Courtney Vastine on SAFTA First Fridays

The first Friday of each month in market square, Gay Street, and Old City, employ a lovely leisurely stroll, especially when the weather is cooperative, inside different shops that house works of paint, ceramics, jewelry, and chalk. As members of SAFTA (Sundress Academy of the Arts) we’ve all walked up and down the streets enjoying the exhibition by talented artists, but as fellow creatives, we all couldn’t help wondering how we could get involved and showcase SAFTA.


So with scrambling, planning and fire fighting on the frosty First Friday in January our little event happened. Thanks to the owners of The Pilot Light in Old City we were able to feature poetry, Lit on Lit (poetry set to live dreamscape type music) film, food and artwork.

I emceed the event and was so pleased to find that each time I looked up from my script more people had ventured in from the cold. We ran out of chairs and people still seemed content to stand and watch our little stage. Even after I encouraged free movement throughout the room, people remained riveted and respectfully quiet to our artists. By the end of the evening we had a packed house. and knew we had stumbled on to something good. Time to plan for February.


We decided to be the anti-Valentine’s brigade for our February theme and were welcomed into the brand-spanking-new Scruffy City venue next to Preservation Pub in Market Square. Despite still being a little wet behind the ears, we managed to bring in over 180 happy viewers and beverage drinkers to hear our poetry series, view another filmmaker’s best shorts, and added a musician from Nashville, beautiful jewelry, and photography to our collective exhibits.


This Friday we embark on our third First Friday where we’re ready to celebrate lovely lady entrepreneurial artists and explore a new venue at the Sky Box: Sports Bar and Grill on Gay Street. We feel so encouraged as Knoxville restauranteurs open their doors to our event and the artist-lovers of Knoxville make our venue part of their First Friday experience. We’re finding exciting artistry in Knoxville and so happy to be able to present it to a community ready to grow culturally.

If you’re interested in being one of SAFTA’s next performing or visual artists, contact us at

The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is a artists’ colony located at Firefly Farms, a 29- acre farm in Knoxville, TN.

The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is an artists’ colony in Eastern Tennessee that hosts workshops and retreats centered on creative writing, theater, film-making, visual art, and more. All workshops are led by experienced and professional instructors of various creative genres and often include an element of incorporated learning.

Courtney Vastine first became involved with SAFTA as a writer with the group’s 2013 Seven Day Shoot Out team for the Knoxville Film Festival. Vastine has degrees in both English with Creative Writing emphasis and Dance from Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. She’s been working as a choreographer and dance teacher for over a decade and recently began acting and has appeared in several television shows, independent films and community theatre. Before dancing full time, Vastine gained skills in marketing and creative services at a successful firm in Cincinnati, Ohio. She’s looking forward to putting together all her talents and skills as an intern for SAFTA’s film department.

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