The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA), a 501(c)(3) non-profit, was founded in February 2013 by Erin Elizabeth Smith and Joe Minarick at Firefly Farms, in Knoxville, Tennessee. Nestled in an Appalachian “holler” just twenty minutes from downtown, this picturesque 45-acre farm is home to a small herd of sheep and a flock of backyard chickens & ducks. Firefly Farms is the perfect artists’ getaway, where visitors can hone their creative crafts as they escape the routine of modern life. Whether you’re hiking, camping, or foraging, you can connect with nature and be inspired by a part of the Appalachian landscape that is often forgotten. SAFTA residents and workshop attendees can also expect to learn new skills from the staff in order to enrich their creative work. You can read testimonials from our former residents here.

SAFTA is currently accepting applications for short-term residencies at our farmhouse and Writers Coop for writers in all genres to work on/complete long-term projects, receive feedback from our professional staff, and be inspired by the natural beauty of East Tennessee. These residencies are designed to give writers time and space to complete their creative projects in a quiet and productive environment.


SAFTA runs a series of weekend workshops centered on creative writing in all genres. We encourage writers of all skill levels and experience to work with peers and professionals. Previous workshops have included “Writing the Chapbook,” “Cracking the Ice: A Yoga and Writing Workshop,” “Writing Nature,” “Advanced Editing Techniques,” and “The Stage and Page.” All of our instructional staff are trained professionals, and a number of them hold advanced degrees in their chosen disciplines. We also bring in a number of visiting and guest writers, who have included Chen Chen, Ruth Awad, Karen Craigo, Beth Couture, Krista Cox, and more.


Writers are forever advised to write what they know; if this is true, then we believe we should all know more. This is the core tenet of SAFTA’s Literary Arts Division, which oversees the award-winning SAFTA Reading Series, assists in the selection of potential residents at Firefly Farms, and oversees the coordination our writing-based Sundress Workshop Series. Whether broadening our skills and vocabulary with hands-on training in non-literary disciplines, or engaging with visiting writers from around the country, we strive to engage writers in all genres and of all skill levels with the wider world and expand their notion of literary community. Still, we do not forget our home and actively work to promote and showcase the work being done—sometimes quite literally!—in our own backyard.


The SAFTA Films division aims to support local filmmakers and screenwriters by providing resources and opportunities including workshops, screenings, and micro-festivals. At Sundress, we seek to protect and amplify the voices of marginalized creators as the world of film becomes more diverse and accessible than ever. With several projects in the works, we hope to encourage our community to participate in the art of filmmaking, whether that means submitting a script to a contest or attending a screening at Firefly Farms.


SAFTA’s Community Outreach division seeks to support and encourage creative activities in Knoxville and the East TN region. Working with artists from all genres and other creative organizations and nonprofits, especially those from underserved community, we seek to enhance and expand both the interactions between and awareness of the immense creativity found in our community and region. We also seek to highlight the creative accomplishments of SAFTA and the Knoxville community on both a regional and national level.

Member of the Knoxville Arts and Culture Alliance