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City approves plan to build mega, $500,000 art piece in Cradle of Country Music Park

The city council listened to public concerns over the original plan to remove five trees. They now plan to plant 14 new ones while also building the art display.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A long-time vision for an outdoor art exhibit in Knoxville is now set in stone.

On Tuesday, the Knoxville City Council voted "yes" for an art exhibit in Cradle of Country Music Park in the downtown area. The park is nestled on the corner of Gay Street and Summit Hill Drive.

The process to redesign the park started around 8 years ago and since then, more than 100 artists submitted proposals to fill the park. Some of their projects were funded after organizers picked winning designs. 

The biggest one was selected in 2018. It is a $560,000 canopy designed by a firm in Brooklyn, New York, called THEVERYMANY.

Credit: THEVERYMANY

The contemporary art piece is slated to be the biggest, most expensive public art in the entire city. A construction company has been contacted to begin designing the layout. 

However, a few months ago, the city proposed uprooting five trees in the park to make room for the artwork. That idea didn't sit well with some community members. On August 19, Knoxville Councilwoman Seema Singh proposed the city council delay the project by six months so they could find a compromise. 

But, it seems they won't have to. A compromise has already been arranged.

"We're going to keep all these beautiful, mature trees here, and plant at least 14 additional new trees in this area," said Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon.

After re-evaluating the design plan, it became clear to city leaders that tree removal was not going to be an issue after all. In fact, they said they had the space to add more.

Credit: City of Knoxville

"In this case, we discovered that we could keep almost all the trees and have the art and that's a win-win," Kincannon said.

They were able to do this by shifting the placement of the 45-foot-long art piece southward in the park.

Credit: City of Knoxville

Liza Zenni, the executive director of  Arts and Culture Alliance of Greater Knoxville said this is a huge win for art lovers.

"Public art is absolutely a magnet for people, they love it. They're attracted to it," Zenni said. "You don't have to go into a place. You don't have to buy a ticket. It's there for you. It's public art, and it belongs to all of us."

In the Knoxville City Council meeting on Tuesday night, Zenni shared that the public art committee saved its money for six years to afford these art pieces. She strongly believes it will be a big point of attraction in downtown Knoxville.

"That's the wonderful thing about something that is detailed and exquisite is that you go back to it again and again. And you find new things about it that you'd love," Zenni said.

Credit: HEVERYMANY

Kasey Krouse is the Urban Forestry director and he said the compromise to add more trees will also benefit the area.

"There's a huge swath of environmental, economic and social benefits that trees provide. And there are silent workers that most people don't even realize that they're doing all those things for us," Krouse said.

He said most of the same people who applicate art will also appreciate the urban forest.

"It's now becoming an urban tree project as much as an art project and it's going to be a win-win for both trees and art," Krouse said.

"We love art, artists love trees. Everybody loves trees," said Zenni. "And so we absolutely want to integrate both into our city landscape. It's a win-win."

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