With growing frequency, we are asked what sparked the founding of the DAC Foundation. The answer is a rather lengthy story with numerous twists and turns that we will share in a series of blog posts. Through these posts—we will also share information about individuals and experiences that were key factors along the way.
John Kelly Fitzpatrick, Portrait of Florence Golson Bateman, oil on canvas, Collection of the Alabama Department of Archives & History | Photograph by Barry Chrietzberg
The Power of Art in Our Educational System
—by Mark Andrew Harris, Founder & Director
Thinking back, my first exposure to Wetumpka artist Kelly Fitzpatrick dates back to a fourth-grade Alabama History field trip to the Alabama State Capitol and the Alabama Department of Archives & History in nearby Montgomery. Like it was yesterday, I remember the large full-length portrait hanging in the ADAH Music Room of Wetumpka's prominent classical pianist and accomplished composer, Florence Golson Bateman. A couple of reasons I was particularly taken with this portrait painted by Fitzpatrick was its size and the fact it was the first time I had ever seen a painting of someone that I knew personally. Although Mrs. Bateman was very petite and blind, she had a very strong presence about her. As a child, I visited her in her home with an extraordinary lady named Frances (Frank) Sanford Golson, who was like a surrogate grandmother that always encouraged my interest in art and history. (Frank, as I called her, also shared a few stories with me about Fitzpatrick.) From that same field trip, I also have vivid memories of seeing some of Fitzpatrick's mural-sized paintings for the first time. I can remember thinking how amazing it would be to have the ability to create such a thing.
Wetumpka High School art instructor Bobby Carr
Research indicates that what people call the "awkward stage" typically occurs around the ages of 11-14, making middle and junior high school a tough time for many children. That was certainly the case for me personally. I transitioned from enjoying school to absolutely hating school. What makes my story somewhat unusual is what quickly led me out of this "awkward stage." Fortunately, my parents were quick to respond. Understanding my feelings and love of art, they contacted the school administration to investigate the possibility of my taking high school art classes while I was still in junior high school.
At the time, WJHS was located within walking distance of WHS. Due to the thoughtfulness of school administrators Sheldon Darnell, Fordyce Tatum, and WHS art teacher Bobby Carr, I was allowed to begin high school art classes at the age of 13. Although I felt a bit out of place among the older students at first, that quickly changed. Almost overnight, I began to wake each day with newfound enthusiasm, and my grades in other subjects excelled accordingly. It soon became apparent that art would always be a significant part of my life.
My point is, we should NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF ART and the POWER THAT A FEW THOUGHTFUL INDIVIDUALS CAN HAVE OVER THE TRAJECTORY OF SOMEONE'S LIFE.
The Story Behind the Founding of the DAC Foundation: PART ONE | Dixie Art Colony Foundation, Wetumpka, Alabama