Dixie Art Colony Foundation in search of a new, bigger home

WETUMPKA – The Dixie Art Colony Foundation is looking for a new home.

Elmore County artists John Kelly Fitzpatrick and Warree Carmichael LeBron founded the art colony in 1933. Four years later, the colony was present on the Deatsville side of Lake Jordan, where the artists stayed for weeks. in cabins and met the property.

The colony has hosted artists such as Doris Alexander Thompson, Carlos Alpha (Shiney) Moon, Authur Walter Stewart and Louise Smith Everton, among others. Artists would deploy to Elmore County and area to capture scenes.

The colony operated this way for over 14 years before funding ran out.

Mark Harris speaking recently at the Sunrise Rotary Club.

“The settlement consisted of a series of cabins and a pavilion which was later converted into a private residence,” the foundation’s website read. “The kitchen was located in the lodge, a two story frame structure perched on a hill overlooking the lake. The kitchen was the only room with running water. The bathrooms were very primitive. An outhouse was located. behind the lodge, and an outside shower was located across the hill from the lodge.

“It provided a very relaxed atmosphere in which artists were encouraged to experiment by exploring their creative side. Although most were ‘Sunday artists’ a few were more serious and later became well-known Southern artists. . “

How the Dixie Art Colony works now

Today, the Colony is a privately funded foundation that operates the Dixie Art Colony Museum and Gallery at 219 Hill St. in downtown Wetumpka (it is open Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to noon), but the space is reduced. The foundation has collected more than 700 coins since its incorporation in 2015, said its director, Mark Harris.

Prior to the pandemic, the foundation organized traveling educational programs across the county as well as brown bag presentations in Wetumpka. Works from the collection have been exhibited in public buildings across the county.

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Harris said plans are to continue educational programs in the future.

Arthur Walter Stewart, Dixie Art Colony Studio at Lake Jordan, circa 1938.

“The Dixie Art Colony is considered one of the oldest artistic colonies in the country,” he said. “We want to preserve the works of artists and celebrate the history of the colony.

“Art has a wonderful way of recording history and how history has impacted us as communities.”

What the new location needs

The future location of the museum can be anywhere in the county, Harris said. The Wetumpka area has the advantage of being centrally located. But the Millbrook area is closer to Interstate 65 and may offer easier access for travelers.

“We will work with whoever wants to help us,” he said.

River area artist Carol Barksdale at Jasmine Hill Gardens and Outdoor Museum on April 8, 2018. Jasmine Hill Gardens is one of the many known outdoor painting sites that the Dixie Art Colonists visited in the 1930s and 1940

The plans for the new building do not call for artists in residence. The space would be used to display the works and keep them. Everything that is paper or paper should be stored in an air-conditioned atmosphere where it is protected from UV rays. This is one of the main reasons for looking for a taller building, so space is available to properly preserve art and other items.

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The foundation also has photos, albums and other historical objects, to accompany the works of art. A new space would also need an auditorium that can seat around 200 people and a smaller meeting room that can seat around 50, so the foundation can accommodate seminars and educational programs, Harris said.

Mildred Nungester Wolfe is pictured sitting on the patio of the Dixie Art Colony.  Nobles Ferry's patio on Lake Jordan was used for relaxing and casual reviews.

The colony’s legacy “is vast and varied,” according to the website.

“Some of the settlers were instrumental in founding some of the best regional art museums in the South, including the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts and the Mississippi Museum of Art, while others left their mark as ‘leading educators at primary and secondary level,’ the site reads. “Colonist Frank Applebee left his most important mark on Auburn. Applebee was responsible for the 1948 acquisition of the main collection of the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art in Auburn, which is now estimated to be in the millions. “

The foundation is looking for donations to finance a new building, or donations of properties if they meet the needs. Donations to the foundation can be made through its website dixieartcolony.org.

Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Marty Roney at [email protected]

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About Margaret L. Portillo

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