COVID-19 · Knoxville

Knoxville’s Pandemic Memorial to be ‘Place of Solace and Healing’

Knoxville’s Pandemic Memorial to be ‘Place of Solace and Healing’ – Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon has partnered with Dogwood Arts to commission a permanent public memorial to remember the more than 600 Knox County friends and family members whom we’ve lost to COVID-19. The memorial is also a tribute to the community wide sacrifices and heroic efforts taken to safeguard our most vulnerable residents during the pandemic.

Knoxville’s Pandemic Memorial to be ‘Place of Solace and Healing’

A mural will be painted next week on one of the Clinch Avenue Viaduct underpasses at World’s Fair Park by nationally acclaimed artist Kelsey Montague and her team. (Knoxville was the home of the 1982 World’s Fair!)

 Artist Kelsey Montague poses with one of her pieces of artwork - a mural in Argentina - Knoxville's Pandemic Memorial to be 'Place of Solace and Healing' - Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon has partnered with Dogwood Arts to commission a permanent public memorial to remember the more than 600 Knox County friends and family members whom we’ve lost to COVID-19. The memorial is also a tribute to the community wide sacrifices and heroic efforts taken to safeguard our most vulnerable residents during the pandemic.
Artist Kelsey Montague poses with one of her pieces of artwork – a mural in Argentina

“Everyone has suffered and sacrificed over the past 14 months – and some much more so than others, our hope is that this memorial will be a place of solace and healing. It will recognize how we as a community came together to look out for one another during a public health emergency.”

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon

The new, more visible memorial will replace the temporary COVID-19 memorial on the front lawn of the City County Building that was started last December, during the pandemic’s biggest surge. Flags were planted in the lawn, commemorating individuals who lost their lives to the virus.

Kelsey Montague has painted hundreds of bright, larger-than-life murals, drawing inspiration from butterfly wings, balloons, dragonflies, hot air balloons and heart motifs for her work. Her 2014 mural in New York City with the hashtag #WhatLiftsYou was applauded by singer Taylor Swift, who then commissioned Montague to do a butterfly mural in Nashville for the release of her song “Me!”.

Montague’s memorial mural in Knoxville will feature a motif of brightly-colored flying birds soaring into a brilliant blue archway near the base of the Sunsphere.

It will be possible for a person to position himself or herself at the left of the mural and appear to be releasing the fanciful flock. Montague has created large-scale interactive street murals around the world, and each piece provides an opportunity for viewers to become part of a “living work of art.”

“Art can inspire us and comfort us, and we believe Kelsey Montague’s creation will be a special part of our post-pandemic healing,” Dogwood Arts Executive Director Sherry Jenkins said. “Likewise, Dogwood Arts is humbled and honored to help with such a meaningful project.”

Montague said her artwork will commemorate loved ones lost during the pandemic as well as celebrate the brave men and women who helped us get through this last year.

“I am beyond honored to create this COVID memorial piece for Knoxville,” each bird is unique and beautiful and represents a person we lost to the pandemic. I encourage people to stand in front of the mural and appear to be ‘releasing’ the flock to the heavens. I hope this mural is cathartic and honors all those we lost.”

Artist Kelsey Montague

Mayor Kincannon also noted Montague’s highly-recognizable signature artwork.

“Kelsey always aims to be inspiring, and I like how she invites passersby to make themselves a part of her art,” Kincannon said. “This artist was passionate about wanting to reach out and help families hurt by COVID-19 to heal and recover. She created a message with her memorial design that’s truly unique – you won’t find it anywhere else.”

The City will provide an agency grant to Dogwood Arts, with funding of up to $25,000 for the pandemic memorial.

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