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Dolly Parton's smile is back after downtown Knoxville mural was vandalized

Someone painted black over the lips of the Dolly Parton mural in Strong Alley in downtown Knoxville.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — UPDATE (04/22/2020): Megan Lingerfelt, a local artist, said she would finish restoring the mural Wednesday afternoon, with a few new touches to the mural, such as new hair, lips, earrings, a denim shirt, and even a butterfly perched in her curls.


Dolly's got a brand new smile as well as some new threads after her downtown Knoxville mural was vandalized recently.

Work began almost immediately to repair and improve the Dolly Parton mural located in Strong Alley near Market Square. 

The mural, painted in 2019 by Colton Valentine, a Texas street artist/muralist, depicts East Tennessee's favorite daughter. But someone defaced it earlier this week, painting black over the bright red lips.

On Thursday, local artist Megan Lingerfelt restored Dolly's smile with a few notable differences from the original mural. Her lips are now slightly pursed and she's wearing a different shade of lipstick, and she's changed into her denim shirt.

More details will be added that should be completed by next week or so, such as adding butterflies, more depth to her hair, and other details.  

Credit: WBIR
Vandalized mural (left) and repainted mural (right)

Dogwood Arts said they wanted to use this act as an opportunity.

"The unfortunate act of vandalism, which also impacted four other murals in Strong Alley, will require restoration but also presents a perfect opportunity to enhance the artwork with new design elements that evoke the spirit of Parton herself. After alerting Valentine of the vandalism and consulting him on next steps, Dogwood Arts asked local artist Megan Lingerfelt to restore and enhance the popular piece. Like Dolly says, 'When I’m feeling a little low, I put on my favorite high heels to stand a little taller,'" Dogwood Art said in a press release.

Dogwood Arts will pay for the restoration through the Art in Public Places Mural Program.

Credit: Dogwood Arts
The original mural after it was completed in 2019.

Lingerfelt coordinated with Valentine on the restoration. She will also add a layer of anti-graffiti coating.

“As soon as I heard Dolly was tagged I knew several other pieces in the alley would have also been hit.  It is known as "graffiti alley" so I am not surprised that people still tag there, though I am disappointed that they chose to target several artworks instead of the less developed walls.  I love the idea that there is a place where artists can go and paint at will - that is really special - but unfortunately, we can't expect everyone to respect it," Lingerfelt said.

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Lingerfelt said technically, the Dolly mural was graffiti since it wasn't commissioned, but there's a difference in painting to enhance and tagging to destroy.

"There is a huge difference between an artist creating something for a neighborhood to enjoy rather than destroying it. You can't really stop tagging. You can prepare for it with specialized coatings, be ready to repair it, and hope for the best.”

The Art in Public Places Mural Program was developed by Dogwood Arts to highlight mural artists working in our region and to encourage other artists to add mural art to their repertoire.

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