Several Knoxville Catholic High School yearbook students painted a “Before I Die” wall on the alley side of the Oliver Hotel building in downtown Knoxville on Nov. 6. This wall creates an interactive space for Market Square visitors to write and share things they want to accomplish before they die.
“I thought it was going to be a really long process, and I wasn’t sure if we would finish in the time we had, but we ended up working well together and finishing before dark,” senior yearbook section editor Sarah Holt said.
“It was nerve-racking when Sarah was painting the ‘Before I Die’ because she was freehanding it, but it turned out awesome. I think it looks great,” senior editor-in-chief Tori Tipton said.
At the beginning of the 2016-17 yearbook planning session, Sarah mentioned seeing a similar wall in Nashville. Initially she thought it would be cool to do a yearbook spread with this content. After discussion among the editorial staff and adviser, the group decided to consider installing an actual wall in the Market Square area.
Yearbook adviser Liberty Phillips called the Chamber of Commerce, who put her in touch with Rick Emmett, downtown coordinator with the city of Knoxville. Mr. Emmett explained that she needed to attend and present at the Public Art Committee meeting at the Knoxville Museum of Art on Aug. 4.
“The students were so excited about the idea that I had to take the time to do whatever I could to make it happen, so we put together a presentation and carpooled to the meeting,” Ms. Phillips said.
The committee was in favor of the idea but brought to light the fact that the building in question was not a city-owned building.
“I thought we should get in touch with whoever did own the building, because I think it is something lots of people would take interest in,” Sarah said.
The building was owned by Philip Welker. Mark Heins of Dewhirst properties attended the meeting and graciously agreed to help Ms. Phillips contact Mr. Welker and negotiate the project.
“I was unsure about whether the wall would be a reality because the approval process took longer than I thought it would,” Tori said.
In late October the details for the project were finalized, and the Catholic students put together a plan.
“After cutting through the red tape to get it authorized, painting the wall was really fun. People were very intrigued by what we were doing,” junior assistant editor Gracie Baker-Hogan said. ■