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First Friday ArtWalk celebrates 20 years of uplifting local artists, merchants

November 1, 2023

On Friday, Nov. 3, Downtown Knoxville merchants, along with local artists and makers, will recognize the 20th anniversary of downtown’s First Friday ArtWalk. The tradition started with a small group of Market Square businesses and has since been embraced by the entire downtown district, offering residents and visitors an eclectic and always-interesting mix of events, exhibits and performances.

The monthly celebration has not only helped put Knoxville’s arts district at No. 4 on a nationwide poll, but it also has introduced East Tennessee artists and businesses to people from around the world.

“First Friday ArtWalk is a valuable part of Downtown Knoxville’s vibrant community,” said Michele Hummel, executive director of Downtown Knoxville Alliance. “The partnership of artists and merchants has enabled this tradition to endure and thrive for 20 years. We look forward to another 20 years of creativity and collaboration!”

For the 20th anniversary, Downtown Knoxville Alliance is improving its monthly listing to make discovering new and nearby artists even easier. The First Friday ArtWalk section of the website now includes an interactive map to maximize the ArtWalk experience as well as information on how artists can connect with hosting businesses. Explore the enhancements at downtownknoxville.org/artwalk.

“First Friday ArtWalk offers unlimited opportunities to our artists, allowing them to refine their craft, establishing relationships with local business owners and exposing them to new audiences,” said Liza Zenni, executive director of the Arts & Culture Alliance. “Witnessing the evolution of this tradition has been nothing short of astounding , and its continued contributions to our community are impactful. Thanks to everyone who has participated in or supported First Friday – may it bring even greater joy and inspiration within the next 20 years!”

Multiple events are planned for this month’s ArtWalk including: a sculptural and ceramic exhibition of 42 local and regional artists at Dogwood Arts, a welcoming reception for 13 new artists to the Art Market Gallery, the biennial Master Woodworkers Show at the Emporium presented by the East Tennessee Woodworkers Guild and Able Trade, musical performances at multiple venues and so much more. The evening also marks the grand reopening of the reimagined and expanded “Higher Ground,” the Knoxville Museum of Art’s flagship permanent exhibition.

First Friday ArtWalk occurs within Downtown Knoxville’s walkable district. Participants are encouraged to use the improved directory to find events and plan their evening.

Learn more about Downtown Knoxville events and places at downtownknoxville.org, and connect with the city’s art initiatives at knoxalliance.com.

About the Downtown Knoxville Alliance

Ensuring a vibrant, flourishing downtown is the primary mission of the Downtown Knoxville Alliance (DKA). Formed in 1993 as a Central Business Improvement District (CBID), the district encompasses a 0.67-square-mile area and is supported by a special assessment to property owners that is used to make improvements, enhance services and promote downtown. The DKA continually focuses on attracting and retaining a thriving community of residents, businesses and visitors in Downtown Knoxville. For more information, visit downtownknoxville.org.

About the Arts & Culture Alliance

The Alliance was created in 2001 through a highly participatory community-driven process. Its predecessor was the Arts Council of Greater Knoxville, formed in 1974. The mission of the Arts & Culture Alliance of Greater Knoxville is to serve and support a diverse community of artists, arts organizations, and cultural institutions. The Alliance is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, charitable nonprofit organization. For more information, visit knoxalliance.com.