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Living Light, UT’s solar-powered house, is one of only seventeen projects chosen to represent the nation’s land-grant universities this summer at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall.

The festival, which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the founding of land-grant universities and the US Department of Agriculture, will be June 27 to July 1 and July 4 to 8 in Washington, DC.

President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act on July 2, 1862, paving the way for rural and working-class Americans to gain access to higher education. UT benefited from the act in 1869.

One million people are expected to attend the festival and visit UT’s Living Light house during the ten-day event. It is co-sponsored by the National Park Service. All events are free.

Living Light seeks to teach festival goers about sustainable science, technology, and design. Other festival presentations will feature master gardeners, Hawaiian traditional healing, managing invasive species, and helping communities recover from natural disasters.

The festival program, “Campus and Community: Public and Land-Grant Universities and the USDA at 150,” will focus on four themes that reflect the current work of public and land-grant universities and the Department of Agriculture: reinventing agriculture, sustainable solutions, transforming communities, and building on tradition. About twenty-five land-grant universities are participating.

The program will cover an array of ways universities and the Department of Agriculture put research to action every day.

Living Light is a functioning energy-efficient, solar-powered house that competed at the 2011 US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. The house placed eighth overall in the competition and earned high marks in the areas of architecture, energy efficiency, and engineering. More than 30,000 people have visited Living Light since it opened its doors. It is the only house from the solar competition to be featured in the Smithsonian festival.

“It is fitting to represent Tennessee’s land-grant university with a sustainable living project,” said George Dodds, associate dean of academic affairs and research for the College of Architecture and Design. “The Living Light project showcases the scholarship and outreach of outstanding faculty and students across multiple disciplines, exemplifying the excellent activities happening at the University of Tennessee.”

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is intended to increase public understanding and appreciation of the contributions and accomplishments of land-grant and public universities over the last fifteen decades. The festival will feature Smithsonian U., a series of mini-courses taught by master teachers, a discussion stage that promotes conversation about important issues affecting universities, music and dance showcases, and hands-on activities for families. UT and Living Light will contribute to several of these courses.

To learn more about the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, visit the festival’s website.

Learn more about the Living Light house at the LivingĀ  Light website.


Lola Alapo (865-974-3993,

Kiki Roeder (865-974-6713,