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Best Places to view art in East Tennessee

Aside from the Knoxville Museum of Art, which excellently offers art from different states, nations, and time periods; there are many places to go if you are seeking great art. In fact, East Tennessee has a rich tradition of supporting up-and-coming artists. Knoxville and surrounding counties boast a wealth of artistic talents.

East Tennessee's Top 8 Art Viewing Spots

1. The Emporium Gallery/Arts & Culture Alliance of Knoxville

To many art seekers, the Emporium Gallery is the place to be on a First Friday. Furthermore, the Emporium is a dream for local artists. It offers two art residencies per year, memorializing Betsy Worden. These residencies can launch a new artist's career.

2.  University of Tennessee Galleries

Whether on campus or in their galleries on gay street, there are always fantastic shows.

3.  Tomato Head (both locations)

The Tomato Head consistently provides intriguing art work at both of it's locations. (Market Square, Knoxville & Downtown Broadway, Maryville)

4.  Maryville College, Clayton Center for the Arts

Long before the idea of building a new Fine Arts Center appeared in the mind of the, now retiring Maryville College president, Gerald Gibson; Maryville College was a major producer of fabulous art. The fact is, today, it still is. On any given day, a group of talented art professors have left the lights on in the studios after hours for the College's artists to work. Beyond being able to stroll through the art center and see amazing art, the College also hosts Senior thesis exhibits - something you'll definitely want to keep an eye out for.

5.  Stir Fry Cafe (both locations)

Both the Kingston Pike and Turkey Creek locations of this restaurant offer inspiring artistic line-ups. The Turkey Creek gallery offers a more cleanly laid-out palate of art, all in line on the wall and well-placed. However, the original Stir Fry Cafe gives a sense of delightful "kitschiness" in terms of it's presentation and art choices. Nonetheless, this is my favorite location to see art.

6.  Art Market Gallery

A classic on gay street, always gives a reliable selection of beautiful art for viewers every day of the month, especially on First Fridays. If you're older, wealthier and like classic paintings approved by Bob Ross himself, you'll want to stop in to the Art Market Gallery.

7.  Blount County Public Library

A lovely library (in itself a work of beauty), however, beyond it's gorgeous layout, Maryville's library gives many opportunities for patrons to see fantastic art both from those artists new and old. High school students to older professionals from FAB (Fine Arts Blount).

8.  La Costa on Market Square

This restaurant is an ideal space for art. The fresh and creative menu, the atmosphere and lighting, the eccentric and talented staff, all fit the aspect of great restaurant-gallery.

Runner up:

Capitol Theatre in downtown Maryville, the home turf of resident artist, Heath Claiborne. This is one of the neatest places to grab a cup of coffee in Maryville, however, I find that the location offers little to an art viewer in search of variety. Although Claiborne's talent is certainly visible, often, it is only his work that is displayed. This gallery/coffee shop needs to share the spotlight.

Organizations to Praise:

Fine Arts Blount (FAB), gallery and beyond.

These folks work extra hard to develop talent and present variety. This organization has revived a sense of public artistry in Blount County and it is simply moving. One could boldly say that FAB has done more for the art scene in Maryville than the Clayton Family can with their joint purchase of the Maryville College Civic Art Center.

Galleries aside, Knox County federal buildings boast a wide variety of murals created by local college students and more. Particularly the John J. Duncan Federal Building contains large and unique works of art. It definitely makes entering the building a pleasure to see the enormous mural titled "We the People," a work designed by a group of Maryville College students led by Jonathan Howe.


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