Mural hunting and street art searching is a popular thing to do for tourists and locals alike, but when you’re short on time, it can be hard to know where to go to find the best murals in Knoxville. We’ve got a Top 5 list of the most sought-after Knoxville murals and where to find them, along with murals by theme if you have a specific interest!
Postcard from Knoxville MuralBack to Top of List
Painted by Bobbie Crews, Ken Britton, Walt Fieldsa,Curtis Glover & Randall Starnes
This mural is on the side of the Visit Knoxville Visitors Center, so it’s a great place to start for a few reasons. We have a downtown mural walking map, so if you have time, you can find several murals within short distance of each other, just ask for it inside. Additionally, the mural itself is beautiful, filled with iconic images of the region. Painted in 2013, this mural is dedicated to the artists, musicians and visionaries that continue to make Knoxville a great place to work, live, play, and visit. See if you can spot the following: Tennessee & Bijou Theatre blades, the Sunsphere, the Knoxville Convention Center, a KAT Trolley, WDVX Blue Plate Special performers, the Tennessee Amphitheater, an orange “T” for the University of Tennessee, the Tennessee Riverboat, the Smoky Mountains, the Henley Street Bridge, and more.
Greetings from Knoxville MuralBack to Top of List
This mural is the first of its kind in Tennessee, and part of the original Greetings Tour. Muralist Victor Ving and photographer Lisa Beggs have completed over 52 murals that feature local landmarks, history, and culture of each destination. The Greetings from Knoxville mural is the second largest the couple worked on and is on the side of the Nothing Too Fancy screen print shop adjacent to K Brew’s Broadway location. The mural itself features the Smokies with the Tennessee Riverboat in the “K” and “N”, a musician in Market Square in the “O”, UT Football in “X” and “V” (Go Vols!), the Sunsphere neatly in the ”I”, the Tennessee Theatre blade in the “L” and a mountain biker amongst the region’s beautiful dogwoods completes the final “L” and “E”. Get a latte and strike a pose for the ‘gram!
Dolly Parton Mural & Strong AlleyBack to Top of List
The Dolly Parton mural is in Strong Alley (aka Graffiti Alley), the alley sandwiched in between Gay Street and half of Market Square. Dolly was originally painted by San Antonio muralist Colton Valentine in 2019 but was vandalized in 2020. Recognized by many as the “patron saint of East Tennessee” and beloved by fans around the world, this unfortunate act angered locals and visitors alike. Local artist Megan Lingerfelt partnered with Dogwood Arts to restore Dolly to her appropriate glory and the renewed mural has become almost a destination unto itself!
Continue on to see more Strong Alley murals, you’ll see creations by Curtis Glover, Paris Woodhull, Sarah Moore, and more. They are generally permanent collaborations between agreeing business owners and willing artists, although some of the murals do change based on ongoing partnerships between local organizations like Downtown Knoxville Alliance and Dogwood Arts. Keep coming back and you’re sure to find something new!
If you’re looking for more of Megan’s work, you’ll find more in Strong Alley (including Downtown Knoxville Alliance’s piece at the end of the alley by Coffee and Chocolate on Union Avenue), another in the opposite alley between The Oliver Hotel and Knox Brew Hub, and the Downtown Windows mural leads along Wall Street from Gay Street headed towards Market Square (a fun one – see if you can figure out what downtown buildings this trompe l'oeil style mural depicts).
Swimming Koi FishBack to Top of List
This mural is one of several done by local artist and muralist Curtis Glover. His style is immediately obvious, with bright colors and smooth as silk blending. The serene yet vibrant fish adorn the side of Jerry’s Artarama in the Bearden neighborhood – perfect for aspiring artists to grab a selfie then pop in for some supplies. If you like Curtis’ style, be sure to check out his other murals around town: the Honeybee Mural and the Mountain Biking Mural in the Old City, the Mountain Dew Mountain Biking Mural in SoKno, the Clinking Glasses Mural at the Embassy Suites Downtown (this one is only visible from the Radius Rooftop Lounge), Lift Me Up Mural, and also is represented at the mural collaboration at the Downtown Marriott (this can be seen on either side of the exterior of the property as well as the interior going down to the World’s Fair Park ground level).
We’d be here all day if we gave a complete list of all of Curtis’ work around town, so we’ll give you just a few more at restaurants in case you’re hungry: check out Molly Knox on the side of Jig & Reel in the Old City (they have one of the largest scotch collections in the world!), a group of famous boxers at Hard Knox Pizzeria in Hardin Valley, and a Dia de Los Muertos-inspired piece at Loco Burro Fresh Mex Cantina at West Town Mall.
This is local artist and illustrator Paris Woodhull’s first mural, painted on the side of Print Shop Beer Co. in SoKno. “Victoria” is part of the Walls for Women project, a statewide effort of DMA-events to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. She describes her design and concept:
“The mural is titled “Victoria” after my relative Victoria Claflin Woodhull, who was the first female to run for U.S. president in 1872. Even though the piece is not depicting her, I feel that it depicts her energy as I carry on the legacy of women's rights by doing exactly what I want to do...create art! More specifically, the piece is inspired by modern dance, bodies interacting, textile design and an array of other influences. I hope folks are drawn in by the colors and that the art makes them think up their own stories about the meaning.”
