Dogwood Arts has been in East Tennessee for 65-years, advocating art through history and environmental stewardship. They produce 20 events year-round to try and make Knoxville a memorable weekend getaway and place to live in Tennessee.
Although COVID-19 has changed the way most are living life today, Dogwood Arts has made sure events are still enjoyable through a virtual platform.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Dogwood Arts has pivoted their programming through hosting public events. Their Chalk Walk and the Dogwood Arts festival are just two of many events they have that promote and celebrate the art, culture and natural beauty of East Tennessee in new ways.
Dogwood Arts have recently launched new initiatives, one being the “Art Kits for Kids” program whose success provided over 3,000 art kits to kids in need since April. Dogwood arts has since expanded their “Art in Public Places” program to fulfill the needs of the UT community. This expansion provides funding for artist to create large scale murals in Downtown Knoxville.
Dogwood Arts most recent event is their “Mask-Produced” exhibition. This virtual event is put in place to shed a positive light on the mask-related artwork of local and regional artist.
Shannon Herron, a member of the marketing and creative team for Dogwood Arts, is just one of many employees excited about the potential of the exhibit.
“Mask-Produced is all about artist helping artist,” Herron said. “It’s been really encouraging to see so many local artists donate their time, energy and talents to help their community.”
One of Dogwood Arts’ main components is to promote local and regional artist. Mike Berry, local artist and co-chair of the Dogwood Arts Festival 2020-2021, is just one of the artists featured in “Mask-Produced.”
“Kate Creason invited me to create a 'mask' for this exhibition and fundraiser and told that the sky was the limit and that I had complete artistic control," Berry said. "My work is primarily cityscapes and two-dimensional, with the Tennessee Theater being a favorite subject of mine I decided I would incorporate that subject into a 3-dimensional designed mask. So, with some paint, foamboard and some hot glue I got busy in my studio."
The “Mask-Produced” exhibition auction as a whole is a fundraiser for the Greater Knoxville GRACE Fund which offers a resource for many individual local arts and culture workers who are seeking financial assistance to meet their basic needs.
The fund is managed and distributed by the Arts and Culture Alliance and has become an importance since the pandemic, since the arts and cultural sectors were hit tremendously hard.
“This event allows us to promote the participating artist and, at the same time, raise money for artist who may be struggling as a result of COVID-19. Many artists rely on festivals and outdoor markets, like the Dogwood Arts Festival, for a large portion of their annual income,” Herron said. “Since the pandemic began, we’ve focused our efforts on driving traffic to their individual websites and promoting them in alternative ways.”
Masks have become essential and a new norm across the globe. “Mask-Produced” has offered the creative space for artist and their innovative designs and ideas to bring another level of art to everyday face coverings.
Although many of the mask highlighted in the exhibition aren’t functional, their work of art serves as a documentation of the current period of history many are learning to thrive and create in.