Knoxville Museum of Art closes for renovations

Knoxville Museum of Art

The Knoxville Museum of Art is closed for a six week period as it prepares for an expanded version of “Higher Ground: A Center of the Visual Arts in East Tennessee”. The museum’s flagship permanent exhibit, “Higher Ground” showcases pieces by artists with ties to the region.

Though the street level and the floor above (Floors Two and Three) are closed, the lower level will be used for summer programming, including the annual Arts Academy. Visitors can access it through the museum’s Heller Garden on the north side of the building.

The museum is due to reopen June 15, though “Higher Ground” will not reopen until November 2. When it originally opened in 2008, it was largely made up of loaned objects. Since then the KMA has acquired nearly 200 pieces by artists with East Tennessee connections, making the expansion a priority. The new installation will be housed in two street-level galleries, organized in four broad themes:

  • The first will focus on the first community of professional artists in the area, including Impressionist Catherine Wiley.
  • The second will be devoted to both “Mountain Vistas and Urban Life”, showing how our diverse region has been represented by artists including Henri Cartier-Bresson and Danny Lyon, Charles Krutch and Ansel Adams.
  • The third section — the centerpiece of the installation — celebrates the achievements of Black artists Beauford and Joseph Delaney.
  • The fourth section will focus on Modernism and the Knoxville 7, a group of artists focused on that movement, including Bessie Harvey.

The exhibit also will include publication of a book-length, color-illustrated catalogue.

The third floor space which previously housed “Higher Ground” will be used for temporary exhibitions, says KMA executive director David Butler. “This large space with its high ceilings is better suited for large paintings and 3-D objects than the second-floor galleries we’ve been using.” It will also continue to house “Currents”, which showcases international contemporary art. 

After nearly 18 years at the KMA, Butler recently announced he will retire at the end of the year. “I love this institution and I love this community. We’re staying here, so the change won’t seem quite as abrupt, and I honestly can’t imagine wanting to live anywhere else,” he said. “The staff and volunteers and governing body at the KMA are the best people anywhere, and it means a lot to be able to maintain those relationships. I hope I can be helpful in the transition to new leadership without getting in the way.”

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