Perhaps no annual event is more deeply entwined in Knoxville’s cultural DNA than the Dogwood Arts Festival and its many related happenings.
It’s our unique way of celebrating spring and the lush beauty that we have the luxury of taking for granted most of the year. It’s a toast to the riot of pinks, reds, blues, purple, yellows and whites that seem to blossom forth from every corner of our world that hasn’t been buried under asphalt.
This year’s festival is, perhaps, far more than important than other years. After all, last. year saw the festival canceled for the first time since its inception in 1961 as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the country.
Following a year of virtual events and indoor isolation, the festival returned in person to World’s Fair Park last weekend (April 23 – 25). Other Dogwood Arts events such as the trails and open gardens and the “hikes and blooms” event will continue through May.
Festival organizers worked closely with the City of Knoxville and strictly followed guidelines issued by the Knox County Health Department to bring this important springtime event back while prioritizing the health and safety of everyone involved. The Dogwood Arts Festival was free to attend, although guests had to reserve a ticket online prior to the event.
Despite rain and unseasonably cool weather on Saturday, artists and guests alike braved the elements for the chance to share and appreciate art.
Knoxville artist Holly Dickert braved the elements for her first year participating in the festival.
“Yesterday, the weather was beautiful,” Dickert said. “Today I look like a drowned rat. I have on two shirts, two sweaters and two coats and I don’t think that I am going to take any off.”
Despite being cold and wet, Dickert seemed to enjoy selling her floral arrangements. She has a “day job” as an interior designer and said that she started selling flowers out of her Volkswagen bus because she “wanted to do something that got me out in the community where I could meet people, get involved. It’s just been a fun journey doing that and getting involved in the community.”
Another Tennessee artist at the event for the first time was Courtney Ricaurte. She found out about the festival through a customer in Nashville who recommended that she come.
Ricaurte and her husband started creating art together in 2000.
“He had three welding jobs and I was a teacher,” she explained. “ He got scrap metal and made me little gifts and brought them home to me each week, and I was like, you know, if you show me how to paint these, we could really start a business. So, he taught me how to paint.
“I took the pieces that he gave me to the local art show, and I sold every gift that he gave me. I left with a list of promoters and ways to get into shows, making JPEGs and stuff like that and we went on from there.”
Melissa Hampton, a jewelry artist, said that she began making jewelry as a little girl and now does it as a full-time job. She travelled all the way from St. Louis, Mo. to participate in Knoxville’s spring festival.
Hampton explained how many artists are finding out about shows outside of their local area. “I found out about Dogwood Arts through a program called Zap Location,” she said. “It’s a place for art show artists to go and apply for different shows and see what cities they might be interested in and learn about the show. If it sounds interesting to them, they can apply and hopefully be chosen to be in.
Another full-time artist at the show who became connected through Zap was D. Michael Meinders. He explained that his vivid paintings of nature were inspired by his first career.
“I’m a retired biologist,” he said. “I worked with migratory warblers overseas. I spent over 20 years in the tropics, that’s why there’s a lot of tropical stuff, a lot of color, greens and stuff like that in my paintings.”
Meinders was pleased to find a show through Zap that was only a couple hours’ drive from his home on the other side of the Smoky Mountain National Park. “This isn’t too far from me,” he said. “A lot of my shows are six or seven hour drives for me.”
Jennifer Stambaugh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Published by April 28, 2021