Arts & Culture

New student-curated museum exhibition honors venerated Oglethorpe professor

The beautifully detailed sculptures, drawings and designs of prolific Georgia artist Fritz Paul Zimmer are now on view at the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art in honor of the former Oglethorpe professor’s last retrospective in 1973.

Titled “Fritz Paul Zimmer, 50th Anniversary,” the collection was drawn entirely from the archives of the Oglethorpe University Library, where — all these years later — his work inspired a recent Oglethorpe graduate to curate it.

One of two deer design fireplace screens by Fritz Paul Zimmer

One of two deer design fireplace screens by Fritz Paul Zimmer

Zimmer’s sculptures and architectural work were at one time found in more than 60 churches, the homes of private collectors, university campuses, local government buildings, and postal offices all across the South.

Zimmer joined the Oglethorpe faculty in September 1930 and was named dean of the university’s art department just two years later. Bringing a high level of artistic expertise to the classroom, Zimmer was beloved by the generations of young artists he taught in the classroom.

“Under his guidance, the gray clay seemed to magically take shape and become a thing of beauty,” said Oglethorpe alum Sidney Davis ’73. “I know I express the feeling of his other students when I say that his classes stand out as very special, happy memories, and I am grateful that I had the chance to have studied under such a gifted and talented teacher.”

Zimmer also spent his time creating bronze busts of Oglethorpe faculty and beneficiaries to honor their commitment to the university. Notably, he had crafted sculptures of Dr. J.T Lupton — for whom Lupton Hall is named — and university president Dr. Thornwell Jacobs.

Melissa Sagaseta in the exhibit "Fritz Paul Zimmer, 50th Anniversary"

Melissa Sagaseta in the exhibit “Fritz Paul Zimmer, 50th Anniversary”

Much of Zimmer’s work was preserved by the university’s library, which is where student Melissa Sagaseta ’22 was first introduced to his work. Working for credit in the archives, Sagaseta gained a first-hand look at the professor’s extensive collection.

“There is a story that begins to form from a collection as diverse as Zimmer’s. You start to understand the reason, drive, and purpose of his work, because for every drawing, architectural sketch, or sculpture, there was a photograph, a postcard, or a typed letter from Zimmer that made each art piece more personal,” says Sagaseta. “This exploration of his life and work is what really drove the decisions I made while curating the show.”

With guidance from museum director Elizabeth Peterson Jennings, Sagaseta applied her experience in the archives to the exhibition, which debuted on July 7.

Now graduated from Oglethorpe, Sagaseta currently works in “The Georgia Room,” a special collection in the Switzer Library which archives the genealogical and historical records of Cobb County, Georgia. She intends to pursue a master’s degree in museum studies.

Gallery Assistant Rosie Sanon ’26 provided additional input on the layout of the exhibition.

“Fritz Paul Zimmer, 50th Anniversary Exhibition” is on view at the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art now through Oct. 15.

Weltner Library Director Eli Arnold ’06 and Melissa Sagaseta ’22 will deliver a joint lecture on September 14. Stay tuned to OUConnect for details.

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