Alabama Center for the Arts Grand Opening Gala Set


The Athens State University Foundation and Calhoun Community College Foundation jointly announce two events this month which will mark the official public opening for Phase I of the new Alabama Center for the Arts (ACA) in downtown Decatur. 

Opening festivities will include a Gala fundraising celebration and reception planned for the evening of Friday, October 19.  According to Gala Planning Committee Chair Terri Bryson, director of the Calhoun Foundation and Dean of the college’s Huntsville campus, the reception will begin at 6:00p.m., with the dinner/gala starting at 7:00 p.m.   Most tickets have been pre-sold via table sponsorships but a limited number are available for purchase at Reception-only tickets can be purchased for $75 and Gala tickets are $200. A few table sponsorships are still available online or by calling Terri Bryson at 256-890-4703 or Rick Mould at 256-233-8215.

Phase 1 of the ACA is a collaborative effort between the City of Decatur, Morgan County, Calhoun Community College, and Athens State University. The 44,000 sq. ft., 3-story facility, located at 133 Second Avenue in downtown Decatur across from the Princess Theater, represents an investment of more than $8.2 million dollars ($3.2 from each educational institution and $1.6 million from Decatur and Morgan County ($800,000 each).  

College courses taught at the facility will lead to Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees with class offerings that include art appreciation, painting, drawing, computer graphics, sculpture, ceramics, pottery and a teaching major leading to licensure for art instructors. Non-credit, community education courses, taught by local talent as well as renowned masters, will be available to the public and will reflect the interests of local citizens. Already being heralded as a model for institutional cooperation in the state, the facility will also serve as a catalyst for the region’s creative planning and expression.

Bryson says that the ACA’s Gala Grand Opening celebration will be a “landmark event in the history of our community—one that highlights the vision, energy, excitement, and success of our present accomplishments and forecasts future progress.”   The Gala will begin with a reception and silent auction, followed by the dinner, a live auction and entertainment provided by Big Swing and the Ballroom Blasters from Atlanta.  Bryson said that both Athens State and Calhoun are soliciting art for the auction.  Persons interested in donating art for the auction should contact Bryson at 256-890-4703.

“The mission of the Gala is to raise money for scholarships to seed the student population with the region’s most talented and promising students and to create a permanent endowment to support long-range programming at the center,” commented Bryson.  Bryson added that the reception and Gala will focus on celebrating the work of local and state artisans. “We want to embrace all forms of art from painting and sculpting to food art and quilting,” Bryson said.  The new arts center includes a gallery where local and regional artists in a variety of mediums will be invited to organize shows.

Bryson also announced that 3M is the presenting sponsor for the Gala. "3M continues to be a wonderful community partner and significant supporter of local education and the arts, and we are extremely appreciative of their generosity in agreeing to serve as our presenting sponsor for the Center’s Grand Opening Weekend Activities," said Bryson. According to Bryson, the October 19 Gala event will be followed by a free public open house on Saturday, October 20 and special events for educators in the weeks that follow. Other major contributors include Sexton Inc., Peoples Bank, Cooks Pest Control, Downtown Decatur Redevelopment Authority, and an anonymous gift.

According to Jim Fincher, Site Manager at 3M, “We know that the Decatur-Athens metro area has been anxiously anticipating the opening of the Alabama Center for the Arts and we are proud to be the presenting sponsor for this event.”
Added Fincher, “We believe that this investment will benefit 3M and other businesses by making it easier to recruit professionals and their families to Decatur to live and work in Decatur. That in-turn will grow our community, its jobs, and its infrastructure. What we pause to celebrate at the Gala and open house will have ripple effects throughout our region for decades to come. It’s a worthy milestone to commemorate.”

According to Calhoun President Dr. Marilyn Beck, “This is a pivotal event for our citizens. It will create a forum for us to commemorate a significant achievement, extend the culture- commerce message, establish expectations for future growth, and provide the excitement and energy needed to propel us forward in developing and deploying new ideas.  This event will strengthen our ability to share the important narrative that creative ecosystems work for everyone.”

