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New exhibitions open at the Emporium Center

  emorium center exhibits
Sharon Gillenwater work. Image courtesy of the artist.

The Arts & Culture Alliance is presenting five new exhibitions at the Emporium Center in downtown Knoxville through April 28, 2017. Most of the works are for sale and may be purchased through the close of the exhibition.

Little River Artists in the lower gallery
Little River Art & Frame, a family owned business located in West Knoxville, was begun by artist and art broker Thomas Cover. Since its beginnings in 2006, Little River has become the leading supplier of Fine Art to the Knoxville Interior Design industry. Outside of Knoxville, their artists reach interior design houses and fine furniture galleries in ten surrounding states with an ever-increasing client base. Little River recently launched an international website selling fine art giclees from originals created by their artists. In addition, Little River owns several collections of 18th and 19th Century bird, botanical and equine prints. They handcraft frames for their pieces from the finest moldings, and craft one-of-a-kind art boxes from the spare pieces.

Little River Artists include: Thomas Cover, Aleksandr Cherepov, J Austin Jennings, Michael Cover, Annalee Bohon, and Brittany Elle. The exhibition will feature various styles, which make up an impressive collection of contemporary art with an eye toward interior trends. They use a variety of mediums including oil, acrylic, glass and wood. While specializing in large scale atmospheric abstract paintings, they also feature more traditional landscape oils as well as a beautiful array of wooden “frame boxes”. For more information, visit

Sharon Gillenwater and Michael McKee: Acrylics and Oils in the Balcony gallery
Raised in a small coal mining community in southern West Virginia, Sharon Gillenwater was always interested in art. While living in Fort Worth, Texas, she saw an ad in the local paper stating, "If you can hold a brush, I can teach you to paint." This was the beginning - she started to pursue her passion for art. She lived at the Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio for several years before moving to Kentucky and then to Knoxville. While in Knoxville, Gillenwater took lessons from several teachers and eventually found her way to Bob Ross, where she became a Bob Ross instructor. Her next move was to Johnnie Liliedahl at the Liliedahl School of Classical Oil Painting. Sharon completed her training at the school and became a certified Liliedahl Fine Art Instructor. She teaches locally and in her home studio as well as nationally at workshops, seminars and conventions. For more information, visit

In the field of art, Michael McKee is largely self-taught and has cultivated his talents through practice and observation. His subjects of choice are animals and landscapes, and his medium of choice is acrylic. The art of noted Sumner County wildlife artist Ralph McDonald has greatly influenced McKee since the 1970s and is likely most responsible for his current interest in wildlife art. He has attended art workshops featuring some of the best wildlife artists in the business, including Robert Bateman, Terry Isaac and Rod Frederick, and his works have won Best of Show and First Place Awards in local art shows. McKee is a native Tennessean and has been a member of the Tennessee Artists Association since 1992. For more information, visit

Connections by Renee Suich in the display case
Renee Suich creates mixed media art including collages inspired by nature, history and the energy that surrounds us all. Early years spent in design were further fostered by time spent working at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Her work has been referred to as ‘Heritage Collage’, as she incorporates vintage imagery in a contemporary composition. “My vision starts with a story that I want to share,” says Suich. “I then use layers of my own artist-made altered paper, natural objects, and painting.” Suich now resides in East Tennessee and enjoys experimenting with new media including encaustic work. Different mediums, like encaustic work, allow her to explore color and texture in a new way. Every piece becomes a new challenge. For more information, visit

The Enlightened and Lost by Kat Lewis on the North Wall
Kat Lewis is an East Tennessee native who grew up in Andersonville. She studied art at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville as well as Pellissippi State Community College. She has previously worked with oil and acrylic mediums. She currently resides in Knoxville as a mother and hairstylist. Kat Lewis will display a collection of works that illustrate dreams, visions and stories of spiritual awakening and enlightenment. These illustrations of enlightenment are through the artist's perspective as well as shared experiences from others. These are experiences that go beyond the tangible, physical realm in order to touch the soul and create a new state of mind.

Barbara West Portrait Group in the Atrium
The original art group was formed in 2001 by a wonderful person named Barbara West. When she died, the group decided to continue meeting in her name. Members have come from various parts of the US and other countries, as well as from Tennessee. Their list of occupations is amazing: photographers, teachers, architects, doctors, nurses, scientists, homemakers, and artists, to name just a few. Many are just starting to explore art but range all the way up to professional artists and use a variety of media. Although the common thread is art, the group tries to provide a strong sense of community – an important gift as they move through life. The exhibition includes work by Sandra Abraham, Sandy Armel, Carrie Ellen Barnes, Debbie Barnes, Beverly Burdette, Shannon Duggan, Nancy Erickson, Barbara Gray, Tony Kampwerth, Steve Romer, Bob Weir, Owen Weston, and others.

The Barbara West Portrait Group has exhibited at the Farragut Town Hall, Peace Lutheran Church, Ball Camp Baptist, and Candoro Marble. They meet every Wednesday & Saturday from 2:00-4:00 PM in Knoxville-area churches. The open studio is $5 to attend with live model; no instruction provided. For more information, please contact Debbie Barnes at 865-675-6339, or visit

The exhibitions are on display at the Emporium Center, 100 S. Gay Street, in downtown Knoxville. Exhibition hours are Monday-Friday, 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM. The Emporium will be closed on Friday, April 14, for the holiday. For more information, please contact the Arts & Culture Alliance at (865) 523-7543, or visit

Published April 8, 2017

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