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Downtown Art Wraps: Art in Unexpected Places 
Downtown Art Wraps is a collection of traffic engineering boxes graphically wrapped on three sides showcasing locally significant artwork from Knoxville’s past. This wrapped box is on Gay Street.

Think of the streets and infrastructure of downtown Knoxville as an interwoven tapestry of art, culture and history. There's the rich architecture, of course. But then you might notice the fountain in Market Square, or the vibrant sculptures in Krutch Park. Look a little more closely, and you’ll start to see downtown’s newest outdoor art exhibit - the Downtown Art Wraps.

Reproductions of art from Knoxville’s past, featured in Knoxville Museum of Art’s ongoing exhibition, "Higher Ground: A Century of the Visual Arts in East Tennessee," are now being wrapped around traffic engineering boxes.

The metal boxes are found on one of the corners of each intersection wherever there is a traffic signal. In addition to the replica of the historical painting, Downtown Art Wraps also include an interpretive panel featuring a photograph of the artist (if one is available) and a short biography describing the artist’s connection to Knoxville, plus sponsor and project partner recognition.

Artists to be featured include Catherine Wiley, Charles Krutch, Carl Sublett, Robert Birdwell and Albert Milani, among others.

History encompassed in art has helped fuel Knoxville’s revitalization, project enthusiasts say. According to the Knoxville History Project, national press coverage strongly suggests that Knoxville’s history and historic preservation have been major factors in raising the city’s profile.

Jack Neely, Executive Director of the Knoxville History Project, said the Art Wraps serve a greater purpose than simply adding to the street décor.

"The art wraps remind us that there’s a grounding to Knoxville’s renaissance, and that creative people have always been able to have interesting careers here in town, without having to move to a bigger market," he said.

"Our first three subjects, Charles Krutch, Catherine Wiley and Albert Milani, are artists who did their most important work here in Knoxville. Many visitors might come to a place with certain assumptions about a 'Southern city' or an 'Appalachian city,' and these images, with accompanying stories, can help prove that Knoxville is a flexible and creative concept."

Neely further says that an appreciation for history helped inspire interest in Knoxville’s preservation-oriented renaissance downtown.

"Downtown, in turn, enhances people’s access to culture, whether it’s bluegrass or gelato or high-gravity beer - or old impressionist oils," he says. "Specifically, the Knoxville Museum of Art, which launched its first-ever local history exhibit, 'Higher Ground,' in 2008, helped boost familiarity and interest in Knoxville artists, as Knox Heritage, which made a showcase of a prominent artist’s home, has inspired new interest in the almost-forgotten Nicholson Art League of the very early 20th century. They also got some attention for fixing up Lloyd Branson’s home.

"I think more Knoxvillians recognize the name of Catherine Wiley today than at any time since she stopped working 90 years ago. The same is true for Lloyd Branson, Beauford Delaney, and others."

With the help of Downtown Art Wraps, cultural and historical awareness are merged into our everyday lives. Catch a movie, or buy a gelato, and you'll cross paths with an example of Knoxville impressionism before heading back to the car.

There are about 30 traffic boxes available for art wrap sponsorships. Many are located along Gay Street, Summit Hill Drive, Walnut Street, Locust Street, Main Street, Hill Avenue and Henley Street. For $1,500, you can buy a sponsorship and see a piece of local art adorn an otherwise non-descript metal box of circuits and equipment.

The latest installation - an Albert Milani wrap, showing the artist posing with a sculpture - went in about three weeks ago on Main Street at Walnut Avenue. It was sponsored by McCarty Holsaple McCarty.

To sponsor a Downtown Art Wrap, call Paul James, Development Director with the Knoxville History Project, at 865-300-4559 or email him at paul@knoxhistoryproject.org.

- Communications Department intern Celeste Lord

Gay Street and Union Avenue: Catherine Wiley's "Untitled (Woman and Child in a Meadow)" - sponsored by City People
Gay Street and Union Avenue: Catherine Wiley's "Untitled (Woman and Child in a Meadow)" - sponsored by City People

Gay Street and Clinch Avenue: Charles Christopher Krutch's "Untitled (Landscape)" - sponsored by City People
Gay Street and Clinch Avenue: Charles Christopher Krutch's "Untitled (Landscape)" - sponsored by City People

Posted by evreeland On 19 October, 2017 at 1:42 PM