Knoxville is the ugliest city I ever saw in America, with the possible exception of some mill towns in New England.John Gunther, 1947
With that caustic statement (actually a blessing in disguise), Knoxville took note. We Knoxvillians had a pretty city then, but we have an even prettier city now. And to top it all, that one Gunther statement launched a celebration of a certain flower — the dogwood — that has put Knoxville on the map as one of the loveliest cities in America.
Knoxville’s Dogwood Arts Festival began in 1961, just a few years after Gunther’s derogatory statement. A group of interested citizens came up with the idea to develop trails through pretty subdivisions in bloom and also hold citywide activities showcasing artistry of all kinds when Knoxville is at its prettiest — springtime!
Now, 65 years later, Knoxville is still celebrating the flowering dogwood tree, but activities span all seasons. In fact, this month, July 2020, the University of Tennessee Gardens, installed a new display –– Dazzling Dogwoods Exhibition. Springtime dogwoods (wooden silhouettes artistically designed by local artists) stand tall amid the full-on colors of summer in the pathways and beds so beautifully maintained by the UT Gardens staff.
This parade of artistry begins at the entrance to the gardens, but they’re noticeable even at a distance since they dominate the landscape. Visitors are encouraged to walk the sidewalks in, around, and through the flower beds so they can enjoy artistic interpretations of Knoxville’s favorite flower. And here are a few of our favorite dogwoods.
So, with this new exhibition, Knoxville celebrates the springtime flower that has moved our town from Gunther’s description of the “ugliest city in America” to one filled with blooms. It’s just another way that spring and summer work hand in hand at the UT Gardens to spread a bit of color and definition in the city that we love.
You can follow both UT Gardens and Dogwood Arts Festival on Instagram at @utgardensknoxville and @dogwoodarts. If you want to purchase one of the dogwood silhouettes for your own garden, the artist renderings will be up for auction on September 8th — just in time for you to put a little spring in your own backyard!
Visit Knoxville — one of the prettiest cities anywhere!
Rusha & Bert
This post is one of the “seasonal” entries for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. To see more, head to Tina Schell’s blog, Travels and Trifles, and click on the links in the comments section. Two other seasons will be represented on these dates: Autumn on July 18 and Winter on July 25.