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Local Artists Live: Kay Jacoby

Saturday, August 28 at 10:00 AM to 10:30 AM


Kay Jacoby’s hand-painted wooden plaques inspire and motivate with uplifting, emboldening quotes and phrases that reflect her desire to share joy with and do good by others. She has lived in Alabama for all of her life so far—born in Ozark, went to college at the University of Alabama where she double-majored in art and advertising, and lived most of her adulthood in Birmingham and now Montgomery. Both her mother and grandmother were painters, and Kay recalls being regularly “crafty, creative, and messy” during her youth.

Her deep passion for this state, its people, and the rich variety of cultural arts that are uniquely “ours” recently led Kay to leave her dream job as the Community Arts Program Manager for the Alabama State Council on the Arts, with a plan to put to good use her interests in culture and travel by curating a state-wide arts experience tour of Alabama. In this new chapter of life, she also hopes to focus more on her own art-making and to continue to help others as an art consultant for those seeking grant funding.

Follow Kay on Instagram to stay apprised of those endeavors, and be sure to catch her on Local Artists Live when she takes over the MMFA’s Instagram account Saturday, August 28, from 10-10:30 AM CDT, for a tour of her home studio.

This program is part of the series:


Meet the Artist

What is something you appreciate about life in the South?

I appreciate the layers of beauty, mystery, and quirkiness in the people, terrain, and culture.

Who are some artists in the MMFA’s collection who you respect and why? 

I’m a huge fan of William Christenberry and am so sad I never met him, but learning about him and watching documentaries about him changed the way I drive down country roads. I see things through a different lens because of his influence and his photography. I also like the works of another Alabama artist, J. Kelly Fitzpatrick. Painting is my favorite medium, so I always gravitate towards paintings in any museum I’m visiting. I get as close as I can (without setting off an alarm or alerting a security guard) to see the actual application of paint.

What piece of art that you have created is your favorite, and why?

Regarding painting the hand-lettered plaques I do: I wish I had inventoried how many THOUSANDS I’ve done since I started (with a friend) soon after the events of Sept. 11th happened… and that was 20 years ago!!! It makes me happy to know there are so many out in the world and I hope they’re doing the good work of inspiring people. Words matter.

Do you have an all-time favorite work of art, and have you seen it in person? If you have, how did you feel in that moment?

I love Matisse’s work. Once I saw a segment on CBS Sunday Morning about his paper pieces/cut-paper collages that were showing at the MoMA in NYC. I immediately started planning a trip to go see it with a friend and we were there the following weekend—exactly one week later. I also like Gauguin and his exotic scenes and colors, and Picasso, even though I don’t think they were particularly nice people. I’m excited about an upcoming trip where I’ll get to see Georgia O’Keeffe’s environment. I appreciate how she stayed true to her work and her authentic self.

What drives your creativity?

Color. I love color and design. Sometimes I feel OCD about design and want to tell my eyes to “stop eyeing” every single thing! 

What advice would you give to beginning artists?

Take classes. Keep learning. You never know it all.

What excites you the most about the growth of Montgomery’s art scene, and how might we further these efforts throughout our community?

I think it’s really cool how my friends who are African Americans have such a strong presence in the Montgomery art scene—I think stronger than any other city in the state! It makes me happy to witness their growth, strength, unity, and joy. I also think our museum here is world-class amazing, and am very proud of it. I always refer to it and Alabama Shakespeare Festival as “Montgomery’s Crown Jewels.”

A painting showing a large pile of lumber in front of the gray frame of a building. Smoke billows from the chimneys on the building, with fluffy green trees in the background.
John Kelly Fitzpatrick (American, 1888–1953), The Saw Mill, 1934, oil on Masonite, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Works Progress Administration, 1935.4
William Christenberry (American, 1936–2016), House with Flag, Greensboro, Alabama, negative 1977; printed 2003, chromogenic print on paper, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Lee Friedlander, 2004.15.9
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