City Art Committee Takes Steps to Beautify Cumberland Avenue Staircase

In News, Program Notes, Visual Arts by Matthew Everettleave a COMMENT

Knoxville’s Public Arts Committee is taking concrete steps to provide a $15,000 aesthetic upgrade to a pedestrian staircase near World’s Fair Park. It’s one of a handful of current projects in the works for the committee—the first major projects it’s undertaken since it was formed in 2008. The committee is also working to redesign the park at the corner of Summit Hill Drive and Gay Street and to develop a citywide mural program.

The plain concrete staircase runs from Cumberland Avenue near 11th Street up to an overpass with quick access to World’s Fair Park, the Clinch Avenue Viaduct, the Knoxville Convention Center, and the Second Creek Greenway. It’s used by University of Tennessee students and faculty and joggers and bicyclists.

“This is a heavily used corridor, and these stairs are a key pedestrian connection,” Mayor Madeline Rogero says in a press release. “People using these stairs can get to the Second Creek and North Waterfront greenways, to UT facilities, to World’s Fair Park, and to the western entrance to downtown. I’m eager to see what great ideas will be submitted to transform these plain stairs into something special. This is an opportunity for an artist or team of artists to really make a statement about Knoxville.”

The Public Arts Committee has announced a request for qualifications from artists interested in beautifying the staircase. The deadline is Nov. 21. Finalists will have until Jan. 17 to submit proposals for the project, which will have a budget of $15,000.

According to the press release, “designs that reflect the Knoxville community, its history and topography are especially welcome.”

“Public art is intellectually stimulating, and in the case of these stairs at Cumberland and 11th Street, it’s a matter of putting fresh eyes of a piece of infrastructure that’s functional but a little drab, and transforming it in a way that creates a fun, lively and unique sense of place,” says Liza Zenni, director of the Arts and Culture Alliance and liaison with the committee.

For details and application information, visit

Senior Editor Matthew Everett manages the Knoxville Mercury's arts & entertainment section, including the comprehensive calendar section—Knoxville’s go-to guide for everything worth doing in the area. You can reach Matthew at

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