The Kelly Fitzpatrick Center for the Arts, most often referred to as The Kelly, is a cultural gem in the heart of Wetumpka. With a vision to “engage, inspire, and educate artists and the public at large by promoting local and regional visual arts,” The Kelly intends to stoke the embers of creativity and community within Wetumpka and has done so successfully since 2011.
Named after John Kelly Fitzpatrick, a widely known artist from Elmore County, The Kelly hopes to maintain the standard of creative expression that was set by its namesake. Fitzpatrick was one of the founders of the Dixie Art Colony that gathered every summer at Lake Jordan in the 1930s and 40s. The group brought in instructors and had several weeks of fellowship spent honing their artistic skills and painting the natural beauty of Lake Jordan and Elmore County. In this way, The Kelly, which opened its doors 2011, is a modern extension of the creative energy set in motion decades ago.
While The Kelly is classified as an art gallery and museum, their main mission centers around a handful of key initiatives: making art available to everyone, showcasing the rich artistic heritage of Wetumpka and Elmore County, being an asset for downtown and the City of Wetumpka, being a catalyst for art education and development of the city’s young people, and creating and preserving a legacy of the visual arts in the community.
In 2019, they moved out of their original space after a tornado struck the city’s police station and they gave the building to the displaced officers and staff. They were provided a space by The Wetumpka Area Chamber of Commerce at a reduced rate until the Chamber needed to sell the building. Using the budget they had, The Kelly purchased a small 1400-square-foot building in downtown Wetumpka.
While the space had promise, it required serious renovation to be habitable. Luckily, an Alabama Power Company grant covered the renovation cost, and The Kelly was finally able to have a place to call their own. However, The Kelly has quickly outgrown the space as community interest and tourism have increased significantly in recent years.
We had the opportunity to speak with Tra Cosby, fundraising chair of The Kelly, who was able to give us insight into what the future will look like for this thriving arts center as they look toward their upcoming move to a larger gallery space.
“At 4,800 s.f., the new gallery will be about 3.5 times as large as our current home. In addition, it sits right on the bank of the Coosa River with unmatched views of the river, the Bibb Graves Bridge, and the historic churches beyond. Everything we do, and dream of doing, can be done from 301 Hill St.”
Through a combination of careful fiscal management, members’ financial support, and an accommodating seller, The Kelly made the property purchase debt free. However, this new space requires a full renovation in order to be suited to The Kelly’s needs. $240,000 of the $300,000 in renovation cost has been raised to date, meaning The Kelly is only $60,000 away from making their creative dreams a reality. They hope to realize this dream through the support of their community and those interested in preserving and perpetuating creative expression and connection in this historically artistic community.