MLK gallery highlights first First Friday

Betsy PickleOur Town Arts

The first First Friday of 2020 will not only be fun to experience, it’s also fun to say. Try it yourself:

“The first First Friday of 2020.”

See what I mean? So you definitely don’t want to miss out on the experience of being in downtown Knoxville this Friday, Jan. 3.

What’s going on? Glad you asked. As usual, The Emporium Center, 100 S. Gay St., is the place to start.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Commission and the Arts & Culture Alliance of Greater Knoxville have partnered to present the MLK Gallery of Arts Tribute, featuring the work of more than 20 local artists. This sixth annual juried exhibition kicks off the King Week Celebration (Jan. 15-20) and honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The 2020 theme is “Let Freedom Ring: Through Social Justice, Economic Empowerment, Love, Peace and Unity.” OK, that’s kind of a mouthful. But the inspiration comes from King:

“Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

The tribute is sure to be inspirational.

The Emporium is also thinking big, courtesy of “Camera Obscura II” from A1LabArts and The Big Camera! Also a juried exhibition, this one features photography and time-based media such as collage, darkroom work, digital manipulation, historic processes and more by local and regional artists. The Big Camera will be parked on Gay Street outside The Emporium Center.

The public gets to vote during the First Friday reception to decide the Best in Show: The $500 Cathy & Birney Prize. Three honorable mentions will receive a one-year membership to A1LabArts. The voting deadline is 8:30 p.m.; awards will be announced at 8:45.

Several other openings will fill your soul with art and inspiration. Meanwhile, Kelle Jolly and the Will Boyd Project will perform. Vocalist Jolly and saxophonist Boyd are a musical couple who were the 2015 MLK Commission Art Award recipients. Dynamic purveyors of jazz, they are among Knoxville’s most talented and popular performers.

For more happenings, check out


Silent no more

Don’t forget Mighty Musical Monday on Jan. 6. Freddie Brabson will use the Mighty Wurlitzer organ to accompany short silent films curated by Bradley Reeves of the Appalachian Film Archives. The show starts at noon, and brown bag lunches will be available.

Betsy Pickle is a veteran entertainment, features and news reporter.

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