What Knoxville Sculpture Moves You?

Sunsphere, Knoxville, Tennessee

I had visitors recently and we logged a number of miles walking around downtown. The two iconic sculptures that captured their attention were the Sunsphere, which reminded them of a large microphone and the basketball atop the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, which they thought was funny. The rowing man mildly interested them and they thought Flow Mojo was pretty cool, but there was nothing that moved them.

Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama

I’ve thought about this a bit recently because of my visit to Montgomery. While in Montgomery, I made my way to the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King, Jr. served as pastor from 1954 to 1960. 1955 was the year of the historic bus boycott and this church served as a headquarters for much of the civil rights activity. For anyone who understands the history of that era, the spot can be very moving.

Civil Rights Memorial, Montgomery, Alabama

Nearby is a Civil Rights Memorial sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center and is accompanied by a museum dedicated, like the memorial to those who died in the struggle. Designed by Maya Lin, the same person who designed the Wall in Washington, D.C. and, locally, the library at the Alex Haley Farm in Clinton. The memorial consists of the granite wall pictured here with a thin film of water moving over it and a table with the names and a thin film of water moving over its surface. The effect is mesmerizing, comforting and definitely moving.

Knoxville doesn’t have the civil rights history that Montgomery has and in some ways that’s a good thing, but what would it take for us to have one, large, moving and powerful sculpture that visitors would not simply think was funny or strange, but would emotionally engage them to the point they would remember it and talk about it after they left?

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