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Auditorium to host fashion designer Patrick Kelly exhibit

The Vicksburg Auditorium will be transformed Sunday into a showcase featuring the work of one of Vicksburg’s own, fashion designer Patrick Kelly.

The exhibit, which will feature 25 pieces of Kelly’s work on loan from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and a fashion show featuring Vicksburg and Jackson State students modeling clothing inspired by Kelly and clothing provided by JC Penney of Ridgeland, will be open to the public Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m., and Monday, from 8 a.m. to noon.

The Sunday program will also feature a tribute from Kelly’s family and friends, who will share stories about him an growing up with him in Vicksburg.

Shon McCarthy, director of Gallery 1 at Jackson State University, said the exhibit’s presentation in Vicksburg is the result of a collaboration between the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Jackson State and the city of Vicksburg.

“The work of Patrick Kelly was celebrated in 2004 in an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and in 2014, the Philadelphia Museum of Art held a celebration of his work,” she said. “I think any time is a fitting time to honor him. I’m happy we were able to help and accommodate the city.”

Born in Vicksburg in 1954, Kelly graduated from Vicksburg High School in 1972. He died in 1990.

He attended Jackson State and later the Parsons School of Design in New York, and worked at different jobs while trying to sell his designs.

In 1979, he moved to Paris, where he was hired as a costume designer for the Paris nightclub Le Palace, and continued selling his own creations.

His flamboyant garments soon became popular, and he received the attention of the clothing conglomerate Warnaco. Well-known stores as Henri Bendel, Bloomingdale’s, and Bergdorf Goodman carried his Paris designs, and celebrities Cicely Tyson, Bette Davis, Grace Jones, and Isabella Rosellini were among his clients.

Some of Kelly’s most memorable garments incorporated masses of multicolored buttons or grosgrain ribbons clustered together. Other motifs, like the use of hats and splashy accessories, celebrated his rural southern roots.

“There was the time on the David Letterman show where Bette Davis refused to answer any questions until she talked about her Patrick Kelly dress,” McCarthy said.

She hopes the exhibit will help inspire students to become more interested in fashion design.

“I hope by looking at Patrick Kelly’s history and his work, they’ll think, ‘He was from Vicksburg and became successful. Maybe I can do it, too.’”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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