Artist Addison Karl Completes Mural in Western Market Square Alley

Addison Karl Mural, Western Market Sqaure Alley, Knoxville, August 2019

Artist Addison Karl has completed his mural, “Cassiopeia,” on the surface of the Market Square Garage facing the Square. Karl was selected by the Arts and Culture Alliance and the Knoxville City Council approved $150,000 for the work. He brought in a team of artists and hired local artists to help him complete the massive work.

“Cassiopeia” is the name of the Greek goddess who gave birth to Andromeda. Beautiful, but vain, she was turned into a constellation, which is how she is best known today. His other murals, of which he says there are about seventy-five, are often similarly named. They are found all over the world and a number may be seen on the artist’s website.

Addison Karl Mural, Western Market Sqaure Alley, Knoxville, August 2019

Addison Karl Mural, Western Market Sqaure Alley, Knoxville, August 2019

The faces in the mural are of east Tennesseeans that Karl identified while in Knoxville planning the mural. He took dozens of photographs before narrowing the list to ten and then the six you see represented on the wall in varying color palettes. Each are composed with streaks of color building to reveal the faces.

Addison Karl Mural, Western Market Sqaure Alley, Knoxville, August 2019

Addison Karl Mural, Western Market Sqaure Alley, Knoxville, August 2019

Addison Karl Mural, Western Market Sqaure Alley, Knoxville, August 2019

I wondered if one massive work could rival the multifaceted smaller paintings on the other side of Market Square. After spending some time there, I think it’s possible. It’s a very different experience and one that evolves with the viewing. I didn’t immediately see the faces and found them to be much more clear through the lens of my camera. It’s often the opposite.

Addison Karl Mural, Western Market Sqaure Alley, Knoxville, August 2019

Addison Karl Mural, Western Market Sqaure Alley, Knoxville, August 2019

Photographing the entire work isn’t possible given the size and narrowness of the alley. Notice the photograph of the two young women who posed for conveyance of scale. It’s definitely best explored in person and I expect crowds to be doing that this weekend, the first weekend after its completion.

Plaque Beside Addison Karl Mural, Western Market Sqaure Alley, Knoxville, August 2019

Ominous Warning Sign, Western Market Sqaure Alley, Knoxville, August 2019

Murals have proven to be a popular local attraction, particularly, though not necessarily in alleys. It’s a goal that Mr. Karl says he shares: to help people see their context in a fresh way. Stop by and see if that’s not the case in this particular alley. It’s probably about time someone started giving mural tours and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen.

Check it out. (But DO NOT park your car there! Bad things apparently will happen!)


  1. Kenneth Moffett says

    The technique is appealing- certainly a big improvement over the chaos of the other alley- but I am baffled by the jarring color-block borders: these significantly distract from the experience of the work.

  2. Suburbanite says

    Wow! This is beautiful! Is there anywhere that lists the names of the 6 people who are featured in the mural?

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      Not that I know of. That would have been a nice addition. I wonder if anyone will identify themselves.

  3. Isn’t this artist from Seatle Washignton?? Why would we not have made this a local artist competition?? We have enough very talented and deserving artists locally to have kept the $150K here at home!! I hope if they do anything like this in the future, they put a local requirement in it! I’m not sure the project was worth what they paid for it anyway. I’ve seen this mistake in other areas in which I’ve lived.

  4. Liza Zenni says

    Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to post here and who is now taking the time to read this about Knoxville’s newest, loveliest, love filled mural. First: this artwork is all about Knoxville from top to bottom. It was painted with paint from Graining Paints. Lifts and other equipment were all rented from a local equipment supply company. Local artists were paid to help create the mural. During a week in May, the artist took more than 70 photos of every day Knoxvillians whose faces are now celebrated in this mural. Plus, he spent more than a month creating line drawings of those Knoxville faces that are currently displayed in a storefront on Market Square. Those faces are OUR faces. Second: $135,000 of the entire cost of this mural stayed right here in Knoxville. The artist paid it to sleep here, eat here, and have his hair cut here during the six weeks it took him just to apply the paint to the wall. Do you know how much money this Seattle artist actually deposited in his own account from the $151,000 commission? $16,000. He actually “pocketed” $2.66/square foot to paint us this mural. Third: A committee of distinguished volunteers, all citizens of Knoxville, who serve on the Public Art Committee selected Addison Karl after at least TWO Knoxville artists refused to submit designs for this spot. Happily, they were too busy with other work to take on a commission of this magnitude. Fourth: While Addison was here and on his own dime, he taught seniors at the O’Connor Senior Center; he taught teens at the Knoxville Museum of Art; he lectured art aficionados and professional artists about his career and how to become a nationally-recognized public artist like him. I am damn proud to have an Addison Karl mural in Knoxville and, one day, you will be too. Finally, Mayor Rogero recognizes that Knoxville deserves to look as beautiful as we can make her and a more beautiful Knoxville will be this mayor’s legacy. Furthermore, every dollar Mayor Rogero has allocated to public art will generate more than $90/year of return in money visitors to downtown spend to eat, shop, park, and stay. That proves that this mayor has, in fact, been a very good manager of the public’s money. We can have a beautiful city AND fill potholes. In fact, the money public art generates will HELP fill the potholes. The same can be said about the homeless problem. And besides, a city can be empty of homelessness and still be ugly. Public art makes our city a more beautiful place that people want to visit and work in and enjoy. Wait for a few months when thousands of kids have taken prom photos in front of this mural. When people stop using the alley as a bathroom because it’s bustling with selfie takers. When we own the faces in that mural as our own. I promise that you will love it as I do.

