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Sleep King - Where the Prices Are a Sweet Dream!

There are a lot of mattress companies in South Carolina that claim to have the perfect mattress for everyone. At Sleep King, we believe that every person is different and has different needs when it comes to their mattress. That's why our mattress store in Knoxville, TN, has a wide variety of beds and brands to choose from. That way, you can find the right mattress for your body and get the very best sleep quality possible.

As a family-owned and operated mattress store with more than 40 years of experience in the sleep industry, we know a thing or two about comfortable mattresses. Knoxville residents choose Sleep King because we provide our customers with a personalized shopping experience. When you walk through our showroom doors, we want you to feel comfortable - both on our mattresses and with our store associates. At Sleep King, you won't ever have to worry about pushy salespeople and limited selection. Instead, you will discover that we encourage you to take your time as you search for your next bed. Sleep is incredibly important, and by proxy, finding the right mattress for your body type is too.

When you visit our showroom in Knoxville, know that we are a full-service store with mattress experts ready to help. From questions about mattresses and their warranties to financing and mattress delivery, there's no question we haven't heard before.

We carry some of the most popular brands in America, and unlike other mattress stores in Knoxville, offer them at the lowest prices around, guaranteed. There's a reason why we were voted your #1 mattress store in the Lowcountry - because we truly care about our customers and their quality of sleep!

Looking for discounts? Need to buy your mattress on a strict budget? We've got you covered at our new mattress clearance center in Knoxville, where we have more than 50 models on display at 50-80% off retail value. Don't forget to ask us about our flexible financing options, where no credit is needed to make a purchase. Paying cash? We'll knock 5% off your bill!

As if that weren't enough reason to visit, remember that we provide free delivery, setup, and removal of your old mattress for FREE when you make a purchase at Sleep king.

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Some services and products are only available for local residents. Please contact SleepKing for details
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Why Choose Our Mattress
Store in Knoxville, TN?

Our business model is simple - give customers quality beds from national brands at amazing prices, coupled with unmatched customer service. We know that your sleep is essential but also understand that normal folks aren't made of money. You need a solution that isn't going to break the bank, which is why we offer up to 75% off our products.

Mattress Store Knoxville, TN

When we say we have a bed for every budget, we're serious.
A few of our mix and match deals include:

Sets Prize
Twin Mattress Sets Beginning at $169.00
Full Mattress Sets Beginning at $199.00
Queen Mattress Sets Beginning at $229.00
King Mattress Sets Beginning at $449.00

Of course, a mattress would be incomplete without a headboard, footboard, and rails. For queen mattresses, those items combined are only $199. At our mattress store, we pledge to beat any competitor's price on similar product specs - guaranteed! Here are just a few of the benefits of shopping at Mattress King

  • *FREE* Bed Frame for Your New Bed*
  • *FREE* Same-Day Local Mattress Delivery to Your Home*
  • *FREE* Set-Up & Removal of Old Mattress from Your Home*
  • *FREE* Mattress Pad Included with New Mattress*
  • Rest Easy with Our 60-Day Comfort Guarantee
  • We Have the Best Selection of Mattresses in Knoxville with Five National Vendors
  • On-Time Delivery
  • Best Warranties in the Industry
  • Sleep King Will Beat Anyone's Advertise Price by $50*(on purchases $299 and above)
  • 0% Financing for 48 Months (APR, With Approved Credit)
  • *See Store for Additional Details
Our Selection of National Mattress Brands

Our Selection of
National Mattress

At Sleep King, we carry the largest selection of high-quality national brand mattresses in Knoxville.

Mattress Store Knoxville, TN
Mattress Store Knoxville, TN

Sleep King MLILY Mattresses

Often considered the best mattress brand in the world, innovation sets MLILY mattresses apart from others. Our customers love MLILY mattresses because they are expertly built through decades of research and rigorous testing. The folks at MLILY are committed to precision, meaning every detail of product detail they push is geared towards the ultimate satisfaction and comfort.

Mattress Store Knoxville, TN

Sleep Restonic Mattresses

Restonic Mattresses: Restonic line of mattresses are multi-layered beds with cooling foam technology that adds resilience, support, and temperature control. The result is a cool, comfy sleep that leaves you refreshed and ready to attack the day.

