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(Sue Key Art/Contributed)

When it comes to creating bucolic art scenes of flora, fauna and field sporting traditions, Sue Key enjoys taking time to celebrate: animals, the outdoors, traditions, values and, of course, community. Surrounding herself with a community of people who make or appreciate art means a great deal to the Southern artist. “Those family values are so important, creating memories and bonds and lifestyles that can be shared with friends, draw families together, last for generations, and be passed down to grandchildren,” she explains.

You may say she’s the perfect fit for the inaugural Wetumpka Wildlife Arts Festival. WEWA (a festival acronym which means “water” in Creek) will feature a series of educational classes, art exhibits, vendors and expert demonstrations along the scenic Coosa River in downtown Wetumpka, a town known for its commitment to community, as recently seen on HGTV’s premiere season of “Home Town Takeover.”

In fact, supporting the local arts community through events, galleries, studios and tourism trails is an important part of its downtown experience. “With this being the inaugural wildlife arts festival in Wetumpka, there’s so much excitement and anticipation for what this event can become in the coming years. I love being a part of the grass roots of a small but vibrant arts community,” Key adds.

(Sue Key Art/Contributed)

Primarily self-taught, Sue Key began her journey as a photographer but made a solid transition to the paint brush once an empty nest gave her the extra push. Today, her work can be found in galleries and juried shows, as well as in both private and corporate collections throughout the U.S. Whether it’s discussing a breed of dog, a shared appreciation for still water and reflections, or chatting about incredible hunting grounds visited, Key admits she loves finding connections with people and uses it as motivation for her work. Painting dogs, in particular, “has led to many commissions and several continuing relationships with people through the process of capturing the personality of their dog. Dogs have always been the center of our family. In the studio they often seem to paint themselves, and that means I can just sit back and enjoy watching them come to life on the canvas.”

Festival attendees will be given the opportunity to learn directly from Key during a free painting demonstration she will be conducting October 4-5, an event the artist is looking forward to hosting: “I don’t think about it as teaching actually, it’s more like showing someone how I paint, sharing some of the things that I’ve learned. Inevitably, I learn more from people who come to a workshop than they probably do from me!”

The Kelly Fitzpatrick Memorial Gallery, located in historic Wetumpka, is partnering with the Smoot-Harris Family, also an advocate of the arts with ties to the community. The “Art Gone Wild” exhibition, in which Sue Key will be featured, will be available for viewing throughout the festival series at 124 Company Street. Select pieces and commissions will also be available for interested buyers.

The event will additionally feature other award-winning artisans like Chef Chris Hastings, Dirk Walker, Jim Denney, John David Foote and Wildrose Kennels. WEWA events will take place intermittently from September 30 through November 17, culminating in a signature day-long festival on November 5 from 10 a.m.–4 p.m.

To learn more about Sue Key and her art, visit suekeyart.com. For more information about the Wetumpka Wildlife Arts Festival, including a schedule of events, visit thekelly.org.