The Fayette Art Museum and Civic Center is a local community event center located in Fayette, Fayette County. It houses a large collection of art created by Alabama-born artists and also hosts the Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame.
Fayette Art Museum The Fayette City Council and Fayette newspaperman Jack Black founded the museum in 1969, and Black would serve as museum director for 35 years. The foundation of the art collection was donated by artist Lois Wilson, who spent her childhood in Fayette County and amassed more than 2,600 pieces of her own artwork as well as that of other artists. Wilson was born into poverty in the early 1900s and remained impoverished throughout her life, a condition that would influence her art. She earned a scholarship to study architecture at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (present-day Auburn University) but left after one year to study art in Boston, Massachusetts, and later in Europe before settling in New York City; she focused on watercolor painting and ink drawing. After serving in World War II, Wilson returned to New York City, where she again studied art and collected a wide variety of discarded items, including from nearby demolished buildings, that she refashioned into works of art. Feeling claustrophobic because of the growing size of the collection and facing a landlord who feared it was a fire hazard, Wilson collaborated with Black to have it shipped to and preserved in Fayette in the late 1960s. She died in relative obscurity in New York in 1980, considered somewhat of an eccentric by her neighbors.
Jimmy Lee Sudduth Currently the museum has more than 4,000 pieces in its permanent collection, with 500 feet of display space and six galleries. In addition to Wilson, other Alabama artists represented include Fayette natives Jimmy Lee Sudduth and Sybil Gibson, Jessi LaVon, Doug Odom, Rev. Benjamin F. Perkins, Margarette Scruggs, Wanda Teel, Mose Tolliver, and Fred Webster. In 1999, National Geographic highlighted the museum as a regional tourist attraction, and the museum garnered more attention and visitors.
The Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame is located on the lower floor of the building and honors exceptional Fayette County baseball, basketball, football, softball, and track athletes. The gallery also highlights volunteers and coaches who have made significant contributions to athletic programs in the county. More than 100 individuals have been inducted since 2003.
Old Fayette Depot The building in which the civic center is located was built in 1930 as the Fayette Grammar School. The building was abandoned in 1973 and fell into a state of deterioration. During the 1980s, Fayette mayor Guthrie Smith rescued the building in order to create a civic center in Fayette. The Fayette County of Board of Education deeded the building to the city and Fayette received a low-interest loan from the Farmers’ Home Administration. The city hired an architect in 1980, and the building was fully renovated by 1982. In 1988, Smith and citizens of Fayette established an endowment fund for the civic center; the main supporters have been the J. Graham Brown Foundation, Earl MacDonald, and the city of Fayette.
The museum and civic center hold events, shows, and receptions for artists and there is space available to rent for weddings, reunions, and other functions. Former classrooms are used as meeting rooms. The museum is located at 530 North Temple Ave. It is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., though group tours and appointments for other times should call or email ahead. Admission is free. Nearby is the Fayette County Depot Museum.
Thomson, Laquita. “Lois Wilson: An Outsider Before Her Time.” Alabama Heritage 120 (Spring 2016): 22-31.