Mattress Store Knoxville, TN

Sleep King Comfort Sleep Mattresses

Every mattress in the Comfort Sleep lineup has a great combo of support and comfort, making for a restful night's sleep. With heavy-gauge coils and high-performance materials, these mattresses are durable and built to last. Be sure to try one of these mattresses out in our showroom - our customers love the pocketed coils and minimal motion transfer.

Mattress Store Knoxville, TN

Sleep King Golden Mattresses

The Golden brand is lesser known than some, like Tempurpedic. Still, it is a quality product with many foam and non-foam options that we think you'll love. Choose from standard memory foam, hybrid, and innerspring options while visiting our showroom in Knoxville.

Tips on Choosing the Best Bed

There's much more to choosing a good bed than how you think it will look in your bedroom. There's plenty to think about, from innerspring options to memory foam and even hybrid mattresses. At Sleep King, our priority is our customers. We pride ourselves on excellent customer service. We want to do right by you, which why we want to be sure you find the perfect bed when you visit our mattress store in Knoxville, TN. To help you get started, here are a few tips on choosing the best bed for your sleep needs.

Visit a Showroom

Visit a Showroom

This tip might seem like a no-brainer to some, but it's important that you visit a showroom so that you can lay on different beds to get a feel for what you like. At Mattress King, you will have the chance to explore different styles, designs, and shapes, and mattress materials. Finding a bed online at a price you can afford is great, but you should lie on the bed first, not just look at it on a screen.

Mattress Store Knoxville, TN
Determine Budget

Determine Budget

Here's a surprising fact: just because a mattress costs more money, it doesn't mean it's going to be a better bed. Sure, more expensive beds might have newer technologies and materials, but not everyone has the budget to walk into a mattress store in Knoxville and spend $3,000. Figure out what price range you're comfortable paying and look at the best options for your bottom line.

Mattress Store Knoxville, TN
Consider Bedroom Size

Consider Bedroom Size

Before you swing by our showroom and start trying out beds, it might be a good idea to measure the space where your new mattress will go. If your bedroom is on the small side, a king-sized bed might be too big. Similarly, a small bed in a huge room might make for strange aesthetics. Aim for a reasonable amount of room around your bed - enough where you can walk around comfortably. As mentioned above, get specific measurements of the area you plan to use. That way, you have peace of mind knowing your new mattress will fit in your bedroom.

Mattress Store Knoxville, TN
Consider Bedroom Size

Choose a Mattress Material

This tip often comes down to personal preference. It will take a little bit of trial and error to figure out which material works best for your back - innerspring, memory foam, or latex. While your friend's and family's opinions matter, keep in mind that their mattress choice was subjective. What works for them won't necessarily work for you.

Need a quick refresher on different mattress materials? Here's a quick overview
Mattress Store Knoxville, TN


Also called coil mattresses, innerspring beds are probably the most well-known on this short list. Innerspring mattresses are often more affordable than their latex and memory foam counterparts. These beds are ideal for people who want a lot of support and a cooler night's sleep.


This material is known for its great cooling properties and overall comfort. With latex, there are no strange off-gassing odors like you sometimes get with memory foam. Latex mattresses are ideal for people who want a responsive, bouncy feel and may have problems sleeping hot.

Memory Foam

First developed by NASA in the 70s, memory foam is probably the most popular material in the modern mattress market. Memory foam conforms to every inch of your body, giving you maximum comfort and support. Memory foam is also know for its anti-motion properties. Memory foam can be a great choice if you tend to toss and turn at night and sleep with a partner who wakes up when you do. Memory foam mattresses are ideal for people who need pressure relief, good support, and refreshing comfort.

Think About Your Back

Think About Your Back

If you have a bad back, it's crucial that you find a mattress with proper support. Slat and spring beds often offer plenty of support, but latex and memory foam options have come a long way. If you want memory foam or latex but find the support to be subpar, consider an adjustable base instead of a normal platform. That way, you can always sleep in a comfortable position that benefits your back.

