ASU art building.jpg

Workers for ANS Steel erect the hulking frame of the new fine arts complex in Decatur. The facility is a collaborative project of Athens State University and Calhoun Community College.

News Courier/Jean Cole
The News Courier

If you’ve ever wanted to be a filmmaker, cartoonist, painter, graphic artist, art teacher, musician or photographer, you won’t have to travel far to get it done.

A new fine arts complex — called the North Alabama Center for the Arts — is under way in Decatur, and will be finished and ready for students by fall next year.

The $8 million project under construction on Second Avenue — across from the Morgan County Courthouse on Lee Street — is a collaborative effort by Athens State University, Calhoun Community College, the city of Decatur and Morgan County.

Construction crews broke ground on the project in February and hope to be working indoors before the cold of winter creeps in, according to Terrell Way of Fite Building Co. of Decatur, the supervisor on the job.

On Friday, workers from A&S Steel Inc. of Huntsville were busy erecting the hulking frame of what will eventually be a 43,752 square foot building.

Still on site were a few of the concrete remnants of what was once the A.Z. Bailey Grocery Co., which stood on the site at 133 Second Ave. downtown for 98 years. 

Designed by PH & J Architects of Montgomery, the building should transform the east end of Second Avenue, which had been falling into ruin in recent years. In late 1990s, the city of Decatur had purchased much of the land and buildings on the block in hopes of someday building a downtown civic center. However, a civic center — which had been on the minds of city leaders since the 1950s — once again, never came to fruition.

When the fine arts center opens next fall, students of all ages will learn to tap their creativity, express themselves or earn a degree. The complex will serve students from ASU and Calhoun and individuals and groups from the surrounding area, according to ASU. It will also be an art and design facility and a space for exhibitions, meetings and performances. It will house fine art studios and art history courses for ASU and Calhoun along with faculty offices, galleries and community spaces.

ASU will offer bachelor of art degrees in graphic arts, art education leading to kindergarten-through-12th-grade teacher certification. ASU will also begin to offer theater courses with plans to establish a drama major within the next three years. Theater courses will be taken at the ASU campus until Phase II of the plans for a performing arts center and black box theater, or experimental theater, is completed. Within the next 10 years, ASU plans to offer degree programs in music and performance.

Calhoun currently offers associate of science and associate of applied science degrees in several areas within the college’s fine arts division, which include art, graphic design, computer graphics and graphics animation; music education, church music and music industry communications; photography and film communications. These classes are offered at Calhoun’s colleges on U.S. 31 in Decatur and in Huntsville. Once the fine arts center is completed, the college will offer credit course in art and computer graphics as well as in a variety of continuing-education offerings. This will allow a wider audience to take credit and non-credit courses in the fine arts programs.

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