Knoxville enigma: Arts & Culture Alliance keeps on ticking

Sandra ClarkDowntown, Our Town Arts

Does an organization adopt the personality of its leader? That’s certainly true at the Arts & Culture Alliance where director-for-life Liza Zenni zigs when others zag.

Liza Zenni

Penny4Arts started as a Zenni-led effort to snag one cent from the county’s tax rate for the arts. It met stiff resistance at Knox County Commission and Zenni zigged to a wonderful idea with the same name – one-cent admission for kids to certain performances and exhibits, up to three kids per one paying adult.

Cradle of Country Music – the “park” between lanes of Summit Hill Drive needed a new theme, Zenni thought, after the treble clef donated by the News-Sentinel crumbled as quickly as its namesake. The request for proposal stated that artists should not be limited by the park’s name. The winner created a psychedelic mushroom that required cutting five mature trees to install. And, oh yes, that’s not really what you will get, said the artist. Yours will be pale green, sort of like the one in Lubbock, Texas. Resistance came from all sides, and just before city council voted on a resolution to delay the project, Mayor Indya Kincannon announced the name would stay and the project would be scaled back to preserve 4 of the 5 trees. The city had compromised with itself.

3 questions – For this story, we asked Zenni three questions: What is the timeline for installing the sculpture in the Cradle of Country Music Park? Did the compromise add to the cost of the project or delay installation? Do you have a picture of the actual sculpture with correct colors?

As if she had never heard of the Cradle of Country Music Park, Zenni quickly answered: “So good to hear from you!  I really appreciate that you have included the questions about which you are most interested because I can now refer you to David Brace with the City of Knoxville who will be able to answer them!”

I got zigged. And so did David. The deputy to the mayor and the city’s chief operating officer wrote back: “Bottom line, no, there are no delays and this project will move forward this fall.  There are some nominal design costs to revise/update the landscape design but that’s it.”

There’s still no picture of our $500,000+ sculpture, but like a Timex watch, Liza Zenni takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’.

Meanwhile at the Emporium
  • The website section called “Public Art” is currently a private site. One must request access.
  • The Alliance distributes $550,000 annually to local artists and organizations.
  • The Insider is a super calendar of events, refreshed weekly on the website.
  • The Emporium Center is at 100 S. Gay Street, 865-523-7543.
  • The Emporium was built in 1898. Admission is free during public hours M-F 9 to 5.
  • The Alliance spearheads First Friday events.
  • The Alliance has announced free access for nonprofits to its 20th edition publicity guide with media contacts for print, digital, television and radio outlets in five area media markets. Phone or email to request free access.
  • Dewhirst Properties manages some 40 urban loft apartments on the upper floors of The Emporium, ranging from 700 to 1,800 square feet.

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today Inc.

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