Youth Theatre Festival encourages creativity

Friday, the community’s youth showed why art remains worthy of celebration at the 29th Annual Youth Theatre Festival. The festival revolved around the theme “I can do that,” a reoccurring notion in the festival’s history. Seeing others their age sing, dance or play the guitar encourages children to believe in themselves and think “I can do that, too.”

The first half of the festival featured performances by the young artists. The Kuumba Watoto and Knoxville Children’s Theatre (KCT) gave special performances. KCT demonstrated three types of dance performances: ballet, “Reflection of God” and jazz.

“We make sure to focus on youth performers and young people performing for young people because it makes a difference,” Jonathan Clark, executive support manager of The Carpetbag Theatre, said.

In 1989, the founders of Carpetbag, a local ensemble company devoted to original works, partnered with the Kuumba Festival to create the Youth Theatre Festival. The festival helped the community’s youth gain accessibility to the arts without worry about the cost.

The festival offered workshops for children from age 5 to 18. Some of the workshops included a hip hop dance class, painting and hip hop writing.

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The festival shows children that different opportunities exist in the world beyond  traditional occupations like medicine or law. Carpetbag wants them to understand their artistry and to sustain a viable and professional career within the theatre.

Kisha Rockette, the event coordinator of the Youth Theatre Festival, said, “We have to let our youth understand that they can survive with being an artist. It is important to tap into the youth so that they don’t feel as if there is no hope or that their dreams are lost.”

Both Clark and Rockette believe that arts programs have improved through the years, but Clark has not seen many art activities inside schools.

“The upcoming STEM academy is cool, but the arts get left out a lot, and that is usually the first place to get funding cut or redistributed,” Clark said.

Children can, however, find arts education through Carpetbag initiatives. Carpetbag received a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund fall and spring break youth camps. Children in the camp will receive a stipend for joining and participating. Participants will also have a chance to help with the production of Carpetbag’s upcoming play, “Ce Nitram Sacul,” in September.


Images by Sage Davis

Edited by Lexie Little




Music, dance celebrate African American culture

African culture filled Historic Market Square for the 29th annual Kuumba Festival on Friday, June 22. The public celebrated the free festival with entertainment on the stage from noon to 10 p.m.

African American Appalachian Arts brought the festival to fruition. The nonprofit grassroots organization helps plan this annual festival and concentrates on bringing positive social, economic and community development through cultural arts programming.

This year’s theme, “Kuumba Forever,” honored the legacy of former Executive Director Nkechi Ajanaku who died last summer.

“I think people need to see this and experience new things,” Chelsey Goons, a UT student, said. “It really shows how much there is out there in the world to see and encourages young people to embrace their true culture.”

The “Love is the Answer” Youth Art Showcase encouraged child development through the arts.

Felecia Outsey, the creator of “Love is the Answer,” said, “[The showcase] started with me wanting to be able to have something in place for kids who could not afford to go to take dance lessons, and I was once one of those kids.”

“The initiative is an open-mic performance community showcase that is hosted every month, but what we do is use that time to teach love to children and people in our community.”

MC Zakiyyah “Sista Zock Solid” Modeste and DJ K Swift hosted the event through both sunny weather and a deluge. The Kuumba Watoto Children’s Dance and Drum Extravaganza proved a popular feature as performers livened up the scene despite the rain.

The festival ended with a live concert from local singer and poet Daje Morris and the Ogya World Music Band.


Images of the Kuumba Watoto Children’s Dance and Drum group by Sage Davis

Edited by Lexie Little


Indie artists perform at Smart & Becker

Two Nashville-native artists, Augustus Carroll and Austin Feinstein, performed with local artist Daje Morris in an intimate concert at the Smart & Becker Wednesday night.

As Carroll and Feinstein planned to perform in Knoxville, Morris reached out to the touring duo and helped to book their appearance.

Feinstein opened the show with his first song, “Side by Side.”

“It is sort of my anthem to dealing with the darkness that is in my life,” he said of his first song. “Saying that no matter who comes to me with any problems or whatever darkness that is in my life, it is not going to hold me down.”

The southern-folk artist explained that he did not become passionate about performing and writing music until last year. His inspiration for writing seriously resulted from a break-up last year. Feinstein first learned to play guitar at age 11, but he now focuses more on his music and writing.

“I’m still learning the ropes,” Feinstein said.

After Feinstein finished his set with “Oh Heaven,” Morris performed songs and poems. She began with “Come,” a song infused with both singing and spoken-word poetry. Morris finds inspiration through her memories and other poems.

Daje Morris performs original music and poetry at the Smart & Becker. June 13, 2018. Sage Davis/TNJN

“Poetry and music is a way for me to process noise and that how I can stay grounded,” Morris explained. She said memories sometimes infiltrate her thoughts and distract her from living. “Music and poetry is a way for me to clear that.”

While Morris receives her inspiration through tragic memories and other poets, Carroll gains his inspiration through everyday occurrences.

“It could be just a thought I have throughout the day or just one occurring thing,” he said.

