April 27, 2020

Dogwood Arts: Beautifying Knoxville

The Knoxville, Tennessee of today is much different than the one of seventy years ago. That can be said of most places, it’s true, but there’s more to the story with Knoxville. See, in 1947, John Gunther, a well-known journalist and travel writer, visited Knoxville while researching a book and returned home to write the paragraph that became a catalyst of change:

“Knoxville is the ugliest city I ever saw in America, 

with the possible exception of some mill towns in New England.”

— John Gunther, “Inside U.S.A.” (1946)

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Image by  Snapshots of The Past via Flickr

His review didn’t end there, continuing with several scathing remarks about the city. It wasn’t the first time Knoxville’s looks had been insulted, but it was the one with the highest views. As you can imagine, especially if you know any Southerners, Knoxvillians did not take kindly to his review of their home. 

Good ol’ Southern pride sparked up among the dwellers of the city, and in 1955 the Dogwood Trails initiative began. Over the years, they’ve planted numerous trees, including Tennessee’s state tree; the Dogwood. Twelve paths that are enjoyable by foot, bike, or car have also been created. 

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Image by Joel Kramer via Flickr

With their progress in their beautification goals, they started throwing festivals to celebrate art and culture. There are many different ones throughout the year, but their biggest and most popular annual event is coming up.  

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Image by Joel Kramer via Flickr

On April 24-26, the 59th annual Dogwood Arts Festival will take over the streets of Downtown Knoxville. In celebration of Spring and the blooming Dogwoods, there will be live music, art displays, and activities for adults and kids alike to enjoy. Driving lanes will be marked for appreciating nature’s art, Dogwood trees in full bloom.  

*Update* As I was getting ready to post this, I saw that all events for April have been postponed until further notice

Over the years since the creation of Dogwood Arts, Knoxville has shifted from “the ugliest city” to a hub of artistic splendor. Sadly, he never made it back to see any of the changes made, but if John Gunther were alive today he’d have a hard time even recognizing the city Knoxville has become. 

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