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Alabama art – the ‘trail’ less taken

Features Editor

The Alabama Art movement is picking up steam and some impressive names have recently come on board.

RSA chief, Dr. David Bronner, attorney Morris Dees and author Fannie Flagg are new members of the N.A.L.L. Art Association and are throwing their influence behind a movement that can do for art, in Alabama, what the Robert Trent Jones Trail has done for golf.

Internationally acclaimed artist and Troy native, Nall Hollis, is the founder of the movement which gained recognition internationally when the Alabama Art exhibition opened in Vence, France during the summer of 2000.

Eva Green, curator for Alabama Art, said the original idea for an Alabama Art museum has been expanded to include several sites in the state rather than one.

"The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail has brought Alabama to the forefront in golf circles and, the N.A.L.L. Art Association believes Alabama Art can do the same in the world of art," she said.

The concept is to have Alabama Art museums located throughout the state. Selection committees at each museum will choose pieces from works submitted by artists to be shown in their museum. The museums will participate in an exchange program that will allow the artists’ works to be exhibited in different locations.

"Bringing in different artists’ work during the year will be a plus for each museum and for the artists because of the exposure they will get," Green said.

However, the real plus of having an Alabama Art trail will be the attraction to tourists.

"Tourists will be able to visit museums in a specific area or they may choose to visit several or all of the museums as they tour the state,"  Green said. "The museums will attract tourists who may not have thought about Alabama as a destination. The museums will open Alabama up to a different breed of tourists and cause people to look at us in a different way."

The Alabama Art museums will be headquartered in Fairhope where the city council has recently agreed to renovate the old city jail for use as an Alabama Art museum, Green said.

Nall had difficulty in hiding his enthusiasm for the Fairhope project.

"What I envision, there, is each artist having his or her own ‘cell,’" he said. "Those who visit the museum will walk down this long, narrow passage between the cells and get a feeling of how we, in Alabama, have been imprisoned by our own prejudices. It will be a unique gallery experience."

Proposed sites for the Alabama Art Trail, to date, include Troy, Talladega, Monroeville, Huntsville and Tuscumbia.

"We are excited about the plans for the Troy – Pike Cultural Arts Center in the old post office in downtown Troy," Green said. "Because Troy is Nall’s hometown, he has pledged a work of art from each of the 13 artists featured in the original Alabama Art exhibition plus the recent addition to the show, Betty Sue Mathews, a local outsider artist."

Green said the works Nall has offered to the Troy – Pike Cultural Arts Center will carry a value of more than $100,000.

"Nall wants to do this because Troy is his home," she said. "These works of art will be the seed for the Alabama Art museum here. This is something he wants to see happen here."

With the support the Alabama Art movement is receiving statewide, Green is optimistic that the Alabama Art Trail will be a reality.

"It could change the way people look at Alabama," she said. "And, it could change the way we look at ourselves and those among us who produce art – Alabama art."