Elephant Revival returns to Erwin

Erwin’s colorful elephant statues are back on the streets downtown, larger than ever and up for sale in a silent auction for charitable causes.

Stars of the fourth annual edition of the Erwin Elephant Revival went on display along Main Avenue on June 11 and will remain out through early October.

The revival was founded in 2016 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the hanging of Mary the circus elephant in the Erwin railyard. The revival was created in an attempt to bring some good out of the tragic spectacle staged by Mary’s owner following her killing of an abusive handler in nearby Kingsport.

Always popular with downtown strollers and often spotted in photos posted on social media, the stars of this year’s benefit public art installation are up for sale by silent auction with bids starting at $1,500. Proceeds will benefit nonprofit organizations chosen by the statues’ sponsors and The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald.

This year’s herd includes eight fiberglass pachyderms measuring 60 inches from trunk to tail, each inspiringly painted by regional artists. They include:

Doll E

Stationed in front The Plant Palace at Main Avenue and Tucker Street is Doll E, sponsored by Unicoi County Chapter of the Imagination Library and inspired by East Tennessee’s own country music superstar, businesswoman, philanthropist and Imagination Library founder, Dolly Parton. A blonde and bejeweled bombshell with long, curled lashes, bright red lipstick, glossy toe nails, a coat of many colors and her namesake’s signature butterfly perched on the curl of her trunk, she is hard to miss. Doll E was designed and painted by Gail Oliver, reigning champion of the National Gingerbread House competition held each holiday season at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. Her proceeds will go to the local Imagination Library chapter to promote childhood literacy through the free distribution of books to Unicoi County children from birth to age 5.


Sponsored by McDonald’s of Erwin with proceeds going to the Southern Appalachian Ronald McDonald House Charities in Johnson City, Horton Celebrates Dr. Seuss was painted by artist Joel Hammitt.

Sweet Pea

Standing across the street from Erwin’s Town Hall is Sweet Pea, with a paint scheme featuring the lush flora and fauna of the local mountains. Designed and painted by Erwin native Erwin Miller, Sweet Pea is sponsored by Dr. Gordon Moughon with proceeds going to the Jerusalem Center for Bible Translators.

Coat of Many Colors

At the south end of Main Avenue is Coat of Many Colors, painted by the students and staff at the Brother’s Keeper continuing education and enrichment program for young adults with developmental disabilities. Sponsored by Green and Callie Faircloth, proceeds from her sale will go to Brother’s Keeper.


A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away came Galaxy. Positioned front and center on the Courthouse Plaza, Galaxy was painted by Erwin artist Valerie Bradley, a featured artist in The Erwin Elephant Revival for four years running who found her inspiration this year in the Star Wars universe.

Poppy Lichtenstein

Designed by Toby and Annette Tipton and painted by Unicoi County High School art students, Poppy Lichtenstein is inspired by the famous pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. Her bright colors and bold interjections make her a standout among her fellow elephants on the Courthouse Plaza.


Stationed in front of Erwin ‘sTown Hall building is Iris, a luscious blue green beauty painted in honor of Tennessee’s state flower by artist John Stewart.


Located in front of the former Capitol Cinema theater is Vollie, an eye catcher for every Tennessee football fan who walks the streets of Erwin. Painted in tribute to the University of Tennessee and the city of Knoxville, Vollie was created by Erwin resident Myhria Woodby.

The town invites visitors to Erwin to share their photos with the elephants by using the hashtag #showyourtrunk. Bids may be placed through 4 p.m on Dec. 1 by contacting Erwin Communications Specialist Jamie Rice at 423-220-7624.

With only four of the eight elephants sponsored, the opportunity remains for others to lend their support to the public art benefit and the charity of their choice. Rice encourages those who wish to join in to contact her or to visit erwintn.org for more information.