Tusculum professor, an accomplished local artist for 45 years, to show his work at open house for art gallery’s new location

GREENEVILLE – Attendees at the open house for the new location of the Clem Allison Art Gallery at Tusculum University will not only be able to enjoy the new space but also experience the talent of a faculty member, who is an acclaimed regional artist.

This is one of the works Bill Bledsoe will show at the gallery open house. It is called “River Thames.”

The Center for the Arts will hold the open house from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 14, in the gallery, which has been moved to Annie Hogan Byrd Fine Arts Center in space close to the front entrance and the Marilyn duBrisk Theatre. During the event, Bill Bledsoe, assistant professor of art and design, who also has a robust private art portfolio, will have 16 pieces of his work on the walls for guests to examine and discuss with him.

All community members and the Tusculum family are invited to attend the open house, which is free. The Center for the Arts will hold a special ceremony at 6 p.m.

“We are thrilled to celebrate the new location of our art gallery by presenting the exceptional work of one of the region’s best artists,” said Rouja Green, director of the Center for the Arts. “Bill distinguishes himself daily in the art profession and elevates the quality of life in our region with his product. He also inspires our students and enables them to grow exponentially in their talent and appreciation of art in all forms.”

Bledsoe’s talent will continue to shine the rest of the night, as he will lead Couples Painting Night, a multifaceted event in which he will help participants depict a Paris scene. Bledsoe will re-create during the event a painting of a Paris scene he will produce beforehand and have participants mirror the different strokes and embellishments he makes. At the completion of Couples Painting Night, the Center for the Arts will auction the two paintings he developed for the event.

This ticketed event costs $40 for individuals and $60 for couples and will include heavy hors d’oeuvres, live music, live dancers and a live auction as well as the opportunity to benefit from Bledsoe’s extensive knowledge of art. Tickets can be purchased at https://tusculum.hometownticketing.com/embed/all?depts=2. All major forms of payment are accepted. Couples Painting Night is a fundraiser, with proceeds going to Tusculum’s art program.

The title of Bledsoe’s gallery show is “Raison d’etre,” which is French for the “reason for being.”

During the open house, Bledsoe will predominantly show paintings that contain landscapes from Europe and East Tennessee. His European works will come from his sketch book from the days when he lived in England; visits to Scotland, France, Italy and Austria; and his trip with students to Germany four years ago. His collection of paintings and drawings reflect Bledsoe’s passion for landscape, figurative drawing, still life and abstract subject matter.

He will primarily feature oil-based paintings, but he will also have water colors and a few graphite images.

“I have this mixture for the student’s benefit because in my courses I teach drawing as an important part of an artist’s repertoire,” Bledsoe said. “I want this showing to be as much a demonstration for students as it is for the community members who are coming to the show.”

Bledsoe said Europe provides wonderful scenery for painting, but he dispels the notion some might have that the allure of those countries automatically means those pieces of art will be more appealing than what East Tennessee provides.

“It’s easy to say you’re in Europe, so it’s romantic and easier to paint landscapes,” he said. “That’s not so. I have some gorgeous landscapes from Europe, but there is just as much beauty in our area as there is in Italy, Germany, France or England.

“There are certain tell-tale signs in the architecture that connote Europe, such as a castle in a field – instead of a barn – that are attractive. My argument has always been that the barns in East Tennessee are just as significant architecturally for East Tennesseans as a castle is for Europeans. I want to show there is just as much charm and artistic merit in our local environment as there is anyplace else. This exhibit will illuminate the best of both worlds.”

Bledsoe has led Tusculum’s studio art program and overseen operations for the gallery for seven years. He has also been a working artist for 45 years. He earned his bachelor’s degree in studio art, which consists of painting and drawing, and his master’s degree in graphic design, both from East Tennessee State University.

He worked as an artist for the U.S. Air Force and was the youngest to receive the Achievement Medal from that branch. He was also only the second serviceman to receive an Award of Excellence. Bledsoe was recognized as one of the top 100 artists of Tennessee in 1987, and his work is part of a permanent collection in the Frist Art Museum in Nashville.

Bledsoe is well-known in the region for spearheading the campaign to rename Tennessee’s NFL football team when it moved from Houston, and he worked with NFL properties, ownership and the state of Tennessee on this endeavor. The ultimate name change to the Tennessee Titans was credited in part to Bledsoe’s artwork, which motivated NFL Properties and inspired football enthusiasts statewide to insist on a name change.

He was commissioned to create a painting celebrating the 225th anniversary of Tennessee and Jonesborough, the state’s oldest town.

Further information about the events at Tusculum is available by contacting Green at rgreen@tusculum.edu or 423-636-7300, ext. 8326.