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A 2020 miracle

Wetumpka’s Kelly Fitzpatrick Memorial Gallery, often known simply as “the Kelly,” has also felt the combined impact of the 2019 tornado and the subsequent coronavirus. The gallery was on the brink of permanently
shutting its doors when it received a modern-day miracle. Before the tornado, the gallery was housed in the city
of Wetumpka administration building. The Kelly was forced to move to make way for the Wetumpka Police
Department, whose building had been destroyed by the storm. “We had always dreamed of having our own home,”
said Belyn Richardson, president of the Kelly and president of Main Street Wetumpka. “Although initially
stunned when we were asked to move, we quickly realized that this might be the spark we needed.”

For the next year, the gallery artworks went into storage as staff looked at more than 20 buildings in downtown Wetumpka– most of which were unsuitable or too expensive. With hope dwindling, it received a grant from the Alabama Power Foundation in early 2020. “Through a miracle – it’s the only way to describe
it – we found out about a piece of property downtown that an owner had not been interested in selling and
worked out a deal,” Richardson said. “The good news is, because of the grant, we will have a place of our own
that will be suited for a combination gallery/museum, and we will have no debt.”

With the renovation of the building in full swing, Richardson said the gallery will move into its new home
in spring 2021. A panoramic composite of the full mural shows many of the leaders of Wetumpka through the years.

The gallery is named in memory of the late Kelly Fitzpatrick, a Wetumpka artist whose work has gained international acclaim. He also became well-known for mentoring young artists and helped found the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts and the Dixie Art Colony on nearby Lake Jordan. “Without this space, I think we would have been out of business,” Richardson said. “But because of the Alabama Power Foundation, we have the space and we have the opportunity to purchase the things we need for the gallery.”

Alabama Power Southern Division Vice President Leslie Sanders said she is proud of Wetumpka and the
progress it has made in reshaping its community. “Wetumpka’s downtown development efforts have
accelerated in the past couple of years,” Sanders said. “There’s a new energy and enthusiasm in Wetumpka
for bringing people back to the downtown center and giving everyone a sense of place and pride. The Alleyway
project is a great example of government, community and business all coming together to reimagine an alleyway
with a few parking spaces as something more. As a result, there is now a place where people can gather, sit and
enjoy downtown Wetumpka.

“The Kelly Fitzpatrick is another example of a community embracing the arts and showcasing incredible talent from around the local area and beyond,” she continued. “We are proud to support both as they help better the community and create that sense of pride so important to every downtown redevelopment effort.” Richardson added it’s clear
that hard work is paying off for Wetumpka.

“It’s unbelievable what is happening here,” she said. “There are so many good things here – good schools, a low crime rate and good city leadership. People are walking the streets downtown, and you can’t find a parking place.
Business is booming and people want to live here.”
by Carla Davis

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