Mattress Store Knoxville, TN

Your Premier Furniture Store
Knoxville, TN

You read that right! Sleep King is the first choice for quality beds in Knoxville, but we also have a huge selection of furniture for your home. If you're looking for a one-stop-shop for mattresses and furniture alike, you have come to the right place. If you're shopping for a new mattress at the best price possible, why not throw in a bedroom suite at an amazing price too?

A few common furniture items that our customers love to add
to their mattress purchase include:
Mattress Store Knoxville, TN

Living Room Sets - from traditional-style suites with classic textures to modern sets with attractive upholstery, we will help you find the best living room set for your home.

Bedroom Suites - our bedroom suites range from contemporary to classic and come in a variety of colors and styles to compliment your new mattress purchase.

Daybeds - from English-style daybeds available in espresso and cherry colors to multi-purpose beds with pull-out trundles, our selection of daybeds is unbeatable.

Futons - if you have younger children, they will love our futons. Who are we kidding? Adults do too! Futons are incredibly useful in small spaces and convert into comfy-cozy beds perfect for kids of all ages.

Bunkbeds - bunkbeds are another great option to consider if you have kids. Whether you have a classic-style home or an apartment, we have a style that fits you.

At Sleep King, we are proud to have the lowest prices in the Lowcountry

If you like what you see but don't have time to visit our mattress store in Knoxville, don't worry. Our online store is bursting with new items and deals every day. From mattresses and bedding to furniture sets and special sale items, Mattress King has got it all. With the highest quality mattresses, the best prices in Knoxville, a giant showroom with all the options, and a full team of helpful sales associates, you won't ever need to find another mattress and furniture store again!


Latest News in Knoxville, TN

NCAA Tournament primer: Scouting Tennessee's opening opponent ... and beyond

No Sunday suspense here. The Tennessee Volunteers have now made it to the NCAA Tournament 5 straight times. It is now a given that when March rolls around, the Vols will hear their names called for the field of 68. This year, the Vols received a 4 seed in the East Region and will face 13th-seeded Louisiana in Orlando on Thursday.The problem is that come March, Tennessee struggles to live up to its seeding.In 2018, the Vols were a 3 seed and lost in Round 2. In 2019, they were a 2 seed and lost in the Sweet 16. They were a 5 see...

No Sunday suspense here. The Tennessee Volunteers have now made it to the NCAA Tournament 5 straight times. It is now a given that when March rolls around, the Vols will hear their names called for the field of 68. This year, the Vols received a 4 seed in the East Region and will face 13th-seeded Louisiana in Orlando on Thursday.

The problem is that come March, Tennessee struggles to live up to its seeding.

In 2018, the Vols were a 3 seed and lost in Round 2. In 2019, they were a 2 seed and lost in the Sweet 16. They were a 5 seed in 2021 and got knocked out in the 1st round. Last year, Tennessee was a 2 seed that fell in Round 2.

Rick Barnes is in his 8th season in Knoxville, but the Vols have gotten to the 2nd weekend of the NCAA Tournament only once during his tenure.

Here’s a look at Tennessee’s opening-round opponent and a prediction on how far it will advance in the NCAA Tournament.

How they got here

Tennessee online sports betting officially launched on November 1, 2020, and many of the largest sportsbooks are live and operating in the volunteer state. Tennessee is only one of a handful of SEC football states with legalized sports betting.

The Ragin’ Cajuns enter the NCAA Tournament with a 26-7 record, fresh off a Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship. This is the 7th time that Louisiana has made to the Big Dance, and its 1st appearance since 2014.

Forward Jordan Brown. He averages 19.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Brown is coming off a solid performance in the Sun Belt Tournament, averaging more than 15 points and 11 rebounds in those 3 games. He was named tournament MVP.

Brown is a finalist for the Lou Henson Player of the Year Award, which is given annually to the top player at a mid-major.

Louisiana is ranked in the top 40 nationally in scoring, averaging 78 points per game. Senior guard Greg Williams Jr., a St. John’s transfer, averages 13.1 points per game and leads the team in 3-pointers with 60. Sophomore guard Kentrell Garnett has 56 treys on the year. So this isn’t a “Jordan Brown or bust” squad. It can score.

