Purpose, Empowerment, and Promise: Paris Woodhull’s New Mural in East Knoxville Shines a Light on an Important Community Nonprofit
Local artist Paris Woodhull is creating a colorful new mural on the exterior of the Sertoma Center in East Knoxville. The 1,600 sq. ft. piece is the artist’s largest mural undertaking to date and was commissioned by Dogwood Arts as a part of their Art in Public Places Mural Program supported by funding from the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Arts & Culture Alliance. Woodhull’s signature bright and friendly illustration style is giving life to a mural that celebrates Sertoma’s history alongside their current vision of community inclusion with purpose, empowerment and promise for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Woodhull spent several months researching the organization’s history and collaborating with current staff to illustrate the breadth of their impact in the community. Mural elements include a range of figures that reflect the diverse community that utilizes Sertoma and the original VW van that was the centers’ first transport. You may even notice the license plate reflects the year the Sertoma Center was founded, 1961. No stranger to the area, Woodhull grew up going to the YMCA directly across the street from the Sertoma Center and spent much of her early years at Tribe One on Magnolia Avenue — an organization focused on helping inner-city youths founded by Danny Mayfield and her father, Chris Woodhull.
“I feel incredibly lucky to have been selected for such a large (literally!) opportunity to explore my artistic style, while uplifting a deserving community like the Sertoma Center. As a full-time artist it’s not always common that I get to execute the visions inside my head — this project is that and then some,” said Paris. “Having grown up frequenting East Knoxville, it feels full circle that I get the chance to give back to the community that gave to me as a kid. My hope is that this mural will inspire other people (young, old and in between) to go beyond what they feel they are capable of and to maybe hold hands with a friend while you’re doing it.”
The mural is on the East side of the building at 1400 E. Fifth Avenue, viewable upon approach from Winona Street and just off of Magnolia Avenue.
“This partnership with Sertoma is exactly what Dogwood Arts is trying to accomplish through our Art in Public Places Program — highlighting the talent of local artists to create a bright spot in the community, just as the Sertoma Center has been a bright spot for the individuals they’ve served since 1961.” said Sherry Jenkins, Executive Director of Dogwood Arts. “After considering several directions for the project, Dogwood and Sertoma ultimately chose to work with Paris because, at its core, her work has always been a beautiful celebration of place and the people who make it so special.”
“At Sertoma we are grateful to serve one of the most vulnerable populations in Knox County. This artwork shines a light on the 62 years Sertoma has served as a resource in the community, but also pays tribute to the friends, families, and the fantastic supporters of our organization. We want this to be a mark of respect to all of those we have served as well as the people that have had an influence on the lives of others,” said Mike Smith, Director of Development & Outreach at Sertoma. “Sertoma will always be an advocate to those living with intellectual and developmental disabilities to ensure everyone has an opportunity to live a life of fulfillment and purpose. This amazing artwork is a way to promote our mission to the community we are so proud to serve.”
About the Artist: A born and raised Knoxvillian, Paris Woodhull’s heart will always be in her hometown. Along with a line of products that include apparel/paper goods she also offers a range of freelance illustration services. Paris received her BFA in 2D art with a concentration in Painting & Drawing from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She loves bold color, pattern, pop culture, portraiture, fashion, and is fueled by copious amounts of coffee. Paris’ mural work can be seen all over town including pieces in Strong Alley, on the State Street Municipal Parking Garage, at Printshop Beer Co., Greater Goods Thrift Shop, Petros in Market Square, Cultivate Coffee + Flowers, Commonplace Coffee, and many more.
About Sertoma: Sertoma and its team of employees provide opportunities for people with disabilities to achieve their fullest potential through residential experiences, community interactions, employment, and job skills training. Serving 130 individuals, Sertoma is dedicated to offering the highest quality of service and opportunity for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to find satisfaction of a life well lived.