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Our Mission

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.

About the KMA

Museum History


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. (Mission statement approved by the KMA Board of Trustees in 2009)

The KMA’s predecessor, the Dulin Gallery of Art, opened in 1961 in the elegant Dulin House, a 1915 John Russel Pope architectural masterpiece located in a residential neighborhood on the west side of Knoxville. It was here that the institutional “DNA” of the KMA as an outwardly-focused, education-oriented, community-rooted organization first took shape. By the early 1980s, it was evident that, in order to reach out to and serve a growing and increasingly diverse community, the Dulin would have to expand, or move its operations to more accessible and spacious quarters. The City of Knoxville offered a tract of land on the downtown site of the 1982 World’s Fair, and an ambitious community effort raised $11 million to construct a new, state-of-the-art building, designed by renowned American architect Edward Larrabee Barnes. In March 1990 the Knoxville Museum of Art opened in its current 53,200 square-foot facility. 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 pink Tennessee marble.

In the decades since the museum opened, its programming has 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. Each year, this installation draws more and more from the museum’s growing holdings of works by artists with ties to East Tennessee, including Knoxville natives Catherine Wiley and Beauford Delaney. To this has 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 of works 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. Facets of Modern and Contemporary Glass showcases the KMA’s growing holdings of 20th- and 21st-century glass. A permanent installation of nine Thorne Rooms, from a series of miniature historic interiors created in the 1930s and later acquired by the Dulin Gallery, provides a tangible link to the KMA’s early history. 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. The KMA’s permanent and temporary exhibitions are supported by a lively schedule of educational programming, including school tours, workshops, artist residencies, outreach programs, lectures, concerts, and family activities. More than 70,000 people visit annually. Outreach to area schools, particularly those in economically-disadvantaged neighborhoods, reaches another 10,000 young people annually. Accessibility and inclusion are core institutional values. Free admission creates a friendly exchange at the front door, and communicates the message that everyone is welcome.

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 this 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. These vital repairs and upgrades 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 $1.9 million annual operating budget comes from individual and corporate donors, museum memberships, rental income, local, state, and federal government grants, endowments (administered for the benefit of the museum by the separate Knoxville Museum of Art Foundation), and annual fundraising events. More than 300 volunteers donate in excess of 15,000 volunteer hours each year, and special membership groups—the KMA Guild, Art House, and Collectors Circle—provide vital support and service opportunities for members. The KMA operates solidly in the black and is committed to the highest ethical and professional standards. The museum was accredited by the American Alliance of Museums in 1996 and reaccredited in 2005 and 2015.

As it approaches its thirtieth birthday in 2020, the KMA continues to seek ways to connect with more people and maximize its impact in the region. To that end, the museum has redoubled
its commitment to:
–engaging audiences by weaving storytelling into gallery interpretation, programming, publications, marketing, and media to enliven the museum experience and create authentic connections by bringing art and artists to life for visitors.
–growing annual operating income through a combination of fundraising efforts, board engagement, and an exploration of new revenue sources. This will allow the KMA to expand the visitor experience and reach out to a broader audience base, protect the works in its care, properly maintain the physical plant, and ensure that the museum is able to attract and retainthe most qualified professional staff.
–inclusion and diversity in all the KMA does.

Board of Trustees


    Joan Ashe
    Steve Bailey
    Julia Bentley
    Melissa Burleson
    Chris Cannon
    Pamela Chips
    Connor Coffey
    Annie Colquitt
    Monica Crane
    Jennifer Dunn
    Rosemary Gilliam
    Madeline Griffey
    Frances Hall
    Rusty Harmon
    Hunter Harrison
    Kitsy Hartley (VAC)
    Nazzy Hashemian
    June Heller
    Susan Hyde
    Richard Jansen
    Courtney Jernigan
    Debbie Jones
    Allison Lederer
    Courtney Lee
    Beauvais Lyons
    Karen Mann (KMA Guild)
    Jay McBride
    Sylvia Peters
    Patricia Brake Rutenberg
    Fred Smith, IV
    Caesar Stair, IV
    Rosalyn Tillman
    John Trotter
    Mollie Turner
    Loida Velazquez
    Charlie Wagner
    Twuanna Munroe Ward
    Terry Wertz
    Taylor Wortham


    David Butler (Executive Director)
    Barbara W. Bernstein (Honorary Trustee)
    James L. Clayton (Honorary Trustee)
    Daniel F. McGehee (Legal Counsel)
    Jeff Peters (Collectors Circle Co-Chair)
    Pam Peters (Collectors Circle Co-Chair)


    Chair: Allison Lederer
    Chair-Elect: Caesar Stair IV
    Secretary: June Heller
    Treasurer: Rusty Harmon
    Immediate Past Chair: Richard Jansen


    Daniel F. McGehee


    Building & Grounds: Jay McBride
    Archives: Terry Wertz
    Collection & Exhibitions: Susan Hyde
    Development: Taylor Wortham
    Education: Patricia Brake Rutenberg
    Finance: Rusty Harmon
    Guild: Karen Mann
    Human Resources: Debbie Jones
    Marketing: Courtney Jernigan
    Trustees: Caesar Stair IV
    Volunteer Advisory Council: Kitsy Hartley


    Steve Bailey
    Rosemary Gilliam
    June Heller

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