Cocoa and Canvas offers students opportunity to get creative, show Vol pride

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The popular organization Wine & Canvas hosted Cocoa & Canvas in Fred Brown Hall on Friday afternoon. Students gathered to enjoy an afternoon of painting and hot cocoa.

“Our Wine & Canvas events are a great way for people to relax and have a fun night socializing with friends,” said Tracey Crocker, the art instructor of the evening and owner of Wine & Canvas.

With blank canvases, a set of clean brushes and a palette of bright paints before them, 50 students sat down with a cup of hot cocoa and set to work to paint a classic Tennessee symbol: Smokey.

“Many schools across the country are having a hard time keeping art classes in the annual budget, but we know how important creativity is for a growing mind,” Crocker said.

With just a few simple instructions, the students began painting. Though hesitant at first, the canvases around the room were gradually filled with color as the instructor demonstrated step-by-step how to outline and color Smokey.

No matter the experience level, each student was able to participate and create a work of art.

“I wanted to go because I thought it would be a fun way to spend my Friday afternoon and a great way to take a break from homework and school,” said freshman Jasmine Blue. “I really enjoyed Cocoa and Canvas. I’m not much of an artist, however they made it super easy to follow along and make a Vol spirited masterpiece.”

As each painting began to take shape, the students gained confidence with every brush stroke. By the end of the two-hour session, everyone around the room was smiling as they held their Smokey canvas. Every student got to keep their canvas, as well as the memory of a fun night of painting and hot cocoa.

Featured image by Steven Depolo via his Flickr account, obtained using

Edited by Taylor Owens

Vol Fighters host fitness challenge in celebration of Veteran’s Day

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In celebration of Veteran’s Day, UT’s Vol Fighters hosted a Combat Fitness Challenge event to show participants what its like to take a walk in their shoes, or rather a run in their boots. The challenge presented was essentially the same test a Marine would do on a regular basis as part of their training.

UT student and veteran Gregg Crawford thinks it’s good for veterans at the university to see that the student body supports them.

“We want students and faculty to have a bit more appreciation for the military,” Crawford said. “Maybe by experiencing what it is like will help them understand how we train on a daily basis.”

The participants were separated into groups of two according to their height and weight to make the challenge easier. Each group began by running two laps around the TRECS field. They then lifted a 30 pound ammo box as many times as possible in the allotted time, with 91 being a perfect score for their age group.

DSCN1007In the final portion of the test, each participant would maneuver through a course where running and lifting was heavily emphasized. The participants would sprint for 20 yards, crawl on their stomach for ten yards, crawl on their hands and knees for ten yards, maneuver through cones to drag and then carry their partner back to the starting line. They would then carry two 30 pound ammo boxes for 50 yards before finishing the course by throwing a fake grenade and carrying the ammo boxes back to the starting line.

UT sophomore Quentin Hatton admitted that he thought the challenge was going to be a lot easier and that it takes a lot of both physical and mental muscle to complete.

“It was tough and exhausting,” Hatton explained. “Lifting the ammo box was nothing compared to carrying my partner around.”

UT freshman Whitney Gulledge agreed that the challenge was very difficult.

“I don’t think I’ll be joining the Marines anytime soon,” Gulledge said. 

While the Volfighters had a good turnout, they hope that this experience shows participants what their training is like and gives them a greater appreciation for the military.

Photos by Kaitlin Flippo

Edited by Taylor Owens

Opinion: Stevie Wonder concert brings surprises, appreciation

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Stevie Wonder is a very accomplished rhythm and blues (R&B) and soul artist. He was signed to Motown’s Tamla label at age 11, and with hit singles including “Isn’t She Lovely” and “Superstition,” Wonder has been warming listeners’ hearts with his creative and innovative music ever since.

From winning 25 Grammy awards to being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the 65-year-old singer, songwriter and instrumentalist has left a legacy on the music industry.

Wonder performed at Thompson-Boling Arena on Nov. 10 as part of his tour “Songs in the Key of Life.” What I came looking for from the concert and what I took from it ended up being two completely different things.

Wonder’s performance began with a warm welcome and a short speech centered on the love Americans should have for one another and the coming together of all differences. He also expressed his love for the night he was about to share with the audience, a love that manifested all throughout his performances.

It was immediately recognized that he was one of the sweetest, most humble people, and was sincere in making the crowd feel even more excited to be sharing space with such a legend.

Wonder performed songs off one of his most critically acclaimed albums, “Songs in the Key of Life.” Every song was perfect. His backup singers were just as amazing and talented. He also had an amazing band behind him and a group of violinists that played such an authentic sound.

The UT choir performed a selection with Wonder, which was clearly the experience of a lifetime. He even brought out his four youngest children and sang “Happy Birthday” to his girlfriend, Tomeeka Robyn Bracy.

The audience became pumped and excited throughout the night every time Wonder would perform another beloved song. Wonder performed in a way no other artist could and the crowd was consistently pleased.

