Knoxville Taxpayers Reportedly Must Pay $150,000 for Public Art Project



Knoxville taxpayers will reportedly pay more than $150,000 for a public art project that a Seattle-based artist is overseeing in the downtown section of the city.

This, according to, which reported the artist, Addison Karl, and four local and five out-of-state artists are helping him paint a mural. The website said the artists are painting the east side of the Market Square Garage between Wall and Union avenues.

“The city-sanctioned work’s the latest of the public murals throughout downtown Knoxville,” according to

“It’s funded with $151,000 approved in March by the Knoxville City Council. That money is all inclusive, paying for everything from accommodation expenses to materials and assistants.”

The website went on to say public art is controversial — but Karl reportedly defended the practice because he said past civilizations left behind their own art.

“They have left us their culture. … Even when we were hunters and gatherers, we left pictograms … The human spirit has always done graffiti — ‘we’ve been here; we were here,'” Karl reportedly said.

The mural, named “Cassiopeia,” reportedly highlights the faces of six diverse East Tennessee residents. Karl will reportedly finish the project in August.

This is not the first time a local government in Tennessee has hired an out-of-state artist to create art at taxpayer expense.

As The Tennessee Star reported:

• Nashville officials paid $300,000 for an exhibit commemorating the Civil Rights movement. The artist lived some 2,000 miles away in Oakland, Calif. The Nashville Metro Arts Commission hired Walter Hood to create “Witness Walls” on the west side of the Metro Nashville Courthouse.

• Nashville taxpayers paid $750,000 so another California artist could construct large multi-colored sticks and place them partially upright near the Music City Center downtown.

• “Tool Fire,” built in 2013, consists of several shovels, rakes, and pickaxes glued together and placed on display along the Shelby Bottoms Greenway. For that project, the city paid an Alabama artist $30,000.

• Nashville taxpayers paid two Seattle artists $350,000 to create a sculpture at Nashville’s West Riverfront Park symbolizing the Cumberland River.

• Nashville officials would have spent no more than $5,000 — at the most — for four new bicycle racks, if they had paid market prices. Instead, they spent upwards of $100,000, at taxpayers’ expense. These aren’t standard bicycle racks. Rather, these bike racks have an artistic flair, which explains why Nashville officials saw fit to spend 20 times as much.

The 2010 Tennessee Pork Report, meanwhile, referred to another art project, costing $340,600, near Nissan Stadium. The report said the project resembled “the remnants of a defunct and mangled roller coaster.”

Also, as reported, Columbia officials reportedly want a permanent public art display, which taxpayers will fund. One suggestion includes a mural saying “Welcome” in multiple world languages.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Knoxville Public Art” by City of Knoxville. 




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7 Thoughts to “Knoxville Taxpayers Reportedly Must Pay $150,000 for Public Art Project”

  1. Carla

    The artwork should be locally sourced, period.

  2. artichoke

    Since when was a mural ever good?

  3. Dal

    Are these the same people who are determined to remove statues of those who built America?

  4. Noxville

    Communist goals, excerpted from the 1958 book, “The Naked Communist,” by Cleon Skousen:

    22. Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all forms of artistic expression. An American Communist cell was told to “eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings, substitute shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms.”

    23. Control art critics and directors of art museums. “Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art.”

    24. Eliminate all laws governing obscenity by calling them “censorship” and a violation of free speech and free press.

    25. Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio, and TV.

    1. nancy

      So true ,this is what is taking place today, and it’s everywhere……..Fashion is ugly today, as well….People wearing torn and ripped clothing……Blue, pink and green hair?…..

  5. Overtaxed Nashvillian

    Artwork is work. I guess.

  6. 83ragtop50

    Just another waste of taxpayer money for a feel good for the elites.