Keep an eye out next time you’re driving around North Knoxville; you might pass right by a modest art gallery with an extraordinary origin story.
A group of local artists congregated at Broadway Studios & Gallery largely by word of mouth. Broadway Studios & Gallery features nine artists in individual studios collectively creating and sharing retail and gallery spaces. Though the artists vary in every way including age, medium and style, the coalition has blended harmoniously.
For Jessica Gregory, the initial visionary of Broadway Studios & Gallery, the supportive presence of fellow artists was something she felt a need for in her own life. According to Gregory, she produces and learns so much more here than working alone in her home studio and is now excited to come in to work for the first time in her life.
Gregory came to the building that would become Broadway Studios & Gallery to show the space to a friend who was wanting to start a business. However, her plans changed when she saw the potential with the space.
“I thought, ‘This would make a really fun little artist community. You could rent all these rooms and have a month long exhibit for a different artist.’” Gregory recalled. “So I just invited other people to come and see if they were interested in being a part of this artistic community.”
Starting in realism before finding her own voice, Gregory now aims to paint and sculpt using only recycled materials. This is part of her hope to advocate awareness of our need to take better care of our planet through fun works of art. Gregory is known around Knoxville for her work on the Fantastic Castle, a life-sized castle made entirely recycled products.
Unlike Gregory, Mariclair Tan, another artist of the gallery, was not originally on a straight trajectory for art. Tan recently received an engineering degree from UTK and had put her artistic hobby on hold during her collegiate experience.
Now, Tan is re-entering the art world and finding her fit. Tan prefers sculpting over her other outlets of printmaking and painting. She attributes this favoritism to the tactile nature of sculpture.
“I think about that stuff, and I kind of wonder what things are made of,” Tan said. “It’s a little technical, which I guess is sort of appealing to engineers. Art and science are not mutually exclusive.”
Tan joined the gallery after she saw a flyer and wanted a place to create where she could work around other artists. Tan also shares the desire of many of the resident artists to separate work from home.
Tan equates her newfound motivation with Broadway Studios & Gallery and with art to her time in the Navy.
“When I was in the Navy, I would take night classes in sculpture,” Tan said. “With drawing, I can just practice all the time; that’s on me. It's my responsibility to practice. But with sculpture I needed an instructor, and I needed more support.”
Resident Broadway Studios & Gallery artist Cynthia Tipton received her undergraduate in painting at Belmont University before going on to study graphic design at UTK. Tipton is using the latter to create the gallery's website and posters.
Tipton dabbles in all medias but favors painting, and she is known for her oil portraits. Though each of her works take about 60-80 hours to complete, she believes the resulting visual communication is priceless.
For Tipton, the communal workspace of Broadway Studios & Gallery fuels this visual communication by facilitating artistic interaction. The artists often share ideas with each other by walking from studio to studio in their red-carpeted hallway.
Tipton says Broadway Studios & Gallery would not have been possible without the help of the building owners and Knoxville’s art societies.
“They’re supportive of artists, and they really wanted that here because we’re next door to the Knoxville Center for Art and Fine Craft,” Tipton explained. “So, they really wanted to get that going.”
In addition to the sponsorship and support of organizations, the local art community has helped immensely in the progression of Broadway Studios & Gallery. According to Cynthia, the gallery and studio spaces are already booked until May.
Each new month will welcome a group exhibition featuring the resident artists. In addition, the gallery has planned an upcoming theme show entitled “Feast Your Eyes On This,” solely about food, beginning on Knoxville's First Friday art showcase on Dec.4, 2015. “Feast Your Eyes On This” is a month long exhibition, which is an open call for local artists to submit entries.
Broadway Studios & Gallery is located at 1127 North Broadway.