• 72°

ALL ABOUT NALL: Troy celebrates Nall Day

Nall Hollis might be Marshall County’s most famous person but, in Troy, Alabama, Nall is king.

The Troy native and nationally and internationally acclaimed artist was honored by Troy University and the City of Troy with Nall Day Tuesday.

The festivities began with a luncheon in his honor at the Johnson Center for the Arts and concluded with a reception at Troy University’s International Art Center in the late afternoon.

Between times, Nall conducted a workshop at Troy University for several art classes.

Nall greeted friends who packed the Johnson Center for the luncheon catered by the Charles Henderson High School Culinary Arts Class. He spoke proudly of being born at Edge Hospital some 71 years ago, of having grown up romping in Murphree Park and, not so proudly, of hiding behind a tree and then darting out in front of an on-coming car, causing the driver to slam on brakes and sailor’s words to fly.

Nall obviously enjoy reminiscing with friends who had come to celebrate his day with him.

Troy Council Member Stephanie Baker opened the formal portion of the luncheon and presented Nall with the Key to the City of Troy. He accepted the key, with gratitude and appreciation for the city he calls home.

Al Head, another famous son of Troy and retired executive director of the Alabama State Council on the Arts, referred to Nall as a “Renaissance man.”

“Nall deserves thanks for all he has done during his career in art,” Head said. “We both had careers in the arts but Nall was the artist. Mrs. Alice Thornton told me if I were planning to be an artist, I would starve. So, I majored in art history and took a different route in the arts.”

But Head said Nall had talent and he used it to his benefit and to the benefit of others.

Nall went to Paris to study art. He was mentored by Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dali. He went to Beirut, Lebanon and North Africa and later settled in Vence, France.

Nall had achieved international fame, Head said but he also came home to Troy and to the Alabama that he loved.

“Nall was a rock star over there,” Head said. “But he came back to Alabama and used the fame he had achieved and the acclaim to help Alabama artists and to promote Alabama art. Nall shined the spotlight on other artists.”

Head said Nall invited 12 Alabama artists to Vence, France and showcased their work and exposed them to the international art world.

“That experience was significant in validating the careers of those Alabama artists,” Head said. “It also opened the doors of international exchange to Alabama artists.”

Later, Alabama Art was showcased in New York City and showed the nation an example of the art done in Alabama.

“Nall’s impact on Alabama art will be felt for years,” Head said.

Alyson Jackson, formerly of Troy and a relative and friend of Nall, now makes her home in Fairhope.

“Nall lives life passionately and is an inspiration, not only to artists, but to all who know him,” Jackson said. “Nall never forgets where he came from.

“And because he doesn’t forget, he has positively impacted the lives of Alabama artists and has moved Alabama art to the forefront.”

Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr, Chancellor of Troy University, said life is all about relationships, about how we feel about each other.

“My favorite four-letter word is Troy,” Hawkins said. “My next favorite four-letter word is Nall.”

Hawkins said, on the surface, Nall can be flamboyant but there is an added dimension to him. He is introspective; he is kind; he is generous. He has a legacy at Troy University. What he has done for the arts at Troy University can’t be measured.”

Hawkins quoted poet Robert Browning.

“Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be.”

And Nall’s generosity and artistic support and influence have paved a way for even greater things ahead for the arts at Troy University.

The luncheon ended with a toast to Nall and a few closing words from him.

He thanked Troy University and the City of Troy for the honor of Nall Day and all of those who came to share it with him. Then, in his fashion, Nall closed with, “I love Alabama and I’m back home!

Nall later summed up what Nall Day meant to him.

“It bonded me closer to Troy,” he said. “Much closer.”