There’s been a good bit of talk around town about Knoxville’s creative class. It varies from one conversation or article to another as to precisely what is meant by the phrase, though there seems to be general agreement that having a large, vibrant one is good for a city. Whittle Communications is sometimes pointed to as a company that brought in large numbers of such people. The conversation is as recent as today when the “Artspace” concept was investigated by various city leaders.
While the talk continues of a creative class past and, possibly, future, creative people abound in our city. I often highlight writers, musicians and artists who are doing wonderful work. There are innovators and trail blazers who have shaped downtown. And there is also a showcase for these very same people: Pecha Kucha. Its seventh installment was held last night at the Square Room.
The allotment is twenty slides and twenty seconds per slide. That’s all you’ve got. It goes quickly and boredom is almost an impossibility. Many of the presenters are in design of some sort or architecture, but the range is pretty broad. Some of the presentations boarder on a Ted Talk sort of feel and, often, those are some of the very best. Basically you have passionate people talking about their passion. It’s also a great way to learn the amazing accomplishments, on scales large and small, constantly being a reality in our city.
The night started with Avigail Sachs who is an assistant professor of Architecture and Landscape History and Theory at UTK. She talked about Jerusalem, the city in which she grew up, and simply took the listeners through a couple of days experience in the city accompanied by her photographs. She made the city personal by showing simple things like her favorite coffee shop while also highlighting the beauty of the city and particularly of the Temple Mount.
Scott Noethan who heads the Appalachian Renewable Resources company, took us through an installation on a farm near Knoxville of solar panels that generate enough power to cover the entire energy needs of the operation. He made the idea of solar power seem understandable and immediate. It makes me wonder why we wouldn’t have solar panels on the tops of every major building in the city. Maybe it’s because we like looking at those massive AC units perched on their rooftops.
Beth Meadows talked about her evolution as an artist starting in college. You will find examples of her art here. Unfortunately, the slides did not photograph well, so I’ve not got much to show you. I find it fascinating to follow the story of artistic development while looking at photographs that show the transitions. I once attended a lecture at the KMA on Jackson Pollock. After hearing the same sort of journey description, his art has never been the same. Be sure to check out Beth’s work – you’ll find more of it here.
Greg Spaw, an adjunct professor at UT, “specializing in architectural design, digital representation, and advanced fabrication techniques in the College of Architecture + Design.” He talked about the intersection of research, teaching and practice and gave as an example a recent student project in which the students had to design some structure to reduce noise at Sutree’s Tavern. The winning design will actually be deployed there in the near future.
Colleen Moore, owner of White Orchid Bridal, discussed the reasons a person would want personally designed wedding attire. She talked about her inspirations for her work as well as materials that she re-purposes and incorporates into her designs. You can see her unique work at the link above. Abram Hanford, of Architectural Antics, also talked about re-purposing. In one recent project he re-used busted concrete to make a retaining wall, saving several tons of refuse from the dump. He also has a notable downtown connection as the creator of the counter at Nothing Too Fancy. It’s a striking piece of work made from re-used materials. Notice it the next time you are in the store.
Josh Wright of Architects Wright discussed his work on the Memphis Islamic Center. His was a great explication of a common task, design and construction, that can be used for the greater good. He hopes through his work to create better understanding between diverse groups and incorporated that motivation into his design for the center.
Amy LeViers who is a “PhD candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech” discussed her work with robotics. This was as close as I came to being lost all night, but it was fascinating at the same time. The evening ended with Shane Murphy, a member of Knox Makers who described a somewhat tortured academic journey that finally led him to the world of hacking where he found his people. His seemed most like a Ted Talk and was very inspirational in an odd sort of way.
So, there you have a sampling of Knoxville’s creative class. It’s hard not to be optimistic about our future as a city when you experience this kind of barrage of creativity on display. I’ll leave you with Amy’s robot video. You’ll like it and you’ll like Pecha Kucha, so I hope you’ll join us in about three months for the next rendition. Some of you need to present and you’ll find information about becoming a presenter on the Facebook page linked above.