Patti Malone Portrait Unveiling

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

On Sunday, Dec. 2, Athens Arts League held its Patti Malone Portrait Unveiling and Reception. Malone was born a slave in Athens, attended Trinity School after the Civil War, and went on to Fisk University where she performed with the Jubilee Singers before the crown heads of Europe.

There are but a few grainy black and white photos of Malone with the Jubilee Singers, so Athens Arts League commissioned an artist to portray Malone singing. The painting, funded by a Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area grant and the League, will be on display permanently at Scout Music House once renovations of the house are complete. The portrait currently is at High Cotton Arts.

Retired judge Jimmy Woodroof, who participated on the committee to select the artist, blinked back tears at the unveiling. Carolyn Williams, a Trinity graduate who also participated on the artist selection committee, said, “She’s singing. She’s smiling.”

Artist Ann Moeller Steverson painted Malone on a copper panel, which gives the painting an ethereal beauty. In the painting, Malone is holding a hymnal and singing by a piano. A gas lamp rests atop a speller on the piano. As a student a Trinity, Malone would have carried a Bible and a speller.

Athens Arts League Vice President Diane Lehr said Malone’s portrait not only preserves her story but inspires others to seek their dreams related to the arts.

“She is our First Lady of Music in Limestone County,” Lehr said.

During the event, Rep. Danny Crawford presented a $5,500 check to Athens Arts League to support its concert series and students receiving hands-on experience working behind the scenes. Crawford said the arts are important to a community, and said he hopes the delegation will continue to be supportive. He said, “When people in Athens get behind something, they know how to make it happen.”

Members of the delegation who provided funding along with Crawford were:
Former Rep. Bill Holtzclaw
Former Rep. Phil Williams
Sen. Arthur Orr
Sen. Tim Melson
Sen. Parker Moore
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner