The Knoxville Museum of Art celebrates the art and artists of East Tennessee, presents new art and new ideas, educates and serves a diverse community, enhances Knoxville’s quality of life, and operates ethically, responsibly, and transparently as a public trust.
The KMA’s predecessor, the Dulin Gallery of Art, opened in 1961. By the middle 1980s the gallery had outgrown its quarters in the 1915 Dulin House, a landmark design of John Russell Pope. An ambitious community effort raised $11 million for a state-of-the-art facility overlooking the site of the 1982 World’s Fair in downtown Knoxville. In March 1990, the Knoxville Museum of Art opened in its current 53,200 square-foot facility, designed by renowned American architect Edward Larrabee Barnes. The exterior of the four-story steel and concrete building, named in honor of Jim Clayton, the largest single contributor to its construction, is sheathed in locally-quarried Tennessee marble.
In the decades since the museum opened, its collection and programming have evolved to become increasingly focused on the rich culture, old and new, of the Southern Appalachians, to “celebrate the art and artists of East Tennessee.” Higher Ground: A Century of the Visual Arts in East Tennessee, a permanent exhibition of works from the mid-nineteenth to the late-twentieth century, spotlights the compelling and heretofore largely unknown visual arts legacy of Knoxville and the region. To this has recently been added a permanent exhibition of modern and contemporary art. Currents: Recent Art from East Tennessee and Beyond supports the museum’s parallel aim to “introduce new art and new ideas.” It features a selection of objects from the KMA’s growing collection by emerging and established artists and represents a chronological and geographic expansion of Higher Ground that allows viewers to consider the achievements of area artists within a global context. The museum supplements and complements its core permanent installations with a lively schedule of temporary exhibitions that explore aspects of regional culture and its relation to national and international artistic developments.
Museum tours, workshops, artist residencies, outreach programs, lectures, concerts, classroom programs, and family activities form the core of the museum’s educational programming. The KMA reaches over 60,000 annually through museum visits, special events, concerts and other programs. In addition, thousands attend special events and community celebrations held in the museum’s beautiful public spaces.
In spring 2014 the museum unveiled a permanent, monumental glass installation by acclaimed Knoxville artist Richard Jolley, a powerful affirmation of the KMA’s commitment to the art and artists of our region. Cycle of Life: Within the Power of Dreams and the Wonder of Infinity, the generous gift of Ann and Steve Bailey, is the largest figural glass installation in the world. In preparation for the epochal milestone in the KMA’s history, the museum underwent a comprehensive, top-to-bottom restoration and renovation at a cost of nearly $6 million. The museum’s beautiful pink Tennessee marble cladding has been cleaned and restored. The entry plaza and third floor terrace were demolished, waterproofed, rebuilt, and elegantly repaved with pink and gray Vermont granite. Visitors can now enjoy beautiful new restrooms and pristine new terrazzo floors on the second and third levels; a renovated and functional catering kitchen can better support museum events and outside rentals. The new North Garden has been handsomely articulated with new retaining walls, terraces, and ramps, and planted with native trees, shrubs, and ground cover. These vital repairs and upgrades, made possible by success of the 25th Anniversary Campaign, will ensure the preservation and enjoyment of Edward Larrabee Barnes’ modernist masterpiece as it moves into its second quarter-century. The campaign also supported endowment enhancement and the establishment of a dedicated art acquisition fund.
The museum’s approximately $1.7 million annual operating budget comes from individual and corporate donors, museum memberships, rental income, local, state, and federal government grants, endowments, and annual fundraising events organized by the KMA Guild. More than 300 volunteers donate in excess of 15,000 volunteer hours each year. The KMA has operated solidly in the black for more than a decade, and is committed to the highest ethical and professional standards. The KMA was accredited by the American Alliance of Museums in 1996 and reaccredited in 2005 and 2015. AAM accreditation, which certifies a museum’s commitment to excellence, accountability, high professional standards, and continued institutional improvement, is a distinction shared by fewer than 10% of American museums.
Tuesday - Saturday: 10am-5pm
The museum is closed on Mondays, New Year's Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year's Eve.
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Our Gift Shop is located on the top floor of the museum.