There’s not a whole lot to go with here. The Cajuns beat Sun Belt regular-season champion Southern Miss 75-61 in Lafayette back on Jan. 5, then lost the rematch in Hattiesburg a month later.

Louisiana played only 1 ranked team this season, falling at then 7th-ranked Texas by 28 on Dec. 21. Tennessee beat Texas 82-71 on Jan. 28.

This is not a great defensive team. The Ragin’ Cajuns are ranked 146th in defensive efficiency by KenPom. They are also 284th in 3-point defensive percentage, so this might be an area the Vols can exploit. Santiago Vescovi and Tyreke Key are probably going to get some open looks from distance.

Louisiana is playing well right now, and Tennessee … isn’t. But the Vols have too much talent on the roster to lose this game. The Vols get to the 2nd round with a 67-58 victory.

The Vols’ bread and butter is defense. They are one of the best teams in the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 58 points a game. Their best bet might be to win a game ugly, much like they did against Arkansas a couple of weeks ago. They were forced to play bully ball that night because point guard Zakai Zeigler tore his ACL. UT misses Zeigler desperately.

If the Vols get to Round 2, they’ll play the winner of 5th-seeded Duke vs. 12th-seeded Oral Roberts. Those teams are coming off tournament titles, with the Blue Devils winning the ACC and the Golden Eagles taking the Summit League crown. Each looks good right now. Both would be seeded lower than the Vols but would present a tough matchup.

Should Tennessee play on Saturday, I don’t see the Vols getting past either the Blue Devils or the Golden Eagles.

Why this Tennessee softball pitching staff could be the key to the Lady Vols' return to greatness

Ashley Rogers only needed one more out.There was a runner on third off a walk and No. 7 Tennessee softball was scoreless in the third inning with Ole Miss on Friday. But...

Ashley Rogers only needed one more out.

There was a runner on third off a walk and No. 7 Tennessee softball was scoreless in the third inning with Ole Miss on Friday. But Rogers wasn't fazed. She struck out the next batter swinging to keep the game scoreless.

In the bottom of that inning, senior Kiki Milloy crushed her 11th home run of the season over the centerfield wall at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium. It was a grand slam for Milloy, and it gave the Lady Vols a 4-0 lead.

Rogers ended the game with her ninth strikeout and notched her second individual no-hitter of her career. With two solo more homers from Milloy and junior Zaida Puni, Tennessee won 6-0 over Ole Miss (13-9, 0-1 SEC) to kick off SEC play.

1,000 WINS FOR WEEKLY:Tennessee softball coach Karen Weekly joins Pat Summitt in 1,000-win club

THE LEGEND RETIRES:Monica Abbott, the greatest pitcher in Tennessee softball history, announces retirement

PITCHING ADDITION:Tennessee softball adds experience with transfer, MAC Pitcher of the Year Payton Gottshall

"I just wanted to go out there and just focus on one pitch at a time, not make the game too big, especially this being the first (SEC) game, it's really easy to get amped up," Rogers said. "I just wanted to go out there and just be myself, do my thing."

A healthy Rogers leads the best pitching staff in the country at Tennessee (18-1, 1-0). After 19 games, the staff of six leads the nation with a .55 ERA – they've only allowed eight extra-base hits this season. The group has totaled 148 strikeouts over 115 innings pitched.

Tennessee returns junior Ryleigh White and sophomore Nicola Simpson, but the newcomers have earned their way into the starting rotation with Rogers. Senior transfer Payton Gottshall and freshman Karlyn Pickens have elevated the staff early in the season.

Tennessee's depth and talent this season may finally be enough to get it over the hump and back to the NCAA super regionals for the first time since 2019 – and beyond.

"It's huge," UT coach Karen Weekly said of the pitching depth. "This game's called fastpitch for a reason. If you've got a lot of pitching, that makes a world of difference."

Adding a veteran in Payton Gottshall

Gottshall came to Tennessee to play with Rogers.

She was one of the best pitchers in the transfer portal this offseason. Gottshall was coming off winning 2022 MAC Pitcher of the Year at Bowling Green, and she was looking for a deeper pitching staff to join.

