Particle physics art

Dolly Parton Mural How Megan Lingerfelt Creates Public Art

Carol Z Shane

Megan Lingerfelt’s affinity for public art began during her years in Seattle, where her husband, David, was pursuing graduate studies in theoretical physics at the University of Washington. After graduating with an art degree from UNC-Asheville, Lingerfelt wanted to continue painting in her new home in the Pacific Northwest.

“I found this non-profit organization, Urban Artworks, and I was renting a studio for my canvas work. The whole exterior of the building was covered in murals. I started volunteering and got myself just showed up. After helping with a handful of projects they gave me some paint and a wall. I haven’t stopped since.

When the couple moved across the country in 2018 for David’s job at ORNL, she was ready to go.

“When I moved to Knoxville, I had no idea what the public art scene would be like. I contacted Dogwood Arts during the first week of my stay here and received a very warm welcome. [Artist and manager of Dogwood Arts Art Programs] Kate Creason and I had coffee. We were talking about Strong Alley and they were just starting to do stuff there. So I prepared the walls.

Artist Megan Lingerfelt works on an autumn-themed downtown Knoxville mural in Strong Alley between Market Square and Gay Street on Tuesday, September 14, 2021. The mural, which is Lingerfelt's eighth seasonal mural in the series, is part of the Art in Public Places Mural Program, a public art partnership between Dogwood Arts and the owners, the City of Knoxville and the Downtown Knoxville Alliance.

“The best way to get more murals is to paint murals and people will see you painting murals! Some of the things I did down the aisle caught the eye. In March 2020 the Dolly mural was defaced and the Dogwood committee had to restore/overhaul it and they called me.

His name had been suggested by the creator of the mural, San Antonio artist Colton Valentine, who was unavailable. “Since then, my emails haven’t stopped.”

Even during the ensuing pandemic.

“When COVID hit I thought I was going to lose all my stuff. Public places, restaurants, I thought they would cut their budgets. But people were trying to find ways to engage with the public outside, then the exact opposite has happened.

Muralist Megan Lingerfelt in front of the mural she did for Lodge Cast Iron near Chattanooga, based on the theme

Commissions through nonprofits such as Keep Knoxville Beautiful, Downtown Knoxville, and Dogwood Arts, and companies such as Lowe’s, Lodge Cast Iron, Marriott Hotels, and ORNL Federal Credit Union came regularly, and Lingerfelt is flexible with requested content, whether she resizes a specific image or implements her own ideas based on client feedback.

“There are two phrases I use a lot – ‘visual vocabulary’ and ‘place-making’.” For Lodge, she created images based on the requested theme: “From our hands to yours”.

Lowe’s, on the other hand, was focused on location. “They were doing them for multiple stores and wanted each mural to be indicative of each location.”

His two directives? Incorporate the company logo and don’t use the color orange, a color that features prominently in a major competitor’s graphics.

During the holidays, she created seasonal artwork in downtown Knoxville. “It’s a social media thing – a selfie wall. It’s temporary, funded by Dogwood Arts. They wanted something life changing that the public could look forward to. She loves the casual interactions that happen while she works.

For Lowe's, muralist Megan Lingerfelt created a

“I’m pretty introverted, and when I talk about my art, I can cross that line a bit. I can talk with all kinds of people – other business owners, tourists, locals, children, the elderly, the homeless. It becomes very social.

Although she has accepted private commissions, “in general, I prefer to do things in public. It’s really cool. I pinch myself for what I do all the time! And whatever I do is for everyone.

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