New convention center bathrooms designed by local artists


The new convention center in downtown Knoxville was designed from start to finish to be a reflection of the artistry, culture, and heritage of the area. From the tile mosaic of the Smokies to the trout-themed escalator area, every aspect of the convention center was painstakingly planned. Bill Landry, of the Heartland Series, was consulted during initial brainstorming to ensure authenticity. With the center set to open in July, most of the more prominent features have already been discussed in all the major press outlets of the city.

Overlooked by many in the press, the majestic convention center bathrooms are no less focused on East Tennessee tradition than anything else. The third floor men’s bathroom, for example, has a Cades Cove theme. The stalls are covered in old weathered hardwood. Paintings of deer, bear, and red wolf adorn the walls. Even the urinals reflect the Cades Cove motif. Each one was designed and painted by a different local artist. Although most were created to look like old hollow stumps or even groundhogs, one that really stands out resembles a park donation collection box.

Each bathroom in the convention center was given a theme, and artists have been working hard the last few months to meet the July deadline. Some of the more notable bathroom themes include the World’s Fair, East Knoxville, Cas Walker, West Towne Mall, and Vonore. Dolly Parton is rumored to be designing her own, Dolly-themed bathroom using artisans from her Sevierville theme park, Dollywood. This bathroom will trace Dolly’s roots, starting with her first outhouse progressing all the way to the designer bathroom in her Winnebago. She is in the studio recording songs that will be heard playing over the bathroom’s all-weather PA system.

When the convention center opens, it will be the largest in Knoxville, rivaling even the Merchants/I-75 convention center in North Knoxville. Trying to blend in with the diverse architectural style of the downtown area, 5 different architects worked independently on different sections of the building, and just before groundbreaking, they got together and compiled their work into the final blueprints.