WHAT’S IN A NAME: Lamar Dodd Art Center

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, February 25, 2023

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Located just off “the Hill” lies the Lamar Dodd Art Center. The center is a three-story 32,000-square-foot facility that is the home of LaGrange College’s art department. 

The museum is named after renowned artist and local Lamar Dodd, who historically took his first formal art class at the college, at the time the college was an all-girls school. The center, funded by the Callaway Foundation was completed in 1982.

Along with being the home of the college’s art department, the center has permanent collections from Dodd and several other affluent artists, including Rembrandt, Picasso, and Rauschenberg. 

John Lawrence, who was an instructor at the college for 49 years, remembers Dodd as a stoic but kind man. 

“I came here to teach in 1970. I was here about 10 years before we moved into this building,” Lawrence said. “Most small colleges like LaGrange have the art department in the same building as the music department or the theater department, but that’s not true here. This is a unique building in the sense that it gets to be its own entity, and it’s quite remarkable that this college has this set of investment in the arts.” 

On each floor of the building lies a different discipline of art. The top floor is graphic design, painting and drawing. The second floor has printmaking and photography. The main floor consists of art history, ceramics and sculpture studios.

Lawrence said when Dodd was retiring he got to meet him. Whenever he visited to pick up art pieces, Dodd was donating to the college. 

“I made two or three trips about every year and picked up the paintings he donated. We now own over 100 of his paintings and drawings,” Lawrence said. “At the time, we had no place to exhibit the art — the department was in the basement of a girl’s dormitory that had three rooms in it, but we did have a little art gallery.”

Lawrence said he would display all of Dodd’s paintings in that gallery until one day he had a conversation with Fuller Callaway.

“Mr. Callaway, who knew Lamar looked at me and said, ‘Now, what are you going to do about these paintings?’ I said we had plans to build a building one of these days. Well, he ended up giving us the money to build the building,” Lawrence said.  

Lawrence said he believes because of the friendship between Lamar Dodd and Fuller Callaway the center was able to be built.

“I went to the President and said, ‘the reason we have this building is primarily because of this friendship.’ Mr. Dodd is one of the most famous artists in Georgia and the building we built should have his name on it. Of course, that was agreed upon, and we put Lamar Dodd’s name on it,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence said the center still maintains a gallery on the second floor with an exhibit of Dodd’s paintings in it.

“I love the idea of a local museum that features the art of the people who grew up and live there, and that’s what we have here,” Lawrence said. “This building is important for that reason — we honor Lamar Dodd and his contribution to art and southern artists and a lot of people come here for that reason. His spirit permeates in this place.”