It was easy to tell that Wonder is a kind-hearted person from what he said on stage, but he was also surprisingly funny. Not just because he’s famous, but because he was down to earth. His music performances made you want to cry, shout and dance all in one night. This was a special gift he gave to us audiences members.

This show was definitely an experience to be remembered and easily one of the best live performances anyone could ever hope for. Standing ovation for the legendary Stevie Wonder!

Featured image from Wikimedia Commons, retrieved through

Edited by Hannah Hunnicutt 

Opinion: Old City Java is an artistic hideaway

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Knoxville’s Old City: where the city’s young and hip residents unite. There is a certain vibe to this place that almost anyone can enjoy. High-end restaurants, bars and clubs and most importantly, the beloved coffee shop Old City Java. This favorite spot is always busy with coffee-loving visitors and is ready to warm you up as the holiday season approaches.

When I say that atmosphere is almost as important as the coffee that is served, I absolutely mean it. I also immediately think of “Java” (as us natives refer to it) when I want to be inspired by the old and eclectic look.

The “Starry Night” ceiling is one of Old City Java’s most distinctive features. //Photo by Katy Hill

This tiny shop is defined by its exposed brick walls, worn hard wood floors and the iconic “Starry Night” ceiling. Indeed, it was the painted ceiling in the second room that truly made me fall in love with this spot. Just look up and you will see all the artistic inspiration you need for the day!

Take a look around at any spot in the shop and you will see intriguing local art and photography. I sometimes find it hard to focus on my homework because I am simply taken away by the talent that is displayed throughout.

This artistic talent directly translates into the coffee and pastries that are made daily and only adds to the overall experience. Expertly steamed milk makes these espresso drinks truly standout amongst others. My usual drink at Java is a cappuccino, no sugar no flavors. When milk is steamed correctly, the foam should be slightly sweet and very frothy, leaving a wonderful mouthfeel to enhance the espresso.

This is exactly why I order my cappuccino every time.

You can also never go wrong with a black coffee here. They will serve two different roasts and will explain in detail the flavor notes and the region in which it was grown and roasted.

I mentioned pastries earlier, and I honestly believe I could write a whole post talking about these things. I am not usually one to eat a pastry with my coffee or espresso because I believe my indulgence should be in the handcrafted drink that was made specifically for me.

However, Old City Java has proven to be my exception.

As soon as you walk in, you immediately see the whole set up of every delicious baked treat you could want alongside your favorite coffee. My first experience with this little piece of heaven was the blueberry muffin. Juicy whole blueberries filled this little confection and burst in my mouth with each bite. I am currently enjoying a pumpkin muffin (‘tis the season) and it has proved to be just as delicious with its powerful cinnamon and pumpkin spice flavor.

Old City Java also creates homemade pie, scones, cookies, croissants, and other wholesome treats that are just as delicious as those muffins.

If you wish to experience a classic Knoxville hub, a trip to Old City Java is a must. Just don’t be surprised if you get swept away by the artistic overload!

You can find Old City Java at 109 S Central Street.

Join me next week for my final and absolute favorite coffee spot in Knoxville!

Photos by Katy Hill

Edited by Taylor Owens

Opinion: Child actors bring Edgar Allan Poe to life in ‘Quoth the Raven’

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The Knoxville Children’s Theatre performed “Quoth The Raven: Tales of Edgar Allan Poe,” a play acted performed by children ranging from ages 10 to 14. The play ran from Oct. 23 to Nov. 8.

Many families and friends attended the production to watch their children perform on stage. However, there were many other spectators as well who were eager to watch the performance.

The play was inspired by the many works written by Edgar Allan Poe, who is known for his numerous spooky, sad tales that center around the loss of love and unfortunate events. The production focuses on Poe as he battles with his inner demons and tries to maintain his sanity while he copes with the surrounding death of the loved ones in his life.

At first, I was skeptical of the capability of young children being able to successfully act out a play based on the complicated mind of one of the most famous poets in history.

However, all of the actors in the production remained serious and dedicated in acting out the story to the best of their abilities. Each one stayed in character and provided interesting depictions of the characters, especially the young actor, Keegan Stump.

Stump played Poe and managed to create a believable depiction of a depressed man who slowly loses his mind. His facial expressions and body language on the stage were always in character.

The music, costumes and scenery onstage correlated with the story well and provided a more believable plot that captured the attention of the audience. This was most notably in the scene that refers to Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” when Poe proceeded to bury Fortunato behind a brick wall. The environment of a dark dungeon and ominous music on stage provided an accurate depiction of Poe’s short story.

Dennis E. Perkins, the plays writer and director, did a remarkable job of putting together such a complex story through the talented, young actors and detailed stage setting. He was able to successfully tie together many of Poe’s stories such as “The Raven,” “Annabelle Lee” and several more.

I would definitely come back to see another one of the theatre’s plays. I was inspired, impressed and intrigued all in one sitting.

There will be many other plays put on by the Knoxville Children’s Theatre in the coming year such as “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

To learn more about the Knoxville Children’s Theatre, visit their website.

Featured image by INeverCry on Wikimedia Commons, obtained using

Edited by Taylor Owens