Rick Paler, Executive Director of the Downtown Decatur Redevelopment Authority states, “When the Decatur Downtown Redevelopment Authority began forming its Strategic Plan for downtown Decatur we realized that in order to be successful we needed a strong economic generator that would bring people downtown. The Alabama Center for the Arts has helped to do just that. Not only is it bringing students and faculty to the area, but with it being an arts oriented institution, it has the potential to drive tourism as well as to be a catalyst for an arts based economy in the downtown. The school was formed as a partnership and now we have the opportunity to partner on a number of levels to achieve the goals we only dreamed of before.”

A community-wide, free open house will be hosted in concert with traditional downtown activities. To support the celebration, the Decatur Downtown Merchant & Business Association is planning an array of Saturday afternoon activities to support the grand opening of the arts center from 1-4 pm.  “We’ll still hold our traditional Third Friday activities on gala night, but we’ll also plan some special things to support the art center’s Free Public Open House on Saturday,” said Gloria Arthur, president of the downtown merchant association. She added, “So there will plenty to do that weekend. And that will be the ever growing pattern for our arts and business partnership.”

For more information on the opening events, follow progress on Twitter and Facebook to stay up-to-date.

Additional Information about the Alabama Center for the Arts

Area citizens, regional business leaders, college administrators, and state elected officials are united in supporting the Center’s mission. According to John Seymour, president of the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, art is a catalyst for economic development.  “Research demonstrates that art is a powerful catalyst in creating economic vitality. Art communities large and small including Tampa, Seattle, Philadelphia, Raleigh, Savannah, Greenville, Gary, and Oakland have proven that achieving culturally leveraged community ecosystems benefits quality of life, workforce development, economic growth and revenue generation,” commented Seymour.   Adds Calhoun’s Beck, “Art deploys what economic development experts refer to as the Multiplier Effect.  By creating art districts, streetscapes, entertainment options, cultural amenities, and opportunities for artistic exploration, we can create a ripple effect that spreads throughout the region and adds value to the personal lives of local citizens and increases the competitiveness of the region.”
Studies consistently report links between art instruction and improved student test scores, particularly as it relates to math and spatial learning. “But research reveals that there is an even clearer correlation to be drawn between the power of art instruction and soft-skill development. It’s referred to as developing one’s Studio Habit of Mind,” said Athens State President  Dr. Bob Glenn.  “Some studies indicate that art can help teach students to engage academically and persist through to goal by helping them learn from mistakes, and to develop personal commitment and follow-through. Thus, art is a powerful vehicle for teaching rising generations how to work attentively for sustained periods of time.”

Art instruction is now recognized as a key medium for teaching students how to envision solutions, thinking through what they cannot see—a skill that offers tangible benefits to both workers and employers. Beck said, “Applied art instruction such as painting and sculpting has been shown to help heighten educational aspirations and intellectual risk-taking as well as enhancing student social competencies and collaborative skills.”

Regardless of a student’s major, art instruction has been shown to hold a vital place in a well-rounded curriculum. Studies reveal that other art-related academic outcomes include students’ increased ability to use metaphor, a greater understanding of the role of imagination in problem solving, the capacity to manage ambiguity, and the value of perspective. 

Glenn said, “Artistic thinking is good for business and it’s also a powerful path toward meaningful employment. Job opportunities continue to be strong in areas including publication design, graphic art, animation, advertising, event planning, tourism, the culinary arts, and writing for publication.” Beck added, “Industries are attracted to communities where there is a ready supply of well-educated, creative problem solvers and collaborative workers—making art good for students and creative students good for industry.”

The Arts Survey
Calhoun also has announced the development of an artisan’s database of local talent to use as a planning tool for identifying art instructors as well as artists interested in being featured at upcoming gallery showings.  Additionally, the college is soliciting citizen input regarding what community classes and activities to plan for the center.  Area residents interested in taking classes or local artists interested in teaching classes or having gallery shows should go to to take the three-minute Artisan and Art Interest Survey.

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