Dedication ceremonies at TROY’s Montgomery Campus pay tribute to two Alabama artists

Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., Al Head, Todd Strange and Mrs. Janice Hawkins unveil the marker dedicated to the Peace Dove statue by the artist Nall.

Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., Al Head, Todd Strange and Mrs. Janice Hawkins unveil the marker dedicated to the Peace Dove statue by the artist Nall.

Troy University officials officially dedicated the Violata Pax (Wounded Peace) Dove statue by renowned artist and Troy, Ala. native Fred “Nall” Hollis during a ceremony on the University’s Montgomery Campus on Monday.

The work, which sits adjacent to the Davis Theatre for the Performing Arts and overlooks the Rosa Parks Museum across the street, was originally commissioned by Pope Benedict XVI as the centerpiece to the exhibit, “The Sins of Humanity.” It is one of two such statues given to the University by Nall with the other overlooking the Janice Hawkins Cultural Arts Park on the Troy Campus.

At Nall’s request, the statue was placed in a location overlooking the Rosa Parks Museum to serve as a reminder of her act of courage aboard a Montgomery city bus in 1955.

Created in 2006, the statue was sculpted in white bronze and came to life in a foundry in Pietrasanta. Mrs. Janice Hawkins, First Lady of Troy University, said it was Nall’s request that the statue be placed near the Rosa Parks Museum to serve as a reminder of the Civil Rights icon’s courageous act of refusing to surrender her seat to a white male passenger aboard a Montgomery city bus on Dec. 1, 1955. Her actions and subsequent arrest led to the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott that eventually would bring about the desegregation of city buses.

“It is here on this campus in Montgomery because Nall wanted it to be here, facing the Rosa Parks Museum, to have some meaning here,” Mrs. Hawkins said. “He loves Troy University and he has given us so much. We are so indebted to him because of all of those gifts. I hope all will think of him when they see the Violata Pax.”

Mrs. Janice Hawkins, First Lady of Troy University, addresses those in attendance for the dedication ceremony on the University’s Montgomery Campus on Monday.

Former Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange, who held office when the sister-city partnership between Montgomery and Pietransanta, Italy was formed. He said the location of the Peace Dove was appropriate because it is found along the city’s City Rights trail.

“The location of the Peace Dove is on a trail as you walk between the Rosa Parks Museum and the Memorial for Peace and Justice,” Strange said. “It is a tribute to peace and a testament to overcoming the tragedies of war and the hardships we face. I had a preacher admit to me once that it was better to see a sermon than hear one. That is what art is because when you view art, you see the message. It might communicate different messages for different people, but it is a message that resonates with those who view it.” 

Al Head, a Troy University alumnus and former Executive Director of the Alabama State Council on the Arts, said to have one of the three existing Peace Dove statues in Montgomery is something of which the city and its residents can be proud.

“We are certainly glad to have one of the three Peace Doves that exist here in Montgomery,” Head said. It will be a piece of public art that we should be proud to have here in Montgomery and I believe it will speak to people in so many different ways. I am proud to be a part of the Troy family as an alumnus, and professionally, I am so proud of what Troy University has done in support of the arts and artists in Alabama.”

Nall, who now operates a studio in Fairhope, previously served as Artist-in-Residence at TROY and was awarded an honorary doctorate. He has donated much of his collection to Troy University, which is displayed in the Fred “Nall” Hollis Gallery and Museum in the International Arts Center on the Troy Campus. He has exhibited his art extensively in Monaco, Lebanon, North Africa, France, Italy, India, Mexico, the Middle East and the United States.

Also on Monday, the University paid tribute to another Alabama-born artist and a longtime University professor when the Janet Nolan work “New York City + Montgomery in a Fountain,” which now sits in the lobby of Whitley Hall, was dedicated in honor of Professor Emeritus Dr. Jim Vickrey.

The exhibit features repurposed plastic bottles filled with water from famous, historic New York City fountains. Nolan, who served as a visiting artist at TROY in 2003 and passed away in 2019, was a Montgomery native and was familiar with the city’s historic Court Square fountain and enlisted Dr. Vickrey’s help with collecting some water from the fountain to include in the exhibit.

The work by the late artist Janet Nolan, a Montgomery native, features repurposed plastic bottles filled with water from historic New York City fountains, in addition to water collected from Montgomery’s Court Square fountain.

Vickrey successfully collected a sample of the water from the Montgomery fountain, but unbeknownst to him at the time, he had collected the water during Breast Cancer Awareness month. Since the city had dyed the water pink in observance of the month, the Court Square water appears pink in the exhibit.

Vickrey, who was instrumental in getting Nolan to donate many pieces of her art to Troy University some of which adorns the Trojan Fitness Center and the IDEA Bank in Troy, said he was truly humbled to have the exhibit dedicated in his honor.

“World Series hero and popular philosopher Yogi Bera once said, ‘You can see a lot just by looking’. More than any artist I’ve ever known, Janet Nolan didn’t just look at the world around her, she saw it,” Dr. Vickrey said. “She looked at things, as we all do from time to time, and saw the opportunity that existed in the trash of our throw-away culture. Anyone who has seen her work knows that she saw a lot by looking closely and eagerly at the junk around us. Janet taught me that nothing is useless and creative imagination when applied can turn nothing into something. The ordinary, even ordinary trash, can be transformed into the extraordinary.”

Sue Thompson, Nolan’s sister, said she was grateful to both Troy University and Dr. Vickrey for their efforts to ensure that the artwork would continue to be appreciated by those who viewed it.

“It seemed like if there was adversity, the result with Janet was some kind of creativity,” she said. “I am so grateful to Troy for finding venues to show her work so people can see it and appreciate it. And, I’m so grateful to Jim Vickrey for making it happen. That was such a friendship they had.”