sketch of Laurel Theater

Home of Jubilee Community Arts

Directions to the Laurel Theater


Fort Sanders is the heart of old time residential Knoxville, evocatively described in Knoxvillian James Agee's "A Death in the Family." And the Laurel Theater is for many local music lovers the heart of Fort Sanders.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the building stood for many years as the Fort Sanders Presbyterian Church, constructed in 1898.

Today the Laurel Theater is a performance center and home of Jubilee Community Arts, an organization dedicated to the preservation and advancement of traditional music and art forms of the Southern Appalachians.

While many buildings in Ft. Sanders and in Knoxville have crumbled under the wrecking ball or yielded their integrity to piecemeal renovation, the Laurel Theater has stayed alive as an ongoing and growing institution. When the original Presbyterian congregation became inactive, an ecumenical urban ministry was founded to serve the community. The Epworth Ecumenical congregation held services in the building for many years.

The Birth of Jubilee Community Arts

The Epworth group transformed the Knoxville cultural scene by creating Jubilee Community Arts. With a focus on traditional arts, Jubilee provided a way for people to celebrate the shared heritage of the Fort Sanders community, Tennessee, and the Appalachians. The marriage of this historic building and grassroots arts organization has given dancers, musicians, storytellers and actors a haven to gather and perform.

From the Ashes the Spirit Emerges

Although the Laurel Theater's spirit of community has always existed, the physical structure has changed. The building was nearly destroyed by fire in 1982. But the drive and determination that had created Jubilee inspired both old members and new friends to restore the building to nearly its original look.

Now the Laurel Theater incorporates both the gracious peacefulness of the old church and the spacious feel of the art center. During the concert season the walls resound with a wide variety of traditional and acoustic music. Many performers praise the intimate atmosphere and fine acoustics of the building.

Share the Spirit

With a capacity of 220, the theater is also used by and local civic and private organizations for their activities. A volunteer Board of Directors and an Executive Director oversee the building's use.

The Laurel Theater is open to visitors by appointment and is available for private receptions, seminars and meetings. Call Jubilee Community Arts for more information.

1538 Laurel Ave.
Knoxville, TN 37916-2016

(865) 522-5851