Shawn Poytner for The New York Times. Making art in the form of posters at Yee-Haw Industries.
KNOXVILLE is often called “the couch” by the people who live there. It’s a place too unassuming to shout about but too comfortable to leave. The city, the third largest in Tennessee behind Nashville and Memphis, is also referred to as Knoxpatch, Knoxvegas and for those prone to irony and finger pistols, K-town, baby. The truth is, Knoxville, cheerfully ensconced in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains and banked against the Tennessee River, has an intrinsically lazy, soulful feel. The geography is soft, green and rolling. The climate is gentle, breezy and bright. Locals tend to be not just friendly — a given in most Southern towns — but chilled out, too. This is not the Old South of magnolias and seersucker so much as a modern Appalachia of roots music, locavore food, folk art and hillbilly pride. Or, as yet another city moniker aptly states, “Austin without the hype.”