Providing Cultural Connections to the Community
There are so many compelling stories I could highlight in this issue of Prism. It’s fascinating how many School of Art alumni have translated their creative education into a passion to start local businesses that include craft breweries, fusion restaurants, neighborhood map-making, letterpress printmaking, and specialty fabrication. And we are especially proud of the successes of two art history alumna: Ashley Brown Howell (’98), executive director of the Tennessee State Museum, who is overseeing the opening of the museum’s brand new location in Nashville, and Lori Ann Terjesen (’01), who was recently named education director of the National Women’s History Museum.
For this issue, however, I want to focus on the UT Downtown Gallery, a Knoxville visual art exhibition venue. Programmed and staffed by the School of Art and located in the heart of the Arts District on South Gay Street, for 14 years the UT Downtown Gallery has featured outstanding and diverse exhibitions and is one of the university’s highest profile cultural connections to the local and regional community. I’ll offer a representative sample of very recent exhibitions.
The work of renowned sculptor and printmaker Chakaia Booker is currently on display at the UT Downtown Gallery. Booker is the featured artist and keynote speaker for the Mid-South Sculpture Alliance Conference organized by the School of Art sculpture faculty. Her artwork fuses ecological concerns with explorations of racial and economic difference, globalization, and gender by recycling discarded tires into complex assemblages. The Booker exhibition and the conference are generously supported by the College of Arts and Sciences, Dogwood Arts, Arts and Culture Alliance, and many other local businesses and nonprofit organizations.
The Life and Art of Kimberly D. Iles, a summer exhibition at the UT Downtown Gallery, featured the rich and sumptuous paintings and drawings of the late Kimberly Iles (’90), who graduated with a degree in graphic design. All proceeds from the sale of Iles’ artwork went directly to an endowment in her name that supports 10 scholarships awarded annually to undergraduate majors in the School of Art. I am deeply grateful to all the donors who supported our undergraduate students and the legacy of Kim Iles, a multi-talented and very accomplished alumna.
Finally, in conjunction with the 2018 Big Ears Festival, Los Angeles based film artist Lewis Klahr installed in the gallery a rotating selection of his films that use found images and sound to explore the intersection of memory and history. Klahr’s idiosyncratic films have screened extensively throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. Thousands of festival-goers were able to see his work right here in Knoxville, thanks to the UT Downtown Gallery.
With rising rent and escalating costs related to presenting outstanding exhibitions, we are actively seeking ways to maintain our strong presence in this beautiful, centrally located venue at 106 S. Gay St. Please consider donating to or partnering with the UT Downtown Gallery to support this Knoxville cultural gem.
Support the Downtown Gallery with a secure online gift to the Steve and Ann Bailey School of Art Fund.