5 SEVIERVILLE ARTISTS
Creatives helped transform the look of Historic Downtown Sevierville, Tennessee.
Historic downtown Sevierville, Tennessee is sporting a new look and some of its most eye-catching treasures are public works of art. Five artists created the most iconic works, old and new.
Jim Gray – Dolly Parton Statue
Sevierville’s best-known public artwork is the bronze statue of Dolly Parton, which has graced the Sevier County Courthouse lawn for more than 30 years. Completed by celebrated artist Jim Gray (who passed in 2019)—and one of only three major statues Gray made (he preferred painting)—the six-and-a-half-foot tall sculpture shows Dolly fresh faced with a loose ponytail, sitting barefoot on a mountain boulder with her guitar. It captures Dolly’s love of the Smoky Mountains and surrounding community while also celebrating her joyful spirit. Dolly ranks the work as one of her most-prized recognitions and has said, “One of the best things that ever happened to me in my whole career is the statue of me in the Courthouse yard in Sevierville.” It’s a featured location on the Tennessee Music Pathways trail and is located at 125 Court Ave.
Mary Ruden – Bertie Sculpture
A new sculpture of Bertie by Mary Ruden is located across the street from the Dolly statue. Who is Bertie? “It’s a true but very quaint story,” says Ruden. “In the early 1900s downtown Sevierville’s Dr. Massey had his English Pointer dog deliver his earnings from his medical practice to Sevier County Bank; the dog would then return with a deposit slip. I’m creating a bronze statue of that historic delivery dog.” The statue shows the dog with a money pouch in its mouth. “It is a fun display for people to get photos with, it’s a loveable depiction of a dog,” says Ruden, who previously taught art at the college level and has been a full-time creator for decades. Ruden is known for helping make history come alive with statues and portraits—including a bronze bust of Anne May Davis, founder of Great Smoky Mountains National Park—displayed at sites, museums, and galleries throughout the Southeast. Of the Bertie sculpture, she says, “It’s definitely an honor to create this piece. I love history and to keep history alive through art is one of my goals.”
Brian Tomlinson – Tracks of Time
A new sculpture made using railroad tracks that were taken up during the Bruce Street renovation was crafted by local metal worker Brian Tomlinson. The abstract piece positions the old tracks vertically with a twisted swirling effect. “Track is very hard to work with,” says Tomlinson, who owns a construction company and does metal work. “My inspiration was an hourglass and I kind of let the material tell me what it wanted to do,” he says. Reusing the tracks in a work of art is a nod to Sevierville’s history, when a train ran through downtown. “Sevierville is where I was born and raised, being able to make a mark, to take my kids and grandkids, to put my stamp on my hometown meant a lot. When I saw it with the plaque it really hit me.” The sculpture is located at 136 Bruce Street.
Pinkie Mistry – Wings of Wander
The “Wings of Wander” mural by Pinkie Mistry has quickly become one of Sevierville’s most popular backdrops for selfies and Instagram poses. Stand between the monarch butterfly wings and it looks like you’ve sprouted a colorful way to fly. The work has multiple inspirations, says Mistry: “Of course Dolly Parton loves butterflies and it’s a nod to her hit song ‘Love is Like a Butterfly.’ I also love butterflies and wanted to use a monarch because they migrate through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. And the bright orange relates to the University of Tennessee. I also wanted to do something interactive—I’d seen a lot of angel wings and thought a butterfly relates more to our area.” The work also incorporates some personal elements: “All the designs inside the wings go with my Indian culture,” she says. Mistry has worked as an artist for more than 10 years, but “Wings of Wander” in downtown Sevierville was her first mural; it was completed over the course of a week in June 2020. She primarily paints on commission including oils on canvas and wine labels for local producers like Hillside Winery, where a second “Wings of Wander” mural features a blue butterfly. She says, “It’s such an honor to have done that Sevierville mural and it brings me so much joy to see people’s pictures on Instagram with the #WingsofWander hashtag. It’s so fun to see!” Find it at 136 Bruce Street behind the white gazebo.
Ben Harrison & Seth Bishop – Red’s Café “Red’s Café” is a nostalgic mural of a former Sevierville eatery that was a favorite of young Dolly Parton. The artwork features a young blonde child enjoying a burger at the counter. It’s on Bruce Street painted on a wall adjacent to The Appalachian patio. The mural was completed by Ben Harrison (who currently uses Zaxerl as his artist name) and Seth Bishop of Smoky Mountain Mural Co. After living and working in New York as an actor for 15 years, Harrison become a full-time artist. “I used to dabble with art,” he says. “My father was a preacher and artist and nurtured it when I was younger.” The creative spark was lit after painting theatre sets for a friend in North Carolina, and he’s now been painting murals for more than six years—sometimes with his friend Seth Bishop, who currently lives and works in Mexico. The Red’s Café mural was completed over the course of two weeks, with some weather interruptions. His contribution to Sevierville is a source of pride: “There’s so much divisiveness in the country right now, people don’t agree on anything, it seems there are constant battles,” says Harrison. “What I do is a little light in the darkness. People thank me and I don’t know their religions or politics, I just know they’re happy to see some artwork.”