Carroll began his set with “Ghost” along with a cover of Leon Bridge’s song, “River” to which the crowd sang along.

Augustus Carroll performs solo during his tour with Austin Feinstein in Knoxville, June 13, 2018. Sage Davis/TNJN

Feinstein and Carroll continue their tour in three more cities. They will perform next in Asheville, North Carolina. Morris will perform at the Kuumba Festival next Friday, June 22.


Images by Sage Davis

Edited by Lexie Little

VOLT bids farewell to seniors, spring semester

On the final Monday evening before exams, a cappella group VOLT hosted its spring concert in Alumni Memorial Building.

The co-ed a cappella group debuted in 2015. Though relatively new to UT, the group does not shy away from any challenge, performing a wide variety of songs. “Mi Gente” originally performed by J Balvin and Willy William became an early crowd favorite.

Spencer Morrell, a current VOLT member, weighed in on his favorite piece from the evening.

“I’d have to say my favorite song that we performed at this concert was ‘Moonlight’ by Ariana Grande which we mashed up with ‘Moonlight Sonata’ by Ludwig van Beethoven,” Morrell said. “The song has beautiful jazz beats and the sonata meshes incredibly well with the pop song. It’s fun to perform and our soloist, Allison, does an incredible job.”

Morell sings bass in the group. However, joining VOLT never occurred to him until a previous member on Pedestrian Walkway asked him about his singing background. “The rest is history” he said.

Morrell, a history major, represents the diverse backgrounds of VOLT. The group, coming from various academic departments, looks to be active across campus. Recently, the Imagine campaign for SGA invited them to perform in Presidential Court.

Like the singers’ backgrounds, their sound encompasses a mix of sounds and genres. While the concert proved lively, bittersweet feelings permeated the end as the members bid farewell to graduating seniors. In the final song, VOLT alumni joined members on stage to perform their swan song, “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay.”

VOLT plans to keep growing and will return in the fall.

Written by Lauren Claxton

Featured Image courtesy of VOLT on Facebook

Design by Sarah Smith



Honors students safari through Zoo Knoxville

The Honors and Scholars Program took a walk on the wild side to earn honors seminar credit. The program ventured on a night safari at Zoo Knoxville on April 26 to learn about the animals and observe their behaviors at dusk.

Students entered the zoo as a private group for up-close encounters with the wildlife.

“Being able to be in the zoo without anyone else and getting a tour is absolutely amazing,” Emily Joyner, a 1794 scholar, said. “Even if it did not count as a seminar, I think a lot of people would still be here because it is such a cool experience.”

Nocturnal animal studies accompanied inspection of bio-artifacts. Students examined an owl skull, snake skin, bird feathers, a skunk pellet, a black bear pellet, a giraffe jaw, a mountain lion skull and a lion paw.

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The night jolted back to life when students interacted with live animals. Attendees petted an African Pygmy hedgehog named Owen Quilson, a snake named Jake and two Madagascar hissing cockroaches. This hands-on experience gave students a behind-the-scenes look at the care and maintenance of zoo animals.


Students later made a night trek through the zoo, listening to other animals, including the tigers, rustling about. Following the guided tour, students asked questions to gain information, including how to own a hedgehog in Knoxville.

Zoo Knoxville offers many educational and group opportunities. Night safaris typically last between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. and require advance registration. Bedtime with the Beasts allows guests to “meet an animal ambassador and have a light snack before curling up for the night” at the Zoo.

Student talent, art reveals passions

UPerk, the coffee shop located at the UKirk House, showcased a wide range of student artwork April 24. As students toured the full room, UT student Alayna Cameron took the stage with a ukulele in hand.

Cameron’s setlist included a personal touch. She played songs of Tennessee natives as attendees toured the gallery.


Students Caleb Pittenger, Caroline Rowcliffe, Maggie Stroud and Emma Vieser presented some of their favorite pieces as Cameron played. Their artwork represented different mediums – from wood to photography.

At the end of the evening, some of the artists walked away with fewer pieces than they brought, selling several pieces of art. Maggie Stroud, one of the contributing artists, elaborated on one of her favorite works.

“This was just a simple line drawing I did, but it’s very much based on my hometown of San Antonio, Texas and the aesthetic that is so unique to Tejano culture,” Stroud said. “In the springtime, we celebrate Fiesta, and everywhere you look there are dancers with ‘halo’ flower crowns and traditional Mexican dresses. It’s so gorgeous and it reminds me of home.”

Stroud is not new to the art scene. Although she majors in English Literature, art has always had a place in her heart. Her upbringing keeps her interested in creating.

“I’ve always been drawing obsessively. My family is very creative, and my mom is an artist herself, so I grew up watching her,” she said. “But, I think more than anything, it was my love of stories. Illustration is just visual storytelling, and even before I could read, that was something I understood.”

Caleb Pittenger told his stories through spoken word. He recited poetry recently featured in UT’s Phoenix magazine.


Through different creative mediums, students displayed their passions and character.


Written by Lauren Claxton

Photos by Lauren Claxton