDVX studios at the corner of Gay and Summit Hill.

Old Photo of the 100 Block

Knoxville also has an Art District and this is where I inevitably spend most of my time. A concentration of galleries and other creative venues is clustered on the 100 Block of Gay Street and this is also the  site this First Friday of special celebrations. You can find more details here (click Art on the Block). Not only are there openings at every turn, but there is live music throughout the block as well as a drum line, fire eaters, $15 all-you-can-drink beer at 11 Cafe and much more.

New Sculpture, Krutch Park, Knoxville, April 2012

What’s not to like? Watch for me and say, “hello,” if you see me about. It promises to be a great night for everyone.

It’s Cold, It’s Spring and Knoxville is about to Explode

Sculpture on Gay Street, Knoxville

Just when we thought we’d moved past winter, it has re-emerged from its lair. It was just cold and damp enough this weekend in the city, that short sleeve shirts didn’t do the trick no matter how much you told yourself that April starts this week. It is that happy time of year, however, when I remind myself that in the battle between the cold, harsh winter and the warm, green spring, the good guys are definitely going to win.

Sculpture on the side of the Holston Building, Knoxville

Sculpture in Krutch Park, Knoxville

And that exploding part? Well, the Bradford Pear trees have exploded and so have the Redbuds. The Dogwoods can’t be far behind – which brings us to that little festival that happens in Knoxville this time of the year.

Sculpture at Clinch and Market, Knoxville

The first sign in the downtown area that the Dogwood Arts Festival is gearing up is the annual arrival of the sculptures. This is the fifth year for the sculptures and this year they will remain on display for a full year – meaning, if that trend continues, we’ll have a permanent rotating sculpture exhibit downtown. The first of these have arrived and are included in the photographs you see. Some of them may not be finished and none of them are labeled, so take them for the early photographs they are and check them out for yourself after the exhibit is fully installed this week.

Sculpture surrounding pool at Krutch Park, Knoxville

Sculpture in Krutch Park, Knoxville

Also of great interest to me this week is the annual Rhythm and Blooms concerts. Happening all around downtown and at the Knoxville Botanical Gardens this weekend, these concerts feature some excellent artists and favorites of mine, including Daryl Scott, Scott Miller, Robinella and the CC String Band!, and the Felice Brothers. The music onstage at the Market Square Stage is free Friday and Saturday night and that’s where you’ll find Robinella and Scott Miller on Saturday night. Some of the music will be held in John Black Studio in the Daylight Building, so if you’ve read about it on this blog but never made it there, this is your chance. Forty dollars gets you into anything any of the three days, twenty gives you one day.

Sculpture in Krutch Park, Knoxville

Sculpture in Krutch Park, Knoxville

It doesn’t stop there, of course. This Friday is First Friday and this weekend is the Knoxville Marathon. I’ll write more on First Friday later. In the meantime, catch up on your sleep this week because there won’t be time for any of that foolishness starting this Friday night.

Sculpture on Gay Street at Krutch Park, Knoxville

Downtown Sculptures – Keep it or Lose it, Part One

I haven’t taken the time to talk about one of the most conspicuous installations downtown. These are the several dozen sculptures displayed in various places around the area, but concentrated downtown, that were placed as part of the Arts in Public Spaces effort of the Dogwood Arts Festival.  I believe I mentioned them in the blog I wrote about permanent downtown sculptures, but I thought it would be fun to show some of them to everyone and give my opinion. I picked eleven that I happened to run into on this particular outing. This is only a small portion of the sculptures available.

My opinion on this topic is pretty worthless in some respects: I’m not artistically trained or inclined. I have no special gift of discernment on such matters, but I do have the experience of seeing these sculptures everyday for the last few months. I’ve seen people respond to them in one way or another, and I’ve responded to them, as well. I have no idea if it is possible for the city to purchase some of these for permanent exhibit, but I hope so, and that is the premise of this piece. Also, these sculptures are for sale, so some of them may already be headed into private hands.

Given all those caveats, here are the photos of four that I hope we lose:

Andrew Brewster – “Snowflake” – Welded Steel – 6x1x4 – $700

This one I’m cheating on. I don’t dislike it, actually. Like many of the others, once I read the name given by the artist, I understand it a little better. I kind of get that it represents a deconstructed snow flake. The cheating part is that I know we are losing this one: a friend of mine purchased it to plant on the front lawn of his suburban home. I hope the neighbors don’t mind. At a cost of $700, it is the least expensive of all the sculptures placed. The most expensive, which is not located downtown, costs $35,000.

Taylor Wallace – “Morgan County” – Steel – 7x4x10 – $12,500

This needs to be gone, yesterday. I’ll acknowledge that it is interesting in the way that antique jail cells can be, but does that make it art? Called, “Morgan County,” I presume because that is where it came from or because of the connection between that place and correctional institutions, I suppose the attempt is to make a statement. Does an object qualify as art simply because it is presented that way? I’m probably missing something. I just find it disturbing and not in an artistic sort of way, more of an inhumane correctional sort of way. Even if that was the intent of the artist, I still don’t understand how it is art. If I put an electric chair on display it will be disturbing to some and interesting to others, but it doesn’t mean that I created an artistic work. Maybe some of you can enlighten me.

