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Team of City Employees Helped Make COVID-19 Memorial a Reality 
Mayor Indya Kincannon wanted a permanent public memorial to honor our lost loved ones, shared community sacrifices and heroic efforts taken to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A team of City employees - planners, painters, sign makers and the guy who coordinates downtown happenings - responded to prepare the Clinch Avenue Viaduct archway so that artist Kelsey Montague could transform it into a powerful and poignant memorial.

"Anytime you work with 116-year-old infrastructure, in a popular public space with lots of foot traffic, it's a complicated undertaking," Mayor Kincannon said. "But we were committed to creating this memorial and doing it well.

"We're appreciative of the can-do effort of all the City employees who played a role in this project. Their problem-solving and hard work kept costs low, which enabled us and Dogwood Arts to bring in a nationally-known artist."

The pandemic memorial was officially dedicated May 23, 2021.


Montague has painted hundreds of bright, larger-than-life murals worldwide, drawing inspiration from butterfly wings, balloons, dragonflies, hot air balloons and heart motifs. But for a unique COVID-19 memorial, she decided to feature a motif of brightly-colored flying birds soaring into a brilliant blue archway near the base of the Sunsphere.

Health-care advocates and family members who lost loved ones joined Mayor Kincannon and Dogwood Arts leaders to dedicate the memorial on a warm Sunday afternoon on May 23.

But before the Montague Art team could stencil and paint the first bird in the flock, Downtown Coordinator Rick Emmett discussed the project with the Mayor and brought in stakeholders, arts partners and attorneys: What was the best location for the memorial? What documents and contracts would be needed? Once the viaduct was selected, could its century-old cracked surface be fixed? Yes, it could. The Public Building Authority managed the masonry repairs.

Then, three Public Service Department employees - Kevin Johnson, Randy Reagan and Terry Williams - cleaned the archway and applied the bright blue base coat.

Next, the City wanted to install a special sign that explained the intent of the mural to be a place of solace and healing - a memorial to our shared communitywide sacrifices, to a patient science-based triumph over a deadly virus, as well as a remembrance of the friends and family we lost.

Sign Shop employees Keith Black and Wes Terry designed and manufactured the sign, and Terry and Greg Roberts installed it.

COVID-19 memorial sign at World's Fair Park

Finally, City Communications, Dogwood Arts and media partners posted updates throughout the week while the artists painted the mural. And the City's Office of Special Events coordinated with Dogwood Arts, Knoxville Opera and individuals and organizations personally affected by the pandemic on a somber but uplifting May 23 dedication ceremony.  

Because of the in-kind City support, and the artist's desire to create a one-of-a-kind pandemic memorial, the project was commissioned for $25,000 - much less than other large public art projects throughout the city.
Posted by evreeland On 24 June, 2021 at 10:19 PM