Main fundraiser photo

Support Pilot Light's 24th Birthday Fundraiser

Tax deductible
Pilot Light Turns 24!
We can hardly believe it, but we are one week away from celebrating our 24th birthday, and we need your help to make it to 25!

On May 22nd, 2000 Pilot Light began its existence as “a place for new ideas.” Our mission was to create a space where new music and performance concepts could be presented without compromise or distraction, and without any kind of financial bottom line required to access our stage. So far this endeavor has resulted in over 5000 shows, representing the broadest creative diversity, from local and distant artistic communities that would not otherwise have a public outlet in our city.

How did we get here?
The long-term existence of full-time, small creative venues & art spaces is a rarity. To some of our younger patrons and participants, there has simply never been a time in their lives that the Pilot Light didn’t exist! While we are proud of our 24 year track record, we also realize it can sometimes mask the ever present struggle to keep it alive. The continuation of Pilot Light is not a foregone conclusion. Its persistence is the result of a tireless effort from our volunteers and supporters.

Small venues like Pilot Light are so important to nurturing a city’s creative scene, but unfortunately do not benefit from the economies of scale that keep larger venues afloat. Our daily sources of revenue are only from tickets and the sale of low-cost beverages. In a room as small as ours, it would be impossible to make ends meet without the help of individual donors and fundraiser events.

The landscape of downtown Knoxville has changed quite a bit since our inception, but we still fill a vital role in our increasingly rich creative community. As we press forward in the same way we’ve always done, costs have risen on many fronts and the uncertainty of Old City development adds new challenges each year. For the last two decades, our only standing major fundraiser event has been the fabulous annual Halloween show. We are organizing this mid-year birthday campaign to help us bridge the gap to October.

A valuable resource worthy of support.
In January 2017, Pilot Light reincorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization to better reflect our actual model and mission. Seeking institutional funding has been a slow learning process for us, but is finally beginning to show results. In this crucial moment of growth we still need to reach out to our individual supporters to ensure a sustainable future. Every donation makes a huge impact in our mission, the results of which are very tangible and readily accessible:

  • People use the Pilot Light! We are not just here for special events. We are an engine that infuses the Knoxville creative landscape with an average of 200-230 shows annually, most with 3 to 4 individual acts drawn in equal measure from our local scene and others regional, national, and international.
  • We are an artistic motivator. We maintain a thoughtful and diversely curated program, with a requirement of original works, that often pairs local artists with like-minded (or sometimes purposely genre-divergent) performers from out of town for creative inspiration, exchange, and networking. We provide an accessible, supportive environment where local artists are constantly encouraged to try out new ideas.
  • We are Knoxville’s home for the experimental fringe performer. From day one, the very heart of our existence has been to provide a headquarters for those important forms of expression that will only ever exist for smaller crowds of supporters, often requiring an environment of quiet attention without distraction.
  • We fund artists. Many of the traveling and local artists that call Pilot Light home make their art on a narrow financial margin. While we are indeed humble in stature (and balance sheet), we prioritize paying artists, with over half of our gross revenue being paid out in artist fees each year (2023 was 53.15%)
  • We take chances for art’s sake! We frequently take risks on traveling artists that we hold in high artistic regard. Often these are national or international artists that tour infrequently or sparsely, and would typically have to skip our city in favor of larger markets. These shows are almost always presented at a financial loss, but we view them as a proud and inspiring investment in our local artistic fabric.

Our birthday appeal:
The greatest way you can help the continued existence of Pilot Light is with your participation. After all, that’s why we are here. Come see a band you’ve never heard of. Come support a local friend’s performance. Come play us a song!

We also know, as time goes on, that family, work, and life grow more complex. If you find yourself saying “I really wish I could make it out to more shows like I used to” we would like to make a special appeal to you. If Pilot Light has enriched your life in the past, but your current situation makes it difficult to participate as often, please consider a donation during this birthday fund drive. It is a simple way to make a deeply helpful contribution to our efforts- and to make sure we’re still here when you’re ready to dive back in!

Thank you so much for your continued support

(Photos tiled from a set by photographer Kurt Welch)


  • John Wallis
    • $25 
    • 5 d
  • Leslie Gengozian
    • $50 
    • 14 d
  • Leslie Hatten
    • $50 
    • 16 d
  • Anonymous
    • $25 
    • 19 d
  • George Rutsyamuka
    • $20 
    • 19 d


Jason Boardman
Knoxville, TN
Pilot Light, Inc

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