You’ll find Paris’ other two murals in Strong Alley and on the side of the State Street Parking Garage. For a quick bite, pop into Petro’s in Market Square and you’ll see a map of Knoxville inside. Paris is known for her illustrated maps of Knoxville, and you’ll see another inside Commonplace Coffee in SoKno. If you want to take one home, stop into RALA in the Old City for sticker and print options.
Sports/University of Tennessee
- The Graduate Hotel – This hometown highlight heavily features icons of the University of Tennessee painted by Happy Moon. Expect to see Peyton Manning as “The Sheriff” along with Neyland Stadium and other athletes.
- It’s Great to be a Tennessee Vol – Paris Woodhull and Kristin Luna, alumnae of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, have come together to design and coordinate the creation of an “It’s Great to Be a Tennessee Vol” mural, which is now complete. The mural is located just behind downtown Knoxville’s Gay Street on one side of the State Street municipal parking garage. The mural, commissioned on behalf of UT’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions and sponsored by Visit Knoxville, will encourage current and future UT students to explore downtown and share why it’s great to be a Vol.
- Mountain Biking – Find this large piece in the Old City, another design by Curtis Glover. Knoxville is well known for being dog friendly and a great place to go mountain biking – we think this piece nails it!
- Handy Dandy Market Postcard – This hidden neighborhood market in SoKno has a beautiful postcard-style mural that features the Tennessee state flag, a mountain biker (you’re in SoKno, after all, home of Baker Creek Preserve in the Urban Wilderness), and a quarry. The “postcard” itself showcases Neyland Stadium and the Smokies.
- “The Rock” – Around longer than Dwayne Johnson (1966 vs 1972), though not exactly a mural, we’d be remiss not to include it in such of list of public art. It’s got its own website for crying out loud! An iconic UT landmark for more than 50 years, the Rock is a place of free expression on campus, a public canvas where thousands of artists have expressed themselves. Messages on the Rock are as varied as the thousands of students, faculty, staff, and visitors who pass by the 97.5-ton hunk of dolomite at the corner of Volunteer Boulevard and Pat Head Summitt Street. At the Rock, we have celebrated victories, expressed opposition, remembered those we’ve lost, shared joy, and when necessary, stood united against hate.
Animals & Nature
- Tennessee River Buddies - Commissioned by the City of Knoxville’s Public Arts Committee, the 11-panel mural celebrates the nearby Tennessee River and its many diverse species of aquatic life. The mural is located on Volunteer Landing Lane and was completed in April 2017 by West Palm Beach, Florida artist, Eduardo Mendieta.
- Honeybee Mural – On the side of the former Dreambikes location in the Old City, this beautiful design by Curtis Glover promotes conservation of honeybees.
- Third Creek Greenway - Portland-based artist Roger Peet’s mural along the greenway connecting Bearden to Tyson Park to the UT Gardens to the Neyland Greenway is part of a larger project by the Center for Biological Diversity to develop community awareness of local endangered species in 11 cities across the United States. Each mural depicts a species unique to the region and the Pink Mucket Mussel is featured in Knoxville’s mural alongside notable fish in the Tennessee Valley.
- Fireflies – This unique mural wraps alongside the columns and pedestrian walkway heading over Henley Street on Clinch Avenue Downtown. Fireflies playfully surround a quote by Knoxville writer Cormac McCarthy and painted by Robert Felker: "For each fire is all fires, the first fire and the last ever to be" from Cormac McCarthy.
- Riverbank Mural – As you can see, we love our waterways and river animals around here! A piece you might not immediately recognize as Curtis Glover’s, this realistic scene can be found along the Ten Mile Greenway in west Knoxville.
Graphic/Good for Selfie backgrounds
- Weaving Rainbow Mountain - The 43, 10ft-wide steps which are heavily used by pedestrians to segue between UT Campus and the World’s Fair Park was transformed by the efforts of the Baltimore based team of Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn.
- Stories - Knoxville is one-of-a-kind. Centuries of history, people, and culture weave together to create the unique and vibrant city we know today. The Gay Street-Jackson Avenue Stairwell Mural is a celebration of these stories. From writers to celebrities, activists to space explorers, STORIES showcases dozens of Knoxville icons and images. If you want a challenge, see if you can find ‘em all!
- Lift Me Up – Find this powerfully inspirational piece by Curtis Glover at Beaumont Magnet School.
- Cassiopeia – This 300 feet long, three stories tall concrete canvas by Seattle-based artist Addison Karl runs along the opposite alley against Market Square. Take a stroll and see up-close, huge faces of six diverse East Tennesseans he’s met, painted across the color spectrum.
- COVID-19 Memorial – Nationally acclaimed artist Kelsey Montague (well-known for the “What Lifts You” wings in Nashville) and her team painted the mural on one of the Clinch Avenue viaduct underpasses at World's Fair Park. Her memorial mural in Knoxville features a motif of brightly colored flying birds soaring into a brilliant blue archway near the base of the Sunsphere. It will be possible for a person to position himself or herself at the left of the mural and appear to be releasing the fanciful flock.
Plenty more where that came from - get hunting with the Downtown Mural Map and don’t forget to tag #knoxrocks in your photos on Instagram!