Changes are coming to the Kelly Fitzpatrick Memorial Gallery on several fronts.

First, the organization’s long-time curator Hope Brannon and three long-time volunteers are stepping down from their duties.

According to 2018-19 president Carol Hickman, all members of the organization are unpaid volunteers.

“(Brannon) has been the force behind The Kelly from its inception in 2011 and her retirement will leave a gaping hole that will be hard to fill,” Hickman said. 

“She’s worked at museums, taught art and put art exhibits together virtually her entire life.

“We’ve put on 67 exhibits in eight years, which is phenomenal. Nobody does that. We’ve also represented 819 artists, which is phenomenal. Nobody does that.”

Hickman said under Brannon’s direction, the gallery has collected 153 works of art.

“I just think she has done a really great job — at no salary,” Hickman said. Other projects Brannon developed for The Kelly include securing two Alabama State Council on the Arts grants; a museum in a suitcase which school teachers could use in their classrooms to teach students about art; and showcasing the art collections of 56 Alabama-based collectors.

“She is retiring because her family needs her help in Tuscaloosa,” Hickman said.

Board members Cookie Knott, Phyllis Kennedy and Judy Ruffer are also retiring from serving the organization.

“Every year, three board members rotate off the board,” incoming president Belyn Richardson said. “These particular members are just great. They are above volunteers; they are just very outstanding people.”

She said Knott’s talents shined best in the world of art education.

“I’ve learned this over the years, this (art organization) is more about the artist than anything else,” Richardson said. “Right up under that is education. (Knott) developed an outstanding educational program.”

According to Richardson, Knott secured a grant that covered transportation costs of the 1,200 fourth-graders in the county to see the “Making Alabama” display that was set up at the Elmore County Museum earlier this year.

“What impressed me with (Knott), she carries out her ideas, implements the ideas and works really hard,” Hickman said. “She came up with the idea of Tuesdays with Kelly. It’s a monthly lunch and learn program that’s run for about six years.”

According to Hickman, Kennedy was asked to join the board because of her ideas.

“What makes (Kennedy) unique to me is her ideas,” Hickman said. “They are marvelous ideas. They are off-the-wall, really cool ideas. She just won’t give up.”

Kennedy was the organization’s first leader of the Exhibition Committee. She had the idea for an exhibit titled “Abandoned Rural America” in 2016. 

She also was in charge of receptions from 2012 to 2017.

According to Hickman, Ruffer was the lead person who developed the organization’s operational documentation.

“As exhibition chair, she helped develop the job descriptions for the acquisitions and exhibitions committee,” Hickman said. “She was also the driving force in developing our core documents.”

As a new group of leaders take the reins of the organization, Richardson said they have a clear plan for 2020.

“Vision 2020 is our motto going into the new year,” Richardson said. “We are looking forward to hopefully partner with Jasmine Hill (Gardens) on an art exhibit, the Wetumpka (Area) Chamber of Commerce on a white table cloth dinner over the crater, we are looking at creating synergy between all of us.”

Richardson said fundraising will be key. The organization is holding an online art auction intended to raise funds to acquire a new home that will serve the needs of its museum and community.

The Kelly Fitzpatrick Memorial Gallery was established with the mission to engage, inspire and educate artists and the public by promoting local and regional arts, according to Hickman.

For more information about The Kelly, its exhibits and the online art auction, visit thekelly.org.