Press Releases

Joanna Higgs Ross, A Mini-Retrospective 1956-2015

May 29—July 24, 2015
The Tennessee Arts Commission Gallery will exhibit a mini-retrospective of painter, Joanne Higgs Ross. The show highlights Ross’ journey using artistic expression through diverse themes, mediums and styles. Her prolific portfolio extends nearly 60 years and can be found in art collections throughout Tennessee and Illinois, including: the Tennessee State Museum; Austin Peay State University; East Tennessee State University; Brooks Museum of Art; University of Illinois; University of Tennessee Knoxville; Knoxville Museum of Art; Watkins College of Art, Design, & Film; First American Bank; Third National Bank; Bass, Berry & Sims; and the Brentwood Chamber of Commerce.Ross’ career began in 1957, shortly after graduating as the first female from the University of Tennessee (UT) Knoxville with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, when a few UT art faculty members encouraged Ross to enter paintings into regional juried shows. In 1960, UT art faculty members C. Kermit Ewing, Walter Hollis Stevens and Richard Clark — along with Carl Sublett, a commercial artist who later joined the faculty, and Robert Birdwell, who painted murals for TVA — invited Ross to join them in forming a group called Knoxville Artists. Later, sculptor Phillip Nichols joined the faculty, and the group became The Knoxville Seven. This progressive group (1955—1965) produced some of the first abstract expressionist art in Tennessee during that time.

Ross was employed as staff artist for the Medical Division of the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies in Oak Ridge, Tennessee from 1956-57, and was a designer for The University of Tennessee Graphic Arts Service from 1958-1960. Ross went on to the University of Illinois, Urbana to complete her MFA in 1961. Fresh from college, she began her teaching career as the only art professor at Lambuth College in Jackson, Tennessee, where she taught until 1983. After teaching, she and her husband, Douglas A. Ross, moved to Nashville to care for her elderly parents.

Ross’ work has been selected for juried exhibitions at the Butler Institute of American Art, the Arkansas Art Center, the Hunter Museum of American Art, the High Museum of Art, the Nashville Parthenon, the Brooks Museum of Art and the Evansville Art Gallery. Additionally, her work was featured in solo exhibitions across Tennessee in Nashville, Knoxville, Clarksville, Jackson, Oak Ridge, Memphis and Dyersburg.

The Tennessee Arts Commission Gallery is open Monday-Friday, 8:00 am – 4:00 pm. Admission is free. To schedule a gallery tour, contact Krishna Adams (, 615.532.9798.