"Coming from Bowling Green, I didn't really have much help," Gottshall said. "Knowing that I was coming in my fourth year, I wanted to make sure that I had other people with me that I knew could really hold it down. That was a big part of it."

Her and Rogers have similar pitching styles: they both have elite spin and can attack batters to minimize pitch counts.

Weekly said the competition has been great for the pitching staff, but there's no selfishness, either. The depth has also been a relief for Rogers, who has struggled with injuries throughout her Tennessee career.

"A deep pitching staff is allowing us to take innings off (Rogers), which really helps her, and all of them, mentally as much as it does physically," Weekly said. "Just not feeling like the pressure is on you every day. So I think we're seeing that in how she's throwing, and I thought she was really sharp tonight."

The first since Monica Abbott

Pickens is only a freshman, but she's one of few pitchers in the nation who can throw 74 mph, move the ball and change speeds, Weekly said.

Pickens was the No. 5 prospect in the 2022 class, and she's already put her name in the record books. She threw her first career perfect game against Appalachian State on March 5 – she's the first Tennessee freshman to do so since the legendary Monica Abbott.

"It was a cool moment," Pickens said. "To be honest, I try not to look at the big-picture things, I just take one pitch at a time. It was more just about the team getting the win, is what I care about."

The game before that, she pitched a shutout against No. 4 Clemson. Pickens only allowed four hits and struck out eight, and Weekly said it gave her the confidence to pitch against anyone.

"Dominant, just absolutely dominant," Rogers said of Pickens. "We've learned from each other and we push each other to be better, and it's just been so awesome to see all of her hard work pay off, even this early. I know she's got amazing things ahead of her, she hasn't even begun to reach her full potential."

Bracketology Update: Where Tennessee stands on the eve of Selection Sunday

Missouri outscored Tennessee 10-2 over the final two minutes Friday in the SEC Tournament quarterfinal round, bouncing the Vols from Bridgestone Arena and starting the countdown to Selection Sunday.The 79-71 loss to Mizzou was Tennessee seventh loss over its last 12 games, dating back to February 1, but head coach Rick Barnes said after the game that he’s still not worried about his team.The Vols have a chance i...

Missouri outscored Tennessee 10-2 over the final two minutes Friday in the SEC Tournament quarterfinal round, bouncing the Vols from Bridgestone Arena and starting the countdown to Selection Sunday.

The 79-71 loss to Mizzou was Tennessee seventh loss over its last 12 games, dating back to February 1, but head coach Rick Barnes said after the game that he’s still not worried about his team.

The Vols have a chance in the NCAA Tournament and that’s all they can ask for.

“We’re going to be fine,” Barnes said during his postgame press conference in Nashville. “The biggest prize that we want to go after is still out there … if you ask me what I’m thinking of right now, one word it would be this team has been very resilient.

“There’s a lot of teams that would like to be where we are right now. There’s a lot of teams that won’t look forward to a matchup with us. We’re going to learn from this game, as we did the last couple, and we’ll be ready next week.”

Where the Vols (23-10) are right now is stuck in limbo. They’ll likely be either one of the final teams on the No. 3 seed line on Selection Sunday or one of first teams on the No. 4 seed line.

But the opinions are split. Here’s where Tennessee was projected in the most recent bracket updates late Friday night and into Saturday morning:

Updated bracketology 24 hours before the NCAA Tournament field is announced

Tennessee stuck as a No. 3 seed in Joe Lunardi’s ESPN Bracketology update early Saturday morning. Lunardi dropped the Vols to the No. 12 overall seed, the last team on the No. 3 seed line, and moved them from the East Region (New York) to the Midwest Region (Kansas City).

Lunardi had Tennessee matched up against No. 14 Southern Utah in Greensboro, N.C., with the two teams playing opposite of No. 6 San Diego State and a pair of First Four No. 11 seeds in Pittsburgh and Arizona State.

Lunardi’s No. 2 seeds, in order, were UCLA, Texas, Arizona and Baylor. The other threes ahead of Tennessee were Marquette, Gonzaga and UConn. The No. 4 seeds were Xavier, Kansas State, Virginia and Indiana.

Indiana played Penn State in the Big Ten semifinals Saturday afternoon and Xavier faces Marquette for the Big East title and Virginia plays Duke in the ACC championship Saturday night.

