Public Arts Committee Wants to Hear Artists' Ideas

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

Last item for navigation
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter
  • Share via Email
News item

Public Arts Committee Wants to Hear Artists' Ideas

Posted: 11/02/2016
11th Street StairsIt’s a wide and well-used path: 43 steps, 10 feet across, used by thousands of pedestrians on peak days as they trek the Second Creek Greenway to access World’s Fair Park, the University of Tennessee or downtown Knoxville.

The stairs south of Cumberland Avenue, at 11th Street near World’s Fair Park, also are plain concrete – and the City’s Public Arts Committee believes this important pedestrian entry point to the Second Creek Greenway is overdue for a fresh look.

The committee has announced a request for qualifications from interested artists to beautify the stairs. All selected finalist designs will be considered, but designs that reflect the Knoxville community, its history and topography are especially welcome.

The open-ended call for beautification concepts could generate a wide range of ideas. In other cities, artists have painted bold images, crafted unique handrails or created tile and glass mosaics to turn staircases into works of public art.

The deadline for submitting a response to the Public Arts Committee’s RFQ is Monday, Nov. 21, 2016.

“This is a heavily-used corridor, and these stairs are a key pedestrian connection,” Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said. “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.”

Liza Zenni, staff liaison for the Public Arts Committee, said this set of stairs is the latest in a series of public projects that the committee has been managing.

Last month, aided by donations from the City-funded committee and the Central Business Improvement District – but mostly financed by individual residents and businesses – the RiverHill Gateway Neighborhood Association gave the City a one-of-a-kind 8-by-14-foot metal sculpture by artist Derek White. The Public Arts Committee also is commissioning three public murals throughout downtown.

“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,” Zenni said.

To participate in the Cumberland Avenue stairs project, artists submitting their qualifications must be at least 18 years old, and finalists will be chosen based on examples of their work and their experience. Once finalists are selected, they will have until Jan. 17, 2017, to submit a proposal for beautifying the stairs.

11th street stairsOne artist or team of artists will be selected to complete the project, which is budgeted at $15,000 or less. That includes artist fees and costs associated with the design, fabrication, transportation to the site, permits, insurance, equipment rental, pressure washing of the site, priming, installation, materials and protective coating.  

For details about the project, visit the Public Arts Committee’s webpage at or call Zenni at 865-523-7543.

To be considered, artists should submit up to six examples of their work (including title, medium and dimensions), a current resume, three professional references, and a letter of interest describing their approach and proposed design for the project to Zenni at

The artwork will be installed in spring 2017.

Click here to view the RFQ [PDF].