Amythyst Kiah

Amythyst Kiah drew inspiration from firsthand accounts of devastation and rebirth following the 2016 Chimney Tops 2 wildfires.
Amythyst Kiah playing guitar
Partnering with Big Ears Festival

In 2024, UT Libraries partnered with Big Ears, Knoxville’s eclectic and world-renowned music festival, to host the year’s Boundless artist, singer-songwriter Amythyst Kiah. Kiah, who was in town to perform at Big Ears, gave a free performance at the Knoxville Museum of Art on the eve of the music festival.

The Boundless program invites musicians and other artists to visit the UT Libraries’ archives and create original works inspired by the unique primary sources preserved there. For the March 20 occasion, Kiah composed a song inspired by firsthand accounts of the deadly wildfires that swept through Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains in 2016.

Kiah is no stranger to personal loss and using her songwriting to triumph over tragedy. So, she is the right artist to voice the grief and resilience of those who lived through the devastating and deadly wildfires.

When towering giants become funeral pyres
And havens become cinder and smoke
Sorrow echoes in the wilderness and wind,
But sun will shine once again

from “From the Charred Remains” by Amythyst Kiah

The firsthand accounts that inspired Kiah’s song — part of an oral history project conducted in the wake of the Chimney Tops 2 wildfires and preserved by UT’s Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives — are viewable at Rising from the Ashes: The Chimney Tops 2 Wildfires Oral History Project.