The Knoxville Arts & Culture Alliance recently announced a new exhibition of illustrative and figurative works by Mänya Pirkle and abstract paintings by her son, Jonathan Pirkle. 

While these talented artists are closely related, their work differs greatly, offering the public a wonderful variety of styles in both two- and three-dimensional works. 

The show will be exhibited at the Emporium Center for Arts & Culture in downtown Knoxville from Sept. 5 through 26.  An opening reception will take place as part of First Friday activities downtown that day from 5 to 9 p.m. 

The Arts & Culture Alliance and its members will also honor Knoxville City Council, Knoxville County Commission and newly elected Tennessee Arts Commission Chairwoman, Donna Chase, at the Emporium with a special moment of recognition at 6 p.m.

East Tennessee native Mänya Higdon Pirkle is an artist, designer, teacher, craftsperson, and former gallery owner whose works include a wide variety of media and subjects.  Her acrylic paintings and pencil drawings are displayed in galleries throughout the region. 

Educated at the University of Tennessee and Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Mänya further advanced her artistic career by becoming involved in leadership roles: she has served on the Board of Directors of the Foothills Craft Guild, of which she is a charter member, and has been a member of the Southern Highlands Handcraft Guild for 40 years. 

Mänya, one of the first to become involved in the redevelopment of the former World’s Fair Park, established a gallery in the 11th Street Art District shortly after the fair ended.  This gallery was chosen by the East Tennessee chapter of the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ Women’s Artist Studio Tour and Exhibition, which highlighted galleries owned by local women and raised funds to support the chapter.

She established other retail galleries in other cities and taught art in the University of Tennessee’s non-credit department, as well as private lessons to classes and individuals from throughout the Knoxville area.  She is a member of the Knoxville Museum of Art, the Arts & Culture Alliance of Greater Knoxville and The Art Market Gallery. 

Her work was included in Spotlight, The American Craft Council Southeast Annual Juried Exhibition at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, and in the Artscapes Auctions at the Knoxville Museum of Art.  She has contributed to the Mayor’s art auctions, Public Television auctions, University of Tennessee Art Department auctions and other art-related charities. 

“Creating art is a process that is executed by the artist at the direction of the piece as it evolves,” she said.

Growing up in an art-involved family, Jonathan Pirkle took up art as a form personal expression: first as a hobby, then as a second career, designing advertising layouts and logos. 

He studied broadcasting arts and media at Oak Ridge High School and attended Roane State Community College and the University of Tennessee while simultaneously pursuing a career in radio and music.  He worked as an announcer, producer, music director, program director, and operations manager at radio stations WORI, WATO, Z-93 and WOKI-FM. 

The Modern Rock format he created for WNFZ became a national template for this emerging genre.  Jonathan thoroughly enjoyed designing logos, advertisements and promotions for the stations, and as he became more involved in graphic arts, he also began painting contemporary oil/enamel abstracts in 2003. 

He has exhibited with the Artscapes Auctions at the Knoxville Museum of Art, in the Candy Factory, the Emporium Center, and Tomato Head restaurant, as well as a juried show in Roseville, California. 

“While a finished work is its own reward, the process of creating it remains my favorite part of the journey," he said. "Combining sharply contrasting colors to make an image that is refreshing to view, while maintaining the more serious thought behind it, provides me with a feeling of adventure and freedom."  

The opening reception on Friday, Sept. 5, from 5 to 9 p.m. is free and open to the public, and complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres will be served. The Emporium Center is located at 100 S. Gay Street, downtown Knoxville.  Gallery hours are Monday-Friday 9-5.  For more information, please contact the Arts & Culture Alliance at (865) 523-7543, or visit the Web site at

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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