Glady Faires was patron of the arts

Sandra ClarkArts 865, Obits, West Knox

Glady Faires, 85, passed away on May 14, 2020, at Alexian Village Memory Care, Signal Mountain, Tennessee. She was a mainstay on the Knoxville social and philanthropy scene for many years.


Mrs. Faires was preceded in death by her high school sweetheart and husband of 58 years, Ross. She graduated from DePauw University in Indiana and moved to East Tennessee in 1976. Her volunteer service included the Tennessee Arts Commission, chairing the Knoxville Museum of Art, the DePauw University Board of Trustees, and chairing the Governor’s Task Force on Education in Scott County. She was a member of Sequoyah Hills Presbyterian Church.

Natalie Haslam and Glady Faires (Photo by Jack Williams in The Blue Streak)

Her friend Natalie Haslam said Glady was a talented lady and a very special person.

“She was an exceptional pianist, a wonderful cook and a delightful hostess. She had an eye for talent – she could recognize early in an artist’s career if he or she would be successful.

“She was a lot of fun to be with. She was a good friend to many – and to me.”

Here’s what David Butler, executive director of the Knoxville Museum of Art, emailed when we requested a comment:

“The Knoxville Museum of Art family was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Glady Faires, but we are grateful that she is finally at peace after a long struggle.

“Not long after I came to Knoxville in 2006, Glady’s husband Ross’s health began to fail and she was consumed with his care, so I never got to know her as well as I might have liked. Even so, I learned quickly that this petite, gracious, and elegant woman bestrides the history of the KMA like a colossus. (Glady would have appreciated, but would have been mildly embarrassed by, the Shakespearian language).

“She spoke softly and carried a big stick. She took over as KMA board chair in the early nineties after the excitement and glamour of opening a beautiful new facility was fading, and she had to figure out how to make this nascent and expensive enterprise work on a day-to-day basis.

“It was hard, but she never gave up.

“This spring the KMA celebrates its 30th birthday, and Glady is a big reason we have the luxury of marking this milestone. She wouldn’t take “no” for an answer and kept the faith. She never shrank from tough decisions – she had to make lots of them – and never took her eyes off the prize: she understood how important it was for Knoxville to have a vibrant center for the visual arts.

“Glady and Ross were passionate advocates for and patrons of East Tennessee artists, and the KMA is proud (and we think Glady would be too) that the museum has matured into a vibrant and viable community asset dedicated to the art and artists of our region.

“The KMA is the beneficiary of a succession of visionary and dedicated leaders, and Glady Faires ranks among the greatest. Thank you, Glady. Well done.”

Survivors include her sons, Kurt and Christie, Eric and Debbie, and Jay, and three grandsons, Ross, Kurt J. and Jay.

Her obituary said memorial contributions may be made to the Knoxville Museum of Art, 1050 World’s Fair Park Drive, Knoxville TN 37916.

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