Skip to main content

KNOXVILLE—Renowned artist Willie Cole, who transforms ordinary objects like shoes and irons into sculptures and whose works have been exhibited at venues including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Whitney Museum of American Art, will visit the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, on September 15 and 16.

Cole’s visit is underwritten by a grant from UT’s Ready for the World initiative and the support of the UT School of Art. Money from the initiative also will be used to purchase one of the artist’s works, which will be permanently displayed in the Ewing Gallery Collection at the Black Cultural Center.

UT students, staff, and faculty and the public are invited to meet Cole on September 15 during a free luncheon at the Black Cultural Center. The purchased print will be unveiled during this time. Free refreshments will be provided at the event, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

At 7:00 p.m., Cole will give a slide presentation about his artwork in Room 109 of the Art and Architecture Building. This event is also free and open to the public.

As part of his visit, Cole will meet with graduate students of the School of Art for personal critiques on their artwork.

On September 16, Cole will host a conceptual development and practice workshop entitled “From Dot to Line.” The hour-long workshop begins at noon in Room 105 of the Art and Architecture Building. It is open to all UT students. Participants must RSVP in the Fine Arts Office by September 14. Pizza will be provided.

“Having Mr. Cole visit UT will be a great opportunity for students to learn from a very successful artist who is very active and prolific in his studio practice,” said Althea Murphy-Price, assistant professor in UT’s School of Art. “Learning more about his creative practice will be beneficial to a wide variety of art students because his work is relevant to our ceramic, sculpture, printmaking, and drawing and photography areas.

“I believe it’s particularly important for students of color to take full advantage of his visit, since learning from his professional life may be very relevant to their future experiences as artists, offering some guidance and mentorship,” Murphy-Price said.

Cole brings a personal and spiritual perspective from his African American heritage on dominant economic and political structures in history. He expresses these interests using a variety of “Western” objects such as ironing boards, high-heeled shoes, hair dryers, and bicycle parts.

“African American artists are part of the rich fabric that makes American culture,” Murphy-Price said. “It’s important that we acknowledge all ethnicities and allow ourselves to be enlightened and educated by their perspective.”

The effort to attract a broad audience to Cole’s presentation was also supported by Asafa Jalata of the Africana studies program and Denelle Brown, director of the Black Cultural Center.

C O N T A C T :

Lola Alapo (865-974-3993,