The Vols dropped one spot in the NET rankings, from No. 3 to No. 4, after the loss to Missouri. Tennessee is 7-7 in Quad 1 games, 3-3 in Quad 2 and a combined 12-0 in Quad 3 and Quad 4.

Up Next: Selection Sunday, CBS, 6 p.m. ET

Jerry Palm’s updated bracket for CBS Sports has the Vols as a No. 4 seed in the East Region, also starting in Greensboro, and facing No. 13 Yale. Tennessee in Palm’s bracket is opposite of No. 5 Texas A&M and No. 12 Oral Roberts.

USA Today as of Friday also had Tennessee as a No. 4 seed in Greensboro, facing No. 13 VCU and opposite of No. 5 Virginia and No. 12 College of Charleston.

The Washington Post has the Vols as a No. 4 seed in Greensboro, facing Rick Pitino’s Iona in the first round, opposite of No. 5 Iowa State and No. 12 Oral Roberts.

The NCAA Tournament bracket will be revealed beginning at 6 p.m. Eastern Time Sunday on CBS.

“Tennesseeis going to be a No. 3 or a No. 4 seed,” The Post’s Patrick Stevens wrote, “but whatever the committee’s verdict, the Volunteers are 5-7 since the start of February and lost guard Zakai Zeigler to an ACL tear during that stretch. They don’t look like a team that will last long in the NCAA tournament.”

Lady Vols vs St. Louis in NCAA Tournament 2023: Our March Madness prediction is in

The March Madness bracket is in, and Lady Vols basketball is hosting for the third straight year under Kellie Harper.Tennessee (23-11) was rewarded with a No. 4 seed...

The March Madness bracket is in, and Lady Vols basketball is hosting for the third straight year under Kellie Harper.

Tennessee (23-11) was rewarded with a No. 4 seed after playing the No. 1 strength of schedule in the country. The Lady Vols will face No. 13 seed St. Louis (17-17) in the first round Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena.

A win would match the Lady Vols with No. 5 Iowa State (22-9) or No. 12 Toledo (28-4) in the second round on Monday.

Here's what you need to know about Tennessee's NCAA first-round matchup:

A SMALL SCARE:Why Lady Vols Rickea Jackson, Justine Pissott had a scare during Selection Sunday show

KEY COMING BACK:Tamari Key will return for another season with Lady Vols basketball after losing senior season

SEC TOURNAMENT RUN:How Lady Vols' SEC Tournament run left Tennessee even more confident for March Madness

St. Louis shocked Atlantic 10 with tournament title

St. Louis earned an automatic bid with its 91-85 overtime win over UMass – which Tennessee beat in November 74-65.

The Billikens challenged themselves in nonconference play, losing to Missouri State, Baylor and Missouri. They went 10-6 in conference play, finishing tied for third. UMass and Rhode Island – who were regular-season co-champions – were favorites to win the conference and tournament to advance to the NCAA Tournament.

St. Louis comes into the NCAA Tournament with wins over St. Joseph's and Rhode Island en route to its Atlantic 10 Tournament title and avenging regular-season losses.

St. Louis offense favors 3-pointers

The Billikens take 19.3 shots from behind the arc per game.

Leading scorer Kyla McMakin has taken 36.9% of their 3-pointers, going 62-for-242. The senior guard averages 17.4 points on 31.6% shooting from the field. McMakin scored 27 points in the tournament championship.

St. Louis has a strong post presence with 6-foot-5 Brooke Flowers, who adds 12 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Flowers is a force on defense, tallying 128 blocks her senior season and recoding 15 double-doubles. The Billikens have two high-level playmakers on the roster as well. Senior guard Julia Martinez leads the team with 159 assists and Kennedy Calhoun has 133.

Tennessee will look to dominate boards, force turnovers

St. Louis is a good rebounding team, averaging 40.3 this season, but it only outrebounds opponents by 0.9 rebounds.

Tennessee averages 42.7 rebounds, but it outrebounds opponents by an average of 9.8 boards. The Lady Vols have size on their side, and they should dominate the glass in this matchup.

