(Today’s article and photographs are by guest writer Heather Ryerson.)
Last month, after much anticipation, The Maker Exchange, located in the joint Marriott and Tennessean Hotels officially launched it’s creative space for public use. The joint effort from Dogwood Arts, Robin Easter Design, and Rockbridge Capital gifts the Maker City a stunning and fitting space to celebrate local arts and culture in an environment that inspires creativity everywhere your eyes roam.
Rockbridge Capital purchased the property in 2019. MHM Architects and Blaine Construction applied their skillset and brought plans to life. Rockbridge brought on Aimbridge Hospitality to oversee operations during the process and with that complete, Skip Adams has remained as General Manager for both hotels.
To see some of the “before” photos and proposed renderings, go here where we covered the transition in 2021 while it was still under construction. The actual space is not far from the renderings and is a tribute to local makers at every turn. We also covered the ribbon cutting announcing the opening of the hotel earlier this year.
Rockbridge Capital recruited Robin Easter and her creative team at Robin Easter Designs to help them establish a space that is beautiful, interesting, versatile and inspiring. They then involved Dogwood Arts and ultimately gifted them the space now dubbed “The Curio.”
Dogwood Arts says, “Maker Exchange is a new place to discover Knoxville artists and makers alongside creative space to shop, dine & drink, and gather. Dogwood Arts is excited to be curating the space with a diverse selection of work from local makers—from the furniture to the art in the Curio, we’ve put our town’s heart and soul into every detail of the Maker Exchange.”
The Maker Exchange has so much to offer the community—a coffee shop offering Vienna coffee and locally made pottery for purchase and an outdoor walk up window with cozy seating for lounging when the weather is nice. There is an in-house restaurant, The Tavern for food and drinks and game room for recreation or to watch your favorite team (the Vols) play. The Curio is a gallery, shop and event space all in one. This space and the fabulous grid wall gives hotel guests and locals and place to shop a huge variety of over 150 local artist’s goods. Just scan the QR code located near the item of interest and choose when and where you want to pick up your items!
Outside the Curio is a gathering space with plenty of places to charge your device, outdoor patio seating, and a conference center with space for galas, meetings and more round out this versatile endeavor and its unique amenities.
The evening began with comments from Sherry Jenkins, Dogwood Arts Executive Director, David Lutz, Rockbridge Capital Senior VP Asset Manager, Skip Adams, Aimbridge Hospitality General Manager of The Tennessean Personal Luxury Hotel and the Downtown Knoxville Marriott and Robin Easter, Principal & Creative Director of Robin Easter Design. Guests were then treated to a poem written and spoken by Jonathan “Courageous” Clark to honor the creatives who make Knoxville “The Maker City.”
All around the space, indoor and outdoor, were artists and makers of all kinds that spoke to each of the senses. Ears perked up with tunes provided by a variety of musicians and styles. The Young Fables crooned some country tunes outside the new coffee shop. Evie Andrus, fiddler and vocalist was a treat to hear, and jazz ensemble Frog and Toad and Friends had toes tapping!
Taste buds were dancing with the aromas and flavorful food and drinks from The Tavern and beer samples from local brewery, Hexagon Brewing Co. and moonshine samples from Sugarlands Distilling Co. Eyes and hearts were enchanted by the skill of local dancers and aerialists. The beautiful art pieces showcased in The Curio as well as in murals by Megan Lingerfelt and Curtis Glover both inside and outside the hotels added to the visual party for the mind and soul. Finally, the sense of touch was satisfied by the variety of textures and fabrics in the (mostly) locally sourced furniture arranged in the various areas to enjoy the showcases all around the Maker Exchange.
Please visit the website to see all the artists and their wares featured. From jewelry and pottery to photos, sculptures, paintings and wall art, there are too many to name here and I do not want to risk leaving anyone out as every one of them deserve to be celebrated for their contributions!
This is an incredible space whether you are a local or visiting for a short time. I encourage you to venture down to Henley St and walk through this special space. Your soul will thank you!