If you’re an advocate for more public art in downtown Knoxville, you’ll be eagerly awaiting installation to begin in coming months on two new projects – a dramatic metal wall hanging in the 500 block of South Gay Street and an elaborately painted staircase on the western edge of downtown.
Artists for the two projects were selected by the City of Knoxville’s Public Arts Committee – the panel that’s adding public art throughout the downtown area, supported by City funding. The two newest projects, to be installed within six months of the contracts being signed, are:
11th Street Stairs
A contract for up to $15,000 is being finalized with Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn, a Baltimore-based team that will be transforming the 43 steps, 10 feet across, south of Cumberland Avenue at 11th Street. During peak hours, the stairs are used by thousands of pedestrians as they traverse the Second Creek Greenway to access World’s Fair Park, the University of Tennessee or downtown Knoxville.
Since 2011, Unterhalter and Truhn have been creating large-scale public murals. Their plan for the 11th Street Stairs pays tribute to the craft revival movement that took hold throughout Knoxville and most of Appalachia from the 1890s through 1945.
“The intricate and experimental loom weaving coming out of Knoxville really caught our attention and inspired our design process,” the artists wrote in their proposal. “The varying but consistent patterning within our piece makes the work come alive, but it’s still methodical and organized because we worked within the grid format, just like the weavers did.”
The design will strike pedestrians differently, depending on what direction they’re walking.
“We thought a lot on how the viewer would experience this piece,” Unterhalter and Truhn wrote. “We considered all vantage points. We created two different compositions for each end of the staircase. Both designs come together to create one beautiful painted tapestry.”
The artist team was selected as the most qualified of 21 respondents to the committee’s Request For Qualifications. From those 21 responses, three artists were asked for specific designs, and Unterhalter and Truhn ultimately were selected.
The 11th Street Stairs are likely going to be painted this summer.
Mecosta, Mich., artist Robert Barnum’s “Rhythm of Knoxville” design was selected by the committee, subject to finalization of a contract for up to $10,000.
Barnum has installed large public art pieces in seven states. His weather-resistant metal hanging would adorn a 12-by-7-foot overhead rectangular slab of white concrete, framed by red brick, above the pedestrian walkway that connects South Gay Street with the State Street Garage.
“My design agenda is to work beyond the static nature of the rectangular support wall shape with an organic driven visual statement that suggests a lively and energetic implied movement, rhythm and flow,” Barnum writes in his proposal. “As presented, the ‘Rhythm of Knoxville’ presents a couple strolling to a picnic with a young boy playing ball and a woman swimming. This left side content flows into a tree form that marries the music/theater and entertainment character of the city area.”
The Public Arts Committee evaluated 15 submissions from artists and selected Barnum as the most qualified artist for the Gay Street public art project.
Source: Knoxville City Press Release