Step into the two-story lobby of the new Pellissippi State Community College Blount County Campus facility and one of the first things you will notice is an oversize scenic painting by local artist Ron Williams. Stroll throughout the rest of the building and you’ll see paintings by Sevier County native Robert Tino and Maryville resident Heath Claiborne.
The bridge between the artists and Pellissippi State is Ed Harmon, who has donated 20 paintings and prints in all to the Pellissippi State Foundation on behalf of the community college.
Harmon, a native of Blount County and a retired Sevier County business owner, has been collecting art for decades. The Maryville resident has traveled around the world three times. With each journey, he returns home with more collectibles—a porcelain figurine from Italy, jade elephants from Africa, two lifelike wooden giraffes he had shipped to his house after a trip to Kenya, in East Africa.
But it’s the local art, especially the paintings of the Appalachian region and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, that are closest to Harmon’s heart. He knows Williams, Tino and Claiborne personally and admires their unique interpretations of the landscapes with which he is so familiar: Cades Cove, a Great Smoky Mountain sunset, the Little Pigeon River.
Harmon has one of Robert Tino’s first works, an oil painting of horses. The piece is displayed in the foyer of Harmon’s home.
“I served as the Key Club advisor at Sevier County High School,” said Harmon, “and met Robert Tino when he was an art student just starting out. It was obvious even then that he was extremely talented.”
Harmon recalls his own enjoyment of art in an educational setting, and he wanted to share that enjoyment with the Pellissippi State community.
“My first year out of college,” he said, “I taught in a school that hosted art shows and exhibited donated pieces. There was always art in the hallways. That added so much to the building and to the experience of everyone who attended school there or just visited.
“I wanted those who come to the Pellissippi State Blount County Campus to be able to enjoy that same experience. Blount County is so fortunate to have Pellissippi State.”
And the College, in turn, is fortunate to have supporters like Ed Harmon.
“Part of our mission is to provide opportunities for life, civic and cultural enrichment,” said Peggy Wilson. Wilson is vice president of College Advancement and executive director of the Pellissippi State Foundation. Donations to the college are coordinated by the Foundation.
“Thanks to Ed Harmon, those who spend time at the Blount County Campus now have the opportunity to be enriched by a meaningful art collection. We all appreciate his willingness to share such beautiful art with the entire community, and the Foundation would certainly encourage others to contact us regarding such gifts.”
To discuss the possibility of making a donation, call the Foundation at (865) 694-6528 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.