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First Friday displays artwork, invites community involvement

By Deborah Ince

The Gallery at Main Street hosted its third First Friday art exhibition on Friday, Aug. 3 at the historic First Baptist Church in downtown Knoxville.

robert a tino
Robert A. Tino looks through Mike Oliver's look book as Oliver works on a woodcarving.

Thirteen regional artisans featured their work at the exhibition, which ranged from watercolors, oils and pastels to pottery, photography and woodcarvings. The theme of Friday's event was "A Blessed Land," with all artwork reflecting the beauty of America.

Court Lewis, chairman of the Outreach Council in charge of the exhibition, said that First Friday is an opportunity for people to engage themselves in their community.

"People sometimes overlook the aspects of First Friday," Lewis said. "We do this event to be engaged in the downtown community. We want to be a part of the community, so we're opening our doors so people can come in and see the art."

The experience of Friday's artists ranged from first-time gallery exhibitors to individuals with over 30 years of gallery experience. Many of the artists are also self-taught in their particular craft.

Eric Walker, a first-time art show and First Friday participant, said that he enjoys the interest people show in his work. Walker specializes in pencil drawings.

"I haven't had any formal classes, but I've been drawing as far back as I can remember," Walker said. "I'd like to get my name out there with my art because I like the interest people have in it."

Kim Gale, who studied under fellow First Friday participant Aurora Bull at Fountain City Art Center and who is also another First Friday newcomer, said that her art is a way to express herself. Gale specializes in oil and acrylic landscape paintings.

"Doing paintings makes me feel better," Gale said. "It's my own form of expression."

Spencer Hudson, another first-time gallery exhibitor and a current teaching assistant at Moreland Heights Elementary School, said that he produces his watercolor paintings from what he has experienced. "I grew up on a dairy farm in East Tennessee," Hudson said, "so I like to paint a lot of barns and rural scenes."

robert a tino
Art by Robert A. Tino

Among the First Friday newcomers were a number of seasoned gallery veterans, including renowned Smoky Mountains artist Robert A. Tino. Specializing in oils, acrylics and water colors, Tino's paintings of the Smoky Mountains has been revered as some of the best in the Southeast. Tino said that he enjoyed participating in the First Friday's event. He said:

It's nice to get out and see people. It's very fulfilling to me to be able to connect with people with what I do. You feel like you're doing something good when people can connect with your work. What more could you ask for?

Another seasoned gallery exhibitor present at First Friday's event was Aurora Bull, who has specialized in oil paintings for more than forty years.

"I just fell in love with the richness, depth and three-dimensional quality of oil, " Bull said. "I specialize in nature paintings because it doesn't limit me to only producing still-life pieces. I love to travel and market my work, and so I draw inspiration from my travels. It doesn't matter where I am, I can be picking berries and immediately see something to paint."

Fellow First Friday participant Gayla Seale, whose artistic mediums include watercolor and pastel chalk, said that her imagination is what allows her to create her art, which includes mostly floral and local scenery paintings.

"I like to put my imagination and creativity into whatever I'm painting," Seale said. "I like putting my creative spin on things. It keeps things interesting."

Along with drawings and paintings, First Friday's art also included photography, woodcarvings and pottery.

Couple Gordan and Jan Brugman displayed their Smoky Mountains photography at Friday's exhibition.

Gordan Brugman, who has been shooting professionally for thirty-five years, said that he photographs the Smoky Mountains because it is such an intricate part of East Tennessee scenery.

"The Smoky Mountains are my paradise," Brugman said, "and it's all about sharing that with people for Jan and I. It's all about memories. People seem to really enjoy taking home photographs of the Smoky Mountains."

The other artisans present at Friday's exhibition included Mike Oliver, Barbara Truxall, Gary Dagnan, Brian Heckler and Bob Luttrell. Oliver displayed his woodcarvings, while Truxall and Heckler exhibited photography and Dagnan and Luttrell presented paintings.

The hosts of First Friday's gallery exhibitions hope to increase people's engagement in the downtown Knoxville community. With artists from different expertise levels and walks of life, First Friday's event demonstrates the diversity present within Knoxville.

"It's about community involvement," Lewis said. "So far I've been really impressed with several of the artists on display here, and we really want the people of the community to come see that, too."

Deborah Ince is a journalism student at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Published August 4, 2012

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