Dolly Parton Mural Restoration

Newly restored mural, artwork by Megan Lingerfelt, completed April 2020


The Dolly Parton mural located in Strong Alley (also known as Artist Alley in Downtown Knoxville) was recently vandalized, leaving many Knoxville residents and Dolly fans feeling heartbroken and angry. The mural was completed in 2019 by Colton Valentine, a street artist/muralist based in San Antonio, Texas. Since then, Valentine’s work has garnered global attention across social media––with his large scale murals depicting rappers like Cardi B, Soulja Boy, and 21 Savage. 

Original artwork by Colton Valentine, Completed April 2019

The unfortunate act of vandalism, which also impacted four other murals in Strong Alley, required extensive restoration but also presented a perfect opportunity to enhance the artwork with new design elements that evoke the spirit of Parton herself. After alerting Valentine of the vandalism and consulting him on next steps, Dogwood Arts asked local artist Megan Lingerfelt to restore and enhance the popular piece. 


According to  Megan, “As soon as I heard Dolly was tagged I knew several other pieces in the alley would have also been hit.  It is known as “graffiti alley” so I am not surprised that people still tag there, though I am disappointed that they chose to target several artworks instead of the less developed walls.  I love the idea that there is a place where artists can go and paint at will – that is really special – but unfortunately we can’t expect everyone to respect it.  Colton, the artist who created the Dolly piece, talked with me at length about how graffiti culture promotes the street art we love; they’re symbiotic in a way.  Many businesses want murals to draw attention, to support local artists, but also to combat graffiti. When he painted Dolly he covered a really awesome piece; that’s the nature of the beast.  Dolly wasn’t commissioned, so technically she’s kinda graffiti too.  However there is a huge difference between an artist creating something for a neighborhood to enjoy rather than destroying it.  You can’t really stop tagging.  You can prepare for it with specialized coatings, be ready to repair it, and hope for the best.

Working on this scale, at least for me, is not a one day project.  It was important however to cover the graffiti asap.  So in the first couple of hours I painted over the black lips and then began working on other elements of the mural.  Rendering an image this size is a process: add a bit here, lighten up this, move that a bit to the left…nothing is really done until it’s DONE.  When I worked on her eyes it happened in 3-4 stages, the hair has several layers, and the same thing happened with her lips.  First they were pink, then red, hmm too wide, now they need more of a curl of a smile.  Step back and assess, take a picture and look at the image in thumbnail scale, then reassess.  Honestly, I still have one more day of work and I think she could use a brighter highlight on the bottom lip – they’re still not done!

Due to the attention the graffiti received, there were a handful of reporters who showed up to document the changes.  They took several shots on the first day of the fix when perhaps it wasn’t clear that she was still mid-makeover.  I’ve heard there’s been some negative feedback but the vast majority of people who have visited while I am painting have been very supportive.  My hope is that once the wall is completed it is something that people downtown will continue to enjoy.”


Vandalism & Megan Lingerfelt working on restoration (Day 1), April 2020

Megan Lingerfelt has been working with Dogwood Arts, the Downtown Knoxville Alliance, and City of Knoxville on various projects located throughout the downtown footprint in recent years. She has completed a number of murals in Strong Alley, most recently the seasonally-alternating Downtown Knoxville mural on the south end. See more of her work at

Dogwood Arts provided funding for the restoration through the Art in Public Places Mural Program. The program was developed to highlight mural artists working in our region and to encourage other artists to add mural art to their repertoire. The work Dogwood Arts is encouraging in Strong Alley is meant to further enhance the vibrant urban space created by a unique collaboration of artists and property owners that has existed for more than a decade. Artists or property owners who are interested in learning more about the mural program can email The Art in Public Places Mural Program is sponsored by the Downtown Knoxville Alliance, the City of Knoxville, and ORNL Federal Credit Union.