Ala. Center for the Arts: Crowning jewel in our own backyard

In the main gallery, there is a collection of bronze original sculptures.
In the main gallery, there is a collection of bronze original sculptures.

DECATUR, AL (WAFF) - Walk into the Alabama Center for the Arts and you are immediately drawn to the sculptures in the lobby. One is about 30 years old, according to tour guide and visual arts educator Dr. Mary Beth Johns.

"This is a bronze sculpture called 'Verrrr' that was donated to the Alabama Center for the Arts by Wayne Baggett in honor of his friend Scott Boylist, who was a strong supporter of the arts in Decatur," said Johns.

In the main gallery, there is a collection of bronze original sculptures by John Solomon Sandridge, Marshall Mitchell, and replicas of works by Frederick Remington, all with a western theme.

"Right now, we have an exhibit of bronze sculptures that were graciously donated to Athens State University by the Wideman family in memory of Dr. Gilder Wideman," added Johns.

Johns said Sandridge is a Birmingham artist who also lectured at the school in connection with the showing.

"…And the works he's created as part of the collection are of black cowboys and buffalo soldiers," she said.

Each work shows a mastery of fine detail, right down to the expressions on the faces. The display can be seen through the 28th of February.

The whole building is a testament to art and art education. Johns shows examples along the way.

"This piece is called 'Anatomy of a Sea Horse,' and it's made by Jason Brawly, an Athens State alumni," Johns said.

Even the lights seem to change color along the tour, thanks to well placed flags, adding to the texture of the facility.

In the spirit of going green, spray booths allow artists to construct their works while offensive "fixative" fumes are sucked out of the building.

When the building was constructed, light was a big component, which, Johns said, is handy for these works in progress.

"The architect deliberately created the painting and drawing spaces with a northern exposure because it does create the most ambient light," she said.

So many of these works are places people will recognize if they are from the area, communicating ideas through images in Bobby's Bama.

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