St. Louis is a high-turnover team, averaging 17.3. But it also forces an average of 17.1 and scores an average of 17.4 off them. Tennessee will have to be disciplined in not letting St. Louis stick around because of turnovers and instead use it to its advantage.

Score prediction

Tennessee 82, St. Louis 65: No one except South Carolina and LSU has been able to hold back the Tennessee offense in the last eight games, and don't expect St. Louis to do it. The Lady Vols will start March Madness with a dominant win at home.

Maker City: Jonathan Clark brings the Big Island to Big Ears

For the Knoxville News SentinelJonathan “Courageous” Clark knew he wanted to be a performing artist from the age of 13, when he was selected by The Carpetbag Theatre to become a member of their T.R.Y. Youth Theatre Ensemble.Though he’d won roles in school plays before, the experience with T.R.Y. was a lifechanger. “Seeing people of color in leading roles and doing solos -- seeing kids younger than I was, who looked like me and talked like me, leading the way and owning a stage was a brand ...

For the Knoxville News Sentinel

Jonathan “Courageous” Clark knew he wanted to be a performing artist from the age of 13, when he was selected by The Carpetbag Theatre to become a member of their T.R.Y. Youth Theatre Ensemble.

Though he’d won roles in school plays before, the experience with T.R.Y. was a lifechanger. “Seeing people of color in leading roles and doing solos -- seeing kids younger than I was, who looked like me and talked like me, leading the way and owning a stage was a brand new world for me. I really believed I could do that, too.”

Clark is now the executive/artistic director of the Carpetbag Theatre, a member of the Mayor’s Maker Council, a board member of the Network of Ensemble Theaters, co-chair of the board of directors of Alternate ROOTS, and an inaugural member of the Intercultural Leadership Institute (ILI), for which he was selected in 2017.

It’s through that last organization that he’s had his most recent life-changing experience. Clark has just returned from Honolulu, Hawaii, where he led poetry and performance-related workshops to schoolchildren K-12 in indigenous-based charter schools.

As part of an artist exchange through the Pa’I foundation, which seeks to preserve and perpetuate Native Hawaiian arts and culture, Clark spent ten days teaching and facilitating ways for indigenous Hawaiian youth to enrich their lives and the lives of others through the art of the spoken word.

“I’ve honestly never had so many workshops with so many students so engaged, wanting to write and wanting to perform. It was a true artist exchange.” One of the brightest and most eager students was a special needs child. “He stood up, he read his own original poetry. They have a word, ‘mana,’ that translates to ‘power’ that you speak with. They consider the power resting inside your bones.” Clark was profoundly affected. “I’m giving something to them but they’re giving something to me too.”

He immersed himself in the culture, history and geography of Hawaii through a very special connection, made last December via Zoom while the exchange was first facilitated. “I was being led by a new friend of mine -- Kauwila Mahi. He is indigenous Hawaiian and is now working on his PhD in political science. He’s a self-proclaimed history geek so he and I got along just fine!”

Mahi is also an accomplished hip hop artist -- not only in English, but in his native Hawaiian language. Knoxvillians will be able to hear him when he comes to the Big Ears Festival later this month, fulfilling the second leg of the artist exchange.

“I feel like we’re getting way more than they did!” Clark says with a laugh and his characteristic humility. He plans to return the many favors Mahi extended to him -- taking him around the region, visiting the Highlander Research and Education Center and more. “The biggest thing I want to do is get him with [local music producers] Good Guy Collective. He’s never had real hip hop production. I’m trying to get him with Jarius Bush; he can create a beat pretty quickly.”

Mahi will participate and perform in the Big Ears Festival’s free parade on Saturday, April 1, kicking off from the Old City at 1 p.m. and transitioning into a street party at the Southern Railway Station with a mixture of local and Big Ears musical acts, kids’ activities, food trucks and more. “Just be on the lookout for the stage,” says Clark. He’ll be there too, cheering for his friend.


The Maker City is the greater Knoxville-area community of makers, artists, creatives, and small-scale manufacturers and supporting entities. Led by the Mayor’s Maker Council, we facilitate collaborative partnerships, programming, and opportunities in an effort to create a sustainable creative community. For more info, visit us at


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