Arts center to host fundraiser for Mitchell documentary

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By Alice Du Pont

After having stalled for 2 years, the Dean Mitchell Documentary Film Project has a breath of new life. To help defray the cost of the production that will tell the story of his life, the Gadsden Arts Center is hosting a special exhibition of Mitchell's original watercolor paintings. The net proceeds from the paintings sold will be used to procure the services of Nolan Walker, a renowned writer and producer of documentaries.

"Nolan Walker is probably best known for a 2004 documentary called 'Citizen King' on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as part of the American Experience series. He was featured prominently on the Public Broadcasting Service program, 'The Charlie Rose Show,' " Mitchell said.

He said that Walker heard of his story from Tony Cacioppo and Steve Alpert of a New York City-based company known as Art Works Media. The two men have already filmed more than 50 hours on Mitchell. It is now time for the second phase.

"Walker is going to take an approach from the African-American experience in putting this together. When he is done we will have a complete documentary on how I built my career. Just making the documentary is very expensive and we need backers to get this project into the schools and libraries around the county," Mitchell said.

He wants to raise at least $10,000 from the originals currently on display at the art center. Mitchell said several people in town have been collecting his art for years. To sell more pieces would make the finished project available within a shorter period.

Mitchell, a native of Quincy, lives and works in Tampa after moving there from Overland Park, Kan. 3 years ago. He moved, he said, to be closer to Quincy, and family and friends.

He continues to work on watercolor paintings and has just returned from the Adirondacks where he judged a watercolor show. His watercolor of the Wilson House on 10th Street caught the attention, he said, of the heir to the John Deere fortune.

"It was a great place for me to make contacts and to meet some of the people who have shown interest in my work over the years. Still, I wish that more people would buy my work. I have sold some pieces to people like Bill Cosby, Angela Bassett and Maya Angelou. Like all artists, I just want more people to enjoy my work. This documentary will help do that," he said.

Mitchell has a long and impressive list of accomplishments. His biography lists that he has been recognized with memberships in the American Watercolor Society, Miniature Artists of North America, Allied Artists of America, The National Society of Painters in Casein and Acrylic, Knickerbocker Artists and The Sante Fe Watercolor Society, of which he was president in 1993.

In 1992, Mitchell was one of five finalists in the $250,000 Hubbard Award for Excellence, Ruidoso, N.M., and received the $50,000 grand prize for the Arts in the Parks competition in 1999. In 1995 the U.S. Postal Service commissioned Mitchell to do a series of jazz stamps. In all, Mitchell has earned well over 400 national and international awards for painting.

His work can be found in the Gadsden Arts Center, St. Louis Art Museum, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Hubbard Museum, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Mississippi Art Museum, Arkansas Art Center and numerous other public and private collections.

Mitchell's next show at the Gadsden Arts Center will be in 2011.

The Gadsden Arts Center is located at 13 N. Madison St. in Quincy. For more information, call the center at 850-875-4866.