Roger Halligan – “O.K. Bouy” – Steel, Concrete, Paint – 116″x25″x20″ – $19,000 

Definitely needs to be gone. The word I hear most often around this one is “Doctor,” as in Seuss. At first I thought it was stone, which would make it an interesting stone formation, but then I learned it is concrete. I guess it took some skill to shape the concrete in that manner, but to what artistic end? And the black and white stripes? I have no idea. I do suspect that I could have painted them, though perhaps the art is in imagining the black and white stripes on the concrete in the first place. I just don’t know. Are there seriously people who will pay $19,000 for this?

Hanna Jubron – “Rising Sun” – Stainless Steel/Bronze – 8’x20″x16″ – $13,500

The last piece I’ll put in the “please get it out of here” category. It does not evoke a sunrise or any form of sunniness in my soul whatsoever. It is monotoned, jagged and harsh. Maybe it’s supposed to be the opposite of a rising sun. I just don’t think we’ll be needing that one. It looks like a $13,500 torture device (notice the spikes on the top) to me.

If any of the artists or people who bought these sculptures happen to be reading this post, I’m sure you are all very great and talented people. Just consider this my ignorant analysis, or better yet, write a comment and explain my ignorance. I’d love to hear from you. For the rest of you, what do you think? Am I all wrong, or do you agree?

I’ll follow up, soon, with a blog about some I really like and hope we keep.

Take another little piece of my art, now baby!

Well, public art is a controversial topic in a number of ways. Who should pay for it? Should public funding be used? How should it be selected? Whose are and which topics are worthy of display in the city? Knoxvillians hold varied opinions on all the above. We have a significant number of citizens who would feel that tax dollars should never be used for something so silly as art. We have a number of others who, I suspect, would want to be sure that any art purchased with public funds fit their idea of “appropriate” for the public display. One good thing about our history is that, perhaps because of the divided sentiment held locally, we aren’t saddled, like many southern cities, with a bunch of statues honoring civil war figures of questionable ethics, regarding which we must desperately try to rationalize their display. A proposal to force developers to fund new public art has gone nowhere.

We do have some interesting public art permanently displayed. The suffragists depicted on Market Square salute Tennessee women, Lizzie Crozier French of Knoxville, Anne Dallas Dudley of Nashville, and Elizabeth Avery Meriwether of Memphis who fought for the vote. Installed in 2006 and privately funded, the reaction to this statue has surprised me since I moved downtown. It isn’t the kind of thing I thought anyone would pay attention to, yet, I almost always see someone looking at it, reading the inscriptions and photographing it, which tells me that more public art would add texture and interest to tourists and local people alike. It may be fortunate they were not fighting for temperance because another common gesture people seem inclined toward is leaving them a seasonal libation to enjoy.
The coolest sculpture downtown has to be the Rowing Guy. He’s actually, properly, called “The Oarsman” and was sculpted by David Phelps and installed in 1988. He appears to be very earnestly rowing his way out of the concrete of the city, though taken from a different perspective, perhaps his boat is sinking in the concrete. It’s hard to say if he’ll win the battle or lose it, but for many years he has continued to fight the battle at the corner of Gay and Church Streets.
There are a number of other sculptures, particularly on the courthouse lawn and a couple of others scattered about that are noteworthy. The image of William Sergeant who led the campaign to eradicate polio in Knoxville is a kindly image and fits nicely with the park with its playful child on the lap of Mr. Sergeant.
Possibly my favorite is Audrey Flack’s “Beloved Woman of Justice,” which can be viewed in the Whittle courtyard. It’s a bit more abstract than most of the downtown sculptures and a bit more interesting.
Of course, at the moment there are many other sculptures downtown and I’ll blog about some of those later, perhaps. They are temporary and are in place as part of the annual Dogwood Arts celebration. Unfortunately, they were for sale, and are, presumably, to be claimed soon by their new owners. I’m hoping we keep some of them.
One final sculpture worth mentioning is the one that no longer exists: The Treble Clef. It used to sit at the beginning of the 100 block of Gay Street at the intersection of Summit Hill. Originally intended as part of the Cradle of Country Music Walking Tour, it was removed after it began rusting. It is noteworthy for a couple of reasons. First, it was a very cool sculpture. More so than your average tribute to a person or single event, it captured a vibe, paid tribute to a spirit, acknowledged the muse that has flowed through these city streets. Second, they named a park after it once it was gone. The area surrounding it was expanded when a section of State Street was permanently removed. Who names a park after a sculpture that has disappeared? Could we please have our Treble Clef back?