A long time ago, I meant to say thank you (from the bottom of my heart) to anyone who voted for me as Best Artist in MetroPulse's Best of Knoxville Reader's Poll. I received Runner Up, a thing that was far off my radar, which made it a very sweet surprise.
A good friend of mine asked what this little victory meant for me, and I'd like to share that response with you:
First, I'm extremely honored. I can easily belittle things like this, considering the size and status of Knoxville, but this where I make art. It means a lot to me to find recognition here, in this place I call home.
As you may know, Knoxville is not a burgeoning mecca for the arts, but there are two main reasons I like being an artist here.
One, Knoxville is accessible. I can live here affordably and cultural happenings, such as live music, exhibitions, festivals, and community activities, are easily available to anyone. It's easy to get around, it's easy to get tickets to things, and it's easy to do a lot of really wonderful things for free. I assume this is why Knoxville was once called "the couch," and I love my couch.
Secondly, I like the challenge of living in a city that isn't necessarily a strong center for the arts. There is potential here and much work to be done, to allow good art and artists to thrive here. A path has been laid out for me, to make the best work I can, to show it here, and to encourage and support other talented artists to do the same.
I think pursuing art would be a struggle anywhere, but it definitely has been in Knoxville. I've had to learn quickly, things that work and things that don't, but I have learned a lot and that's been extremely valuable to me. I realized a long time ago, though, that no matter what, I will always make art, until I'm physically unable. That was a good realization to have, that while it would be wonderful to make a living through making artwork, that's not necessarily the end goal for me. The end goal is here. The end goal it to make.
I often wrestle with knowing if I'm in the right place and pursuing the right things, more so in the past, but it still happens. A reassuring thought is when I think of myself being old and gray, I see myself walking in the woods of East Tennessee. That older version of myself reminds me of how grateful I am to be an artist, living and working here now, to be in this place that has been both a challenge and a comfort, a place that has made living out what I want to do possible.