In honor of the museum's upcoming 25th anniversary, directors of the Knoxville Museum of Art have initiated an intensive multimillion-dollar campaign to enrich their facility, which will reopen to the public next month.
Intended improvements include the creation of an art fund, increased endowments for exhibitions, additional art education services and most noticeably, a comprehensive inside-and-out renovation of the Clayton building.
"Any building after nearly 25 years needs an overhaul, especially one this large and this complicated," said David Butler, executive director at the Knoxville Museum of Art. "Over the years, we invested a lot in the maintenance of mechanical systems and other critical upkeep but were not able to spend what we should have in maintaining the building's aesthetic appeal. Now we are doing that."
The Clayton building, with its trademark eyes keeping a watchful gaze over World's Fair Park, was constructed in 1990 through the funding of local philanthropist, Jim Clayton. Its sleek design, arguably one of Knoxville's architectural highlights, was envisioned by award-winning American modernist architect Edward Larrabee Barnes.
"A minimalist building like the Knoxville Museum of Art has to be in immaculate condition to look right," Butler said. "Long-deferred maintenance and cosmetic work needs to be undertaken both on the interior and exterior."
Over the past year, the museum has spent more than $5 million in the complete overhaul of many of the building's existing features and the addition of new amenities. The entry plaza and third floor terrace have been repaved with Vermont granite, new restrooms and a renovated catering kitchen have been installed and the second and third floor terrazzo floors have been upgraded. Further renovations include the addition of an improved North Garden to the museum's grounds.
"To complete Barnes' vision, we will enhance the North Garden with terracing, landscaping, a fountain, sculptures, seating areas and walking paths," Butler said. "We want to create a beautiful and functional urban space and an attractive venue for community celebrations."
The museum, which is currently closed to the public as the last stages of renovation are underway, will reopen Friday Nov. 29 with a new exhibit showcasing the artistic talents of local students. Entitled East Tennessee Regional Student Art Exhibition, the exhibit promises to be highly constructive to Knoxville's young prospective artists, according to the museum's marketing director, Angela Thomas.
"This exhibition features artwork created by East Tennessee middle and high school students," Thomas said. "The competition offers students the opportunity to display their talents and be honored for their accomplishments in a professional art museum environment. It's an excellent competitive arena for young artists."
Thomas said she believes this exhibit is one of many ways in which the Knoxville Museum of Art gives back to the region it represents.
"I think the museum is an important and valuable asset to Knoxville and East Tennessee," she said. "Locals and visitors can enjoy learning about East Tennessee and its artistic richness."
Butler similarly asserts the museum's strong emphasis on provincial heritage.
"The Knoxville Museum of Art has embraced the rich cultural traditions of East Tennessee as the core of its institutional identity and mission," Butler said. "I'm proud that this community has stepped up to provide the means to bring the building and grounds up to the same high aesthetic standard as the art displayed inside.
"I want everyone to feel ownership and pride in what has been accomplished."
Museum hours will return to normal after the November unveiling. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and closed on Monday. Admission is free.