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Dr. Kelly Stevens

Did you know that Dr. Kelly Stevens donated his home
to the German-Texan Heritage Society?


Dr. Kelly Haygood Stevens 1896-1991

Austin painter, teacher, writer, cabinetmaker. 


Artist, Kelly Haygood Stevens became deaf from scarlet fever at age five and attended the Texas School for the Deaf where he began art training under Nannie Huddle. He was admitted to Gallaudet University in 1915 and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1920. While at Gallaudet, he continued his art education at the Corcoran Art Gallery. Following graduation, he went to the New Jersey School for the Deaf, taught art until 1929, and worked for 18 months at the Trenton School of Industrial Arts. In 1926, Kelly went to Spain and worked under Spanish deaf painter, Valentin de Zubiaurre, painting Spanish landscape. 


After returning to the United States, he became fascinated with Indian life and his love of mystery and color in the landscape, especially his native home, Texas. In 1933 and 1934, he traveled again to Spain and France. In France, he focused on painting an area of the Seine; in Spain, he lived in the Basque Province and painted peasant people. He returned to teaching art at the Louisiana School for the Deaf in 1936 and continued until 1949. He enrolled at Louisiana State University and received his Master of Arts degree in 1938. Kelly devoted his life to art, especially in New Mexico and Arizona, where he had long residence with the Indians, resulting in a series of paintings of their tribal costumes and dances. 


He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree by Gallaudet University in 1971. He also worked and lived in New York City, Mexico and Santiago, Chile. Today, his paintings hang in galleries all around the world, including a large mural at the First United Methodist Church in his hometown of Mexia, Texas. There is a permanent display of his art at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C., along with a collection of his personal documents, photo albums, manuscripts and a program from the International Exhibition of Fine and Applied Arts by Deaf Artists. Artists who influenced him were Hermann Lungkwitz, Julian Onderdonk, W.H. Huddle, Nannie Huddle and Ramon and Valentin de Zubiaurre. 


Besides art, another of Kelly's passions was the complete renovation and preservation of his historic home in downtown Austin. The home he purchased in 1948 was formerly the German Free School which opened as the first chartered school in Austin in 1858. It was built atop a steep hill to gain advantage in case of Indian attacks. 


Kelly added onto the building extensively, including a second floor with a large balcony. He spent twenty years remodeling the mansion, which was both home and art studio to him and his houseman Sidney Saint Pe', who was also deaf. This home was recognized as both an Austin Landmark and a Texas State Historical Site and official markers were placed in front of the building. Some of the historical items added to the home were a fireplace mantel from the 1790 home of Andrew Jackson, a door once accessed by Robert E. Lee, which came from an old Austin home scheduled for demolition, and elegant Victorian style furniture made by German craftsmen in New York. Dr. Kelly Stevens willed his historic home and furnishings to the German-Texan Heritage Society(GTHS), but continued to live there until his death at age 95. Today, the old restored mansion is the bustling headquarters of the GTHS teaching center for German-Texan culture and German language classes.

Bio by Sandbear

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