Ninety years ago, the state of Alabama became the painters' center of the United States. From 1933 to 1948, artists and art students from around the nation met, trained and lived at "Dixie Art Colony" outside of Wetumpka.

Now, art appreciators are holding a free history program about John Kelly Fitzpatrick, one of the founders of Dixie Art Colony. The lunch and learn program is on Thursday at 11 a.m. at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Wetumpka. No ticket or reservation is needed.

The program is titled "All About John Kelly Fitzpatrick Lunch & Learn."

Slides and original works of art by Fitzpatrick from the Dixie Art Colony Foundation Collection will be presented. It will also include restored vintage photographs from the collection's archives and rare personal items Fitzpatrick once owned. Lunch will begin at 11 a.m. The presentation will start at 11:45.

Reservations are requested but not required. There is no charge for the program or the optional lunch. Call (334) 328-0730 to make a reservation.

The Dixie Art Colony was established in 1933 by Fitzpatrick (1888-1953), Sallie B. Carmichael and her daughter, Warree Carmichael LeBron. The idea was to establish an artists' colony to paint and train new artists in the South of the United States.

From 1937, the colonists met at "Poka Hutchi" ("gathering of picture writers" in Creek Indian parlance), a small cabin on Lake Jordan near Wetumpka. Over the years, noted artists joined the colony, including Frank Applebee, a painter and the chair of the School of Art and Architecture at Auburn University. Other colonists of note included Genevieve Southerland, Anne Goldthwaite and Lamar Dodd.

The colony last met in 1948.

"Dixie Art Colony Foundation" was established in Wetumpka in 2015 to reintroduce the art world and the public to Kelly Fitzpatrick, Poka Hutchi and the colony. Fitzpatrick's grandfather, Benjamin Fitzpatrick, had been governor of Alabama 1841-45. 

Kelly Fitzpatrick studied journalism at the University of Alabama and painting at the Art Institute of Chicago. He left for what was then called "the Great War," which we now call World War I. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in France. At the close of the war, he studied painting at Academie Julian in France.

His colorful artwork highlighted paintings of rural Alabama, mostly lakes and creeks in rural Elmore County, his home. He mainly worked outdoors.

Kelly Fitzpatrick Alabama News
Kelly Fitzpatrick. Credit: Dixie Art Colony Foundation

In Montgomery in the 1920s, Fitzpatrick helped organize Morningview Painters, the Alabama Art League, and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.

In 1938 and 1939, Fitzpatrick won commissions from the federal government to paint murals inside the new post offices in Ozark and Phenix City.

There are remembrances of Fitzpatrick in Wetumpka: The Dixie Art Colony Foundation, "The Kelly" Gallery, and a roadside park dedicated to Fitzpatrick on U.S. 231.

A symphony of color: The world of Kelly Fitzpatrick.

Jim Zeigler is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at [email protected].

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