Fine arts center to undergo $7.9 million renovation

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Gadsden State Community College President Kathy Murphy recently announced the large-scale renovation of the Wallace Hall Fine Arts Center and academic wing.

“We are excited about this occasion,” she said “We are making history and making sure that our employees, our students and our community have the facility they deserve.”

The project will cost almost $7.9 million dollars. The academic wing will undergo complete renovation of classrooms and studio space that will be used for courses in photography, pottery, visual arts, choral and band. Renovations will also be made to the computer lab and restrooms as well as new interior sheetrock walls, doors, flooring and paint throughout the building. Completely new electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems will be included.

Exterior renovations include an updated brick and precast façade; new concrete paved courtyard with lighting; a new front entry to both the Fine Arts Center and academic wing; and all new windows.

Mario Gallardo, chairman of the Fine Arts Division at Gadsden State, said Wallace Hall is more than just a building.

“It is the epicenter for creativity and celebration of the arts at Gadsden State and for the community of northeast Alabama,” he said. “It’s a place where students can dream, build, play and imagine a beautiful future.”

It is also a place that connects the community with Gadsden State, Gallardo added.

“Wallace Hall serves as a space to bring the community together like nothing else can. The arts cross all boundaries that might keep us apart and reveal our humanity and help us to empathize with our neighbors. I’ve said many times that what we do here doesn’t stay here. It ripples out into the community.”

The project is being funded by a bond approved in November by the Alabama Community College System Board of Trustees. The bond is also funding the construction of a new baseball/softball complex. Gadsden State broke ground on the complex on April 2.

The architectural firm for the Wallace Hall renovations is Lathan Associates of Hoover, while the contractor is Hudak Construction Company of Gadsden. Demolition is currently underway with the renovation projected to be completed next summer.

The Wallace Hall Fine Arts Center was constructed in 1967 for $1.5 million dollars. It was designed by Architects Hofferbert and Eliss and built with excellent acoustics and modern stage equipment.

By 1997, the near-constant use of Wallace Hall had taken its toll. Without major renovations, the center faced closure. In 1998, Gadsden State and the City of Gadsden raised over $450,000 to complete the needed repairs, which include the installation of 1,200 new theatre seats. The restrooms were gutted and replaced and new dressing space was added.

In 2011, Wallace Hall received a $150,000 landmark grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to transform the theatrical lighting systems into a more energy-efficient system. The facility now boasts an LED lighting system that saves an estimated $35,000 in energy costs annually.

In 2016, additional upgrades were made. The ceilings were repaired and the entire space was painted. New sound absorbing materials were added to the walls, and brand-new flooring was installed. The audio system was also updated.

In 2023, Gadsden State replaced the HVAC system at a cost of over $500,000.

Through the years, Wallace Hall has hosted a broad range of community events such as plays, concerts, dance recitals and graduation ceremonies for local high schools.

The venue is home to Gadsden State’s in-house events such as Convocation, the Jazz Festival, Evening of Fine Arts, plays produced by the Theatre Department, professional development events and occasionally commencement exercises.

The academic wing of Wallace Hall includes classrooms, labs and studio space for the fine arts programs, music programs, the popular A Cappella choir, the famous Gadsden State Show Band & Singers, and the theatre program, which returned to the stage in 2021 after being shuttered for over a decade.

When operating at full capacity, Wallace Hall Fine Arts Center has attracted approximately 40,000 visitors per year

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