Knoxville Museum of Art

This attraction in Knoxville, Tennessee, showcases the rich and diverse visual culture of East Tennessee and Southern Appalachia. 

The interior of the Knoxville Museum of Art in Knoxville, Tennessee  (photo courtesy of destination)

Within the modern, stone-clad facade of the Knoxville Museum of Art is a treasure trove showcasing the rich and diverse visual culture of East Tennessee and Southern Appalachia. The collections represent mostly regional artists, dating from the mid-1800s to present day, while asserting their connections to the world at large. Admission is always free.

Visitors can’t miss the immense glass-and-metal composition titled “Cycle of Life: Within the Power of Dreams and the Wonder of Infinity” by Knoxville artist and sculptor Richard Jolley. Thousands of bits of glass and metal weave the narrative of life as they scale the ceiling and most of the wall space in the museum’s Great Hall. 

Be on the lookout for numerous abstract paintings by Beauford Delaney, who befriended writer and activist James Baldwin in New York and who later moved to Paris to find greater artistic freedom. Other standout works include those by Catherine Wiley, an early 20th-century painter lauded for her dreamy impressionist renderings of women and landscapes. 

Be sure to save time to stroll outdoors and view the museum’s sculpture garden. A visitor favorite is the life-size evening gown standing upright without a human form. Made from cast iron, it’s called “Nocturne 1” and was created by New York-born Karen LaMonte of Prague, Czech Republic.

The four-story museum is located on part of the former site of the 1982 World’s Fair, which was transformed into a 15-acre public green space with landscaped walkways, water features, festival lawn, amphitheater and playground. The museum’s glassy rear exterior frames views of downtown Knoxville and the iconic Sunsphere, a 266-foot-tall golden observation tower erected to welcome visitors to the World’s Fair. 1050 World’s Fair Park Dr., Knoxville, Tennessee 37916, 865/525-6101,