The Tennessee Artist’s Association is celebrating 50 years as the area’s oldest member-supported arts organization. A gala 50-year celebration is being planned for the group’s annual juried show in August, with a reception held during the First Friday Art Walk on Friday, August 5, from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm with Awards announced at 6:00 pm at the Emporium, 100 S Gay St, Knoxville, 37902.
In order to publicize this significant milestone for area fine arts and artists, Betty Bullen, President of the organization, along with members Indra Sahu, Suzanne Jack, and Joni Smith will be available before that date to talk with area media about the history, goals and current projects of TAA. Contact Betty Bullen or Tim Wiegenstein by phone or email to arrange for an interview.
According to a history compiled by past president Elden Elmer, TAA began in 1972 with five members who met for coffee at Shoney’s Restaurant on Kingston Pike. Jerry Hester, an artist and teacher of art, was instrumental in getting the group started, along with Nancy Hendrix, Randy Laws, Shannon Bays, Nancy Davis and Beverly Prince. Highlights of that first year included an art workshop at Coker Creek and a Spring Show at Concord Park.
By 1974, TAA had increased its membership to 35 members. Show chair Virginia Woods was instrumental in securing a yearly fall show at West Town Mall which continued until the late 90s.
Throughout the 1970s, TAA increased membership, added shows including shows at Dogwood Arts Festivals, Christmas Shows at West Town Mall, juried shows at Rechenbachs Art Store, the Knoxville Mayor’s Office and the Dulin Gallery.
By 1978, the Tennessee Artists Association had over 230 members from 34 cities in Tennessee. The Association was the only one of its kind in Knoxville. Social issues and concerns were highlighted by shows at the University of Tennessee’s School of Law, and the Knoxville Women’s Center.
In the 1980s shows increased and expanded to areas outside Knoxville; shows were held at Silver Dollar City in Pigeon Forge, Eastgate Mall in Chattanooga, Fort Henry Mall in Kingsport, Children’s Hospital Fantasy of Trees, and 100 Oaks Mall in Nashville.
The 1990s saw TAA’s continued interest in social causes with shows supporting Children’s Hospital, the Scholastic Arts program for students in grades 7 through 12 in fourteen counties in East Tennessee, and the sponsorship of a Boy Scout Explorer Post in the Arts.
Currently, TAA meets monthly at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 6500 Northshore Dr., Knoxville. These meetings are free and open to anyone interested in the arts in East Tennessee. Monthly programs of TAA include practical art demonstrations, discussions, and opportunities for individual artists to get involved in learning, community and shows. Speakers and programs have included portrait artist Seth Haverkamp, noted watercolorist Kate Aubrey, Arts and Culture Alliance program director Suzanne Cada, landscape painter Charlotte Rollman, acrylic artist Joni Smith, Scott Manning from Jerry’s Artarama, Jeff and Denise Hood of the District Gallery, and others.
Notable members over the years have included Jim Gray, Xavier Ironsides, Terry Chandler, B.J. Clark, Doug Griffith, Elizabeth Champion, Kathie Odom, Alexander Dumas, Bobbie Lovell, Susie Holt, Robert Tino, Greg Sharpe and others.
More on the Tennessee Artist’s Association can be found on the web at https://tnartists.org, on Instagram at @tn_artists, and on Facebook at TNArtistsAssociation.