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Black History Month: From Tennessee Theatre Porter to Painter 
W. James Taylor has always loved the smell of buttery popcorn and the soul-pleasing sounds of the Mighty Wurlitzer organ at the Tennessee Theatre - first as a teenager working as a porter in the 1960s, and now, as an accomplished musician and artist.

The Tennessee Threatre's marquee is an icon of downtown Knoxville.In April 1963, Taylor was working when students from Knoxville College were protesting segregation of businesses on Gay Street. He'd never participated in any sit-ins or protests, but he was drawn to the demonstration outside the segregated theater. He quit his job and joined the protest.

Taylor went on to experience different cities and cultures - as an artist and as a drummer in a famous funk band - before returning to Knoxville in 2010. He started Geneva Galleries, now in the Emporium Building in the 100 block of South Gay Street. He gives back to his community: performing music in senior living facilities, helping non-profits and arts organizations with graphic designs, and supporting emerging artists using his gallery space.

Last month, Taylor visited the Tennessee Theatre again for the first time since he quit his job as a porter back in 1963. It was just as he remembered it – the aroma of the buttered popcorn and the sound of the Wurlitzer organ taking him back to his days as a porter.W. James Taylor

As a Tennessee Theatre blog post puts it: "James said one of the most memorable things about his return visit was being able to sit in any seat of his choosing in the auditorium. It was a sign of progress and hope, and he was able to enjoy the Tennessee Theatre as a welcomed patron decades after joining the protest against segregation outside its doors."

Read Taylor's story HERE on the Tennessee Theatre's blog.

Posted by evreeland On 27 February, 2017 at 1:11 PM