Perry Kelly, professor emeritus of art at Western Carolina University, was honored Saturday, Nov. 3, with the first Lifetime Achievement award from the North Carolina Art Education Association – an organization he helped found in the mid-1960s.
A graduate of the University of Florida and Peabody College, Kelly began his teaching career in Florida. He was hired by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction in 1963 and commissioned to visit the state’s schools and assess their art education capabilities and needs. Meeting with art education teachers at two professional education associations’ annual conventions as well as a group of art teachers outside of those associations, he proposed forming the NCAEA by combining the three groups.
“I’m delighted to be receiving the award,” Kelly said at the Oct. 28 opening of the “North Carolina Studio Glass Exhibition 2012” in WCU’s Fine Art Museum. “It’s been a challenge to my memory, since the NCAEA asked me to recall my work in North Carolina, and then another organization in Florida asked me to do the same about my work there.”
After helping establish the NCAEA, Kelly served in numerous leadership positions including president and conference organizer. In addition to these contributions, he also served as an advocate for promoting visual arts education programs for every child in the state.
“Dr. Kelly has been an integral part of the organization of NCAEA,” said Sandra Rodgers Williams, NCAEA president. “He has led the way and opened many doors for art education in North Carolina. Because of his initiative, visual art instruction in the schools of North Carolina is powerful and thriving. I am a 1974 WCU alumna and never dreamed that one day I would be presiding over a conference where I was presenting an award to my college professor and student-teaching supervisor. It has been a long journey for both of us since those college classes.”
Kelly came to Western Carolina University in 1968 to teach art and art education. He served as head of the department of art until 1976, and retired in 1990. He then served briefly as interim director of the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown in 1991 and as a visiting professor at Yunnan University in Kunming, China, in 1992. His travels and exhibitions span 46 countries, a number he hopes to expand – though he enjoys tending his bonsai plant collection at home in Cullowhee. His latest work of art is a mobile in the Jackson County Library.
“I just hope that my journey yet to come will be exciting and enriched with as many wonderful experiences,” Williams said. “He is an inspiration.”
The award was given at a banquet in Asheville, where tie-dyed casual attire was worn and the theme “Artstock” paid tribute to the 1960s, when the organization was formed. The banquet was part of the annual NCAEA Professional Development Conference 2012.
Though there have been Distinguished Service awards given by the NCAEA in the past, this event inaugurated the awarding of the Lifetime Achievement recognition.