Urbhana is one of those hidden treasures deep within the city that not many local urbanites know of, but those who have discovered the venue have found a place of self-empowerment and peace. Urbhana opened in the midst of heavy construction on S. Gay St., a large urban obstacle that the venue is steadily overcoming. Urbhana helps people realize the potential of their bodies through somatic movement therapy. Frequenters of Urbhana participate in a variety of artistic performances. Aerial dance, DansKinetics, and burlesque dance are only a few of the available performing arts available. Urbhana is a place for urbanites to find tranquility and empowerment without ever leaving the city.



Grace from Confidence

The performances that take place in Urbhana all fallunder the umbrella of life coaching. Somatic movement therapy, the connection between mind, emotion, and body, is the main objective of Urbhana. At Urbhana, you can be the performer, rather than sit and watch others perform. You can learn to be graceful and confident through creative movement, in DansKinetics, Burlesque dancing, and aerial dancing.

Ability from Empowerment

If you’re more comfortable watching from the audience, you can attend Urbhana’s First Friday events on the first Friday of every month. Events range from aerial dance demonstrations to live music and the work of a visual artist is always featured. The performances at Urbhana are awe-inspiring and simply stunning. Urbhana offeres the possibility of doing or being something that otherwise seemed impossible and  presents the human body in one of the most beautiful and graceful ways possible.

Captivating Discoveries


Hopeful Futures

Urbhana is located at 115 S. Gay Street. Gay Street is the major cultural center of Knoxville, containing several performing arts theatres, art galleries, and a movie theatre, so it is only natural for a cultural center that embraces the performing arts to reside on Gay Street.

Urbhana’s specific location is very unique in that the street has two levels. Prior to 1919, the currently underground level was the street level. Now, most people use the space under the street for storage space if they haven’t walled out the old store fronts. Currently the street is under construction with plans to restore the underground section of S. Gay Street. Once the construction is completed, the street will become a much more like Arcades, a beautiful pedestrian boulevard where people will live, shop, and enjoy the sights, and hopefully there will also be two street levels from which to enjoy Knoxville’s hidden treasures.

Beauty from Faith

City Interaction

At the cultural center of Knoxville, Urbhana is in a perfect position to weave itself into the fabric of major cultural functions. Firstly, Urbhana participates in the Knoxville First Friday cultural events.

According to Angela Howard, the owner of Urbhana, these events give Knoxville a “cool-factor.” On the first Friday of every month, you can visit Urbhana to get a taste of Knoxville culture. Angela participates in First Friday because she believes these events provide critical exposure for upcoming new visual and performing artists in addition to curb appeal for people to want to visit or move to Knoxville.

Also, Urbhana provides a training place for performers in many other venues in Knoxville. Aerial dance has steadily risen in popularity for many different types of shows from concerts to plays. The addition of aerial dance to a performance adds the spectacle of dramatic effect to awe the audience.

For instance, there have been several aerial dancers trained at Urbhana that have performed at the Bijou. Urbhana is also actively involved in creating a Knoxville city circus by training trapeze, silks, and Spanish Web performers.

Trust in Yourself

Interesting sight for any flaneur...

Urbhana’s Exterior

To the average flaneur, Urbhana seems to blend into its urban exterior with its modest street appearance. As a section of the 100 block of S. Gay Street, most of the businesses are indistinguishable from each other from a distance.

Part of the magic of frequenting Urbhana is the feeling that you’ve found something hidden and special. The actual structure of Urbhana’s building is a red brick façade with two bay windows on the street level and a large tri-paned window on the upper level of the façade.

At the rear exterior of Urbhana is a lovely courtyard with a small balcony, decorated stylishly with adorable Victorian table and chairs.

In the context of the block, Urbhana seems very small, but it is so teeming with life, that once introduced you never again think about its size.

Urbhana’s Interior

Walking into the interior of Urbhana provides an immediate feeling of relaxation with warm, rich colors, richly stained floors, and simple, yet beautiful decorations.

Where could it lead you?

A beautiful modern straight staircase leads to the lower floor of Urbhana, the floor that prior to 1919 would have been street level. The simple, but beautiful decorations allow room for movement and performance while still giving the interior a well-planned feel.


The building in which Urbhana resides is believed to be built in 1890. It has been used to perform many functions from dining counter to shoemaker to locksmith shop. Public records for the building began in 1901, when it was A.L. King Restaurant. In 1902, it became Clark H.W. Hat Company, whose advertisement in the city directory stated, “Do not throw away your old hats. We rebuild them to the latest styles at reasonable charges.” In 1905, the building housed Arnold Hat Co. with manager Seth Arnold. In 1906, Arnold Hat Co. shared the building with Salluzo Frank, a shoe maker. In 1910, the shoe maker was replaced by John W. Nipper, a jeweler.  In 1912, John W. Nipper took over the hatting business, as well as continuing his jewelry business, creating Nipper Hat Co. & Jeweler. From 1914 to 1917, the building was occupied by a Thomas Scott, jeweler. After this period, the building was vacant until 1922. This could be due to a large amount of construction on the 100 block of S. Gay St. in 1919. At this time, the city of Knoxville decided to cover the “dip” in Gay St., creating the Gay St. Viaduct. This covering totally covered the first floor of the buildings on this block. After the construction, in 1922, the Peoples Photo Studio occupied the building until 1925. In 1926 Marshall Lee Shoes and Clothing occupied the building until 1928. It remained vacant until 1931, when it became occupied by a Frank M. George, lock and gunsmith. F.M. George Lock and Gunsmith occupied the building until 1960, almost 30 years before moving to a location on Magnolia Ave. In 1963, the building again became occupied, this time by Bradford Upholstery. Once again the building became vacant in 1964 and remained so until 1971. In 1972, the building took on a much more colorful role as Retarded Sunshine Resale Shop. The next year, for the sake of clarification, the shop was renamed Sunshine Resale Shop for Retarded Children and it remained until 1980. In 1977, the Vol Helpers, Inc. began using the basement of the building as sleeping quarters for the homeless being helped by the mission. In 1981, Vol Helpers, Inc. rented out the rest of the building in order to use it as a clothing store. In 1988, one of the few computer stores in Knoxville opened in the building, Data Equipment Service, Co., and it remained until 1990. In 1991, the building became occupied for a single year by Yardmaker Incorporated before being left vacant until 1994, when it became home to FEVER Med-century Modern Collectibles. This lasted until 1996, when only half of the building was occupied as a residence. In 1997, Planet X-Change Vintage Classic Mod Clothing took up residence in the building for one year, after which it, as well as many other buildings in the block, remained vacant until 2004. At this time the building became occupied by McCarthy & McCarthy Attorneys and became the residence of a Mr. Dennis McCarthy until 2007. Now, the building is happily occupied by Angela Howard and her life-blood, Urbhana.



Urbhana serves urbanites of any age, but most clients are aged 25 to 45. One general characteristic of those that frequent Urbhana is an internal desire for something more to life. Typically, Urbhana serves artistic seekers and adventurers with open minds and open hearts. The First Friday performances help to draw in others that don’t necessarily seek out a place like Urbhana, but they just happen to find it. Urbhana is not religiously prejudiced and incorporates concepts from many world religions. Through these concepts, Urbhana is principled on global, national, regional, local, and personal transformation of thought and energy.

Additional Photos:

Overcoming Obstacles

Inner Strength


The Simple Things


–Lauren Caylor


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