Krutch Park Art: An Appreciation from a New Knoxvillian

My Favorite Thing by Travis Emmen, Krutch Park, Knoxville (Photo by Luke Frazier)
My Favorite Thing by Travis Emmen, Krutch Park, Knoxville (Photo by Luke Frazier)

(Ed. Note: Sometimes those of us who have been around Knoxville for a bit need to be reminded of the special jewel we could easily take for granted and to see what we have through fresh eyes. Today’s guest writer is Luke Frazier who helps us do just that. Luke is writer and media producer who moved to Knoxville (and downtown) just last September. Enjoy.)

I’m a new Knoxville resident and loving it, making near-daily discoveries of the cool and the engaging.  Crossing the river bridges on foot, finding moments in Exhibition Park, catching coffee. And, of course,  enjoying the vibes in Market Square. But it’s Krutch Park, immediately south of the square, that recently  grabbed my full attention.  

Krutch Park is jammed with sculptures, some tucked quietly into the flora and fauna, others you almost  bump into as you walk. It’s a bonanza of art, funded in part by public agencies. The assortment is wide,  but remains mostly on the abstract side of the field. One exception is a Travis Emmen piece called My  Favorite Thing. Placed at the north edge of the park, it presents an intensely energetic low-slung fido  with a ball obsession and whacky eyes. Attracts a lot of people looking for a photo-op. 

Means of the Builder III by Steve Buduo , Krutch Park, Knoxville (Photo by Luke Frazier)
Lightening Sanctuary by Harry McDaniel, Krutch Park, Knoxville (Photo by Luke Frazier)

The rest of the pieces lean into the aspirational, preening with their maker’s meaning. Consistent with  the rules of abstraction, though, the fun is in assigning our perceptions of their meanings with little  concern about accuracy. The joy is in taking part. 

Take Mike Hansel’s Intestinal Fortitude. Yes, its shape suggests valves and connections, a la intestines,  but the effect speaks more to strength in place, a solid and proud stance of shiny metal. In a similar way,  Steve Buduo’s Means of the Builder III interlocking concrete segments point to confidence in  construction. A kind of chest-thumping declaration for all Home Depot-doers.  

In a more ethereal vein, John Ross’ Cosmic Knot strikes me as nothing so much as a sailboat bound for a  different galaxy. It’s all sharp-shooting angles with just a single portal-like circle for navigation. Looks  inviting enough to hop aboard, destination be damned. 

Intestinal Fortitude by Mike Hansel, Krutch Park, Knoxville (Photo by Luke Frazier)
Cosmic Knot by John Ross, Krutch Park, Knoxville (Photo by Luke Frazier)

The piece that speaks the loudest to me is Lightening Sanctuary by Harry McDaniel. On the sunny day I  stood staring it was all glinty-shimmy and refracted light. Almost like a force field, abuzz with McDaniel’s  scribbly markings. It works on face value as a smooth ascension, it’s just plain pretty, but hits symbolic  paydirt in dynamic terms. It’s a kinetic conversation, a bolt of lightening that breaks bad. The sculpture is in pieces, is it from having been struck by lightening or as a result of protecting someone or something  from the strike? Or both? The win is in the question. 

Krutch Park, above all, is a place that is greater than the sum of its parts. This is because it is a place that  celebrates art for and in public. Tax dollars are taken and put into cultural service, encouraging us to  appreciate and enjoy the fruit of creative labor. Not all may agree with public investment in art, but  that’s okay.  

Art lifts us all without worrying about what we might think, or understand, or take from it. It stands in  witness of the beauty of inspiration. Art calls us to take an affirming walk in Krutch Park, and to just  simply enjoy.

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