    • Great reply and explanation Lisa! Many thanks to you for ALL YOU DO for our city and promoting the Arts!

    • Sean Martin says

      Bravo Liza! This comment is so helpful in explaining the impact that public investment in art can have on the city as a whole. It’s great to know that Knoxville based artists were also considered — it’s important to include them, but I am happy that this artist came from Seattle! Cross pollination of ideas and techniques is so important in creative pursuits. It’s great to see artists from around the country interested in Knoxville, just as I hope Knoxville-based artists are exploring their opportunities to create beauty in other places.

    • Boom! Thanks Liza. I couldn’t have said it better. As for the naysayers—lead, follow, or get out of the way.

    • Tanner Jessel says

      I and others have questions about how public arts projects in Knoxville are developed and prioritized. I hope this is the last of the large scale public art projects concentrated in the downtown area.

      With all due respect to the artist and the arts commission members, I don’t particularly care about Addison Karl one way or the other. My untrained eye can see the work is both remarkable and professionally executed. I do find the location questionable.

      What I care greatly about is that my City– my tax dollars– selected a site and used a process that favored “big-name” artists over developing local artists and talent. Consider: the RFQ ( stipulated applicants must provide “10 images of previously completed work that demonstrate an ability to design, create, and paint large scale, outdoor murals. ”

      This is the classical “chicken and egg” question: how is a local artist to gain experience designing, creating and painting large scale, outdoor murals if local opportunities to do so are limited (or as stated, beyond the artist’s capacity to take on)?.

      There’s the rub: the City of Knoxville should, as a good steward of taxpayer dollars, provide and expand upon opportunities for local artisans to practice their craft.

      Here is an approach worth considering: Parkridge Community Organization / the East Tennessee Community Design Center sponsored a mural project of comparable scale for under $5500 wherein a design competition was held to procure a design. The winning designer took home $1,000 in prize money, and later donated much more in labor and ongoing consultation.

      The $151,000 fee for this mural in this alley could have gone towards procuring designs for 151 more murals all around town.
      Future public art monies could have gone towards installing those murals progressively and in an equitable fashion across the City.

      Please do not presume opposition to this project constitutes a lack of appreciation for art, lack of understanding of the benefits of public art, or lack of cultural sophistication in appreciating an internationally renown artist. Please consider changing your ambitions and processes to uplift the local arts scene, spread public art more evenly throughout Knoxville, and nurture local professional artistic talent.

      • Thank you for this post! It summed up what I’ve been trying to say about the project in a nutshell. It also shines a light on how binary people are these days about everything: Questioning this project, it’s funding, and how future projects are awarded is not anti-art!

      • Kenneth Moffett says

        I agree that with the implied sentiment that it is possible to have too many murals in the downtown area, and feel the same about other parts of Knoxville. The prospect of 151 more murals all over town, of inevitably varying quality, is not a welcome one.

  5. Downtown Worker says

    Is there any kind of topcoat applied to make removing graffiti possible? I always wonder about people “tagging” over murals like this.

  6. Joyride Knoxville DOES do a mural tour that we just launched (along with several other ones) a few weeks ago 😀 There are so many great murals downtown and we’re happy to be able to showcase them via golf cart transportation!

  7. Shelley Mangold says

    Thanks Liza and Sean for recognizing the impact our public art has in all areas; whether it’s by our fantastic local artists or “cross pollinating” by other fantastic artists. Let’s hope our future mayor keeps all the Arts a priority. And Thanks Alan for always keeping us informed with inside of knoxville!

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