Best Museum: Knoxville Museum of Art

Best Museum Runners-Up: Frank H. McClung Museum, Museum of Appalachia, Museum of East Tennessee History

They’ve been there since 1990, but in 2008 the Knoxville Museum of Art opened its permanent exhibit, Higher Grounds, a kaleidoscopic tour of the Knoxville area’s artistic history, which has touched the edges of American art since the Civil War. But it just accounts for one-fourth of the museum; the other rooms are devoted to changing exhibits, and tend toward the contemporary. Plus a slightly bizarre touch: the Thorne Rooms, one of the hits of the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. It’s a bit livelier than most museums, with numerous programs, the best known of which is the KMA’s Alive After Five series, featuring different live music, usually in the jazz or blues vein, every Friday. The series continues to be popular, especially with those maybe grown a bit beyond the crowded Friday bar scene. The giant eyes on the eastern face of the building are a provocative touch, and may wind up in a Gatsbyesque novel someday.

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