Knoxville is a nature-loving-adventure-seeking-ARTSY-kinda town, and at no time is that more evident than on First Friday. First Friday is a monthly event, taking place – you guessed it – the first Friday of every month, where galleries and other venues throughout the city feature various artists’ works, live music, and perhaps some beverages and snacks along the way.
There is no one way to experience First Friday, but if you’re a newbie, you’ll want to check out our original Guide to First Friday for the Downtown venues. Just look for the colorful ArtWalk flags outside – an easy indicator that art is nearby!
This post is for those who want to find more art…maybe just a bit off the beaten path. We’re talking venues and events hosted in other parts of town, so let’s get going!
Let’s head north on Broadway or Central from downtown – there are loads of artist spaces and galleries around, you just have to know where to look! Stop at Emory Place to peruse adjacent galleries Pivot Point and Lilienthal (before or after grabbing a beer at one of the nearby Ale Trail breweries like Crafty Bastard!). Pivot Point is so named as it’s where Gay Street runs into Emory Place, coming to a point, and the road pivots – not a full turn, but a shift. Visitors can expect a beautiful historic building – originally the Wittle Spence Trunk and Bag Co. in 1910 and then established as a US Post Office. Pivot Point has over 100 unique works by more than 30 contemporary artists across North America. Next door is Lilienthal Gallery, a conceptual space with avant-garde artists from around the world. Their exhibitions completely transform the gallery, and no two are alike! “Expect the unexpected” would be good advice here, where various mediums from oil to collage to sculpture make the space come alive.
Just around the corner across Broadway behind Remedy Coffee on Tyson you’ll find the Artisan Woodworking & Design Gallery. There is an expansive workshop in the rear of this building with a gallery in the front, where their own work is displayed alongside local and regional artists representing various mediums including wood/mixed media art, paintings, pottery, glasswork, mosaics, fiber, photography, and more. Their First Friday events often feature Maker demonstrations, so you’ll want to add them to your route!
Keep going down Tyson with a right on Jennings Avenue. You’ll find several Maker spaces here on this short street before you hit Central Avenue. Mighty Mud serves as a major anchor in the ceramics world, with classes (from short workshops to multi-week courses), a shop featuring the work of resident studio artists, and rotating First Friday gallery up front. Across the street you can walk to the Knoxville Community Darkroom, geared towards film photography enthusiasts. They offer workshops, rentable studio/lab space, and a gallery. Further down is Ironwood Studios, a combo woodworking and metalworking studio. You might get lucky on a First Friday to see something like a Maker casting molten metal!
Work your way back over to Broadway, stopping at the aptly named Broadway Studios & Gallery. Around a dozen artists have studios here, with a gallery in front. Outside of First Friday, their open times vary - visitors are invited to knock or call (865) 556-8676 to arrange an appointment or to inquire about purchasing artwork. Up further on Broadway is Relay Ridge. What Mighty Mud is to ceramics, Relay Ridge is to letterpress artisans, though other mediums are represented. Relay Ridge is a collaborative artist space that offers affordable private studios, gallery, printshop, and collective workspace. Pop in and you might see a demo or do a takeaway yourself!
For those who want to stick to the south side, we’ve got a real hidden gem for you! Tri-Star Arts is based at the historic Candoro Marble Building in Knoxville, which includes their gallery space, artist studios, and main office. The gallery features 5 exhibitions each year with a local, state-wide, and national focus on contemporary visual art. The Candoro Marble Building was built in 1923 and recently restored by the Aslan Foundation in 2021. It originally served as the offices and showroom for the Candoro Marble Company. Today, Tri-Star Arts oversees programming there in partnership with the Aslan Foundation. If you can handle a late cup of joe (or get decaff!), head over to South Press on Chapman Highway. This friendly coffee shop often features live music and hosts rotating artists on First Friday. Stick around for some tunes then cross the beautiful Tennessee River back into downtown and start all over again!