UA launches campaign for performing arts on former Bryce property

UA launches campaign for performing arts on former Bryce property
This artist's rendering depicts UA’s Performing Arts Academic Center, which will include four performance theaters. (University of Alabama)

The University of Alabama has launched a campaign to raise $15 million in private donations to support the construction of a new Performing Arts Academic Center on the former Bryce Hospital property.

Former UA Athletic Director Bill Battle and his wife, Mary, are co-chairing the campaign cabinet that is leading the fundraising effort, which has raised more than $6.3 million in booked and verbal gift commitments to date.

The campaign was formally announced at a news conference.

The University of Alabama: Performing Arts Academic Center Campaign Announcement (2017) from The University of Alabama on Vimeo.

The new Performing Arts Academic Center, which will connect to the restored Bryce Main, will feature four performance venues for theater and dance. The main hospital building is being renovated to include a UA welcome center, a reception venue, faculty offices and rehearsal space, as well as museums dedicated to both UA history and the history of mental health in Alabama.

“We’re excited for everyone to see what has been done and also what hasn’t been done,” Bill Battle said. “It would have been easier and more economical to tear it all down and start over, but the preservation of this facility is truly amazing.

“We think if people truly understand the transformative nature of this facility, most will want to participate in some way. The PAAC portion of the building will be a fantastic place for students to learn and perform, for the community to add a serious upgrade to cultural opportunities in Tuscaloosa, and for the College of Arts and Sciences to elevate this part of the curriculum. But it is much more than that. The Welcome Center will become the place where prospective students get their first impression of our university.”

Serious about the arts

Among the $6.3 million in initial gifts and pledges, significant lead gifts committed to the campaign include:

  • $1.5 million from Laura and Robert Abernathy, of Atlanta
  • $500,000 from Mary and Bill Battle, of Tuscaloosa
  • $500,000 from Janine and Nick Perdomo, of Miami
  • $500,000 from Linda and Bob Shumilas, of Tuscaloosa

“We chose to donate to this project for three reasons,” said Robert Abernathy, a 1976 UA graduate. “The center will be the new face of campus with the prospective student Welcome Center; the center will visibly demonstrate that the university is serious about the arts; and the center honors the history of the Bryce property and buildings.

The University of Alabama’s new Performing Arts Academic Center will connect to the Bryce Main building, pictured, which is being renovated. (The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

“It will be the talk of the performing arts world for years to come. There will not be an on-campus performing arts center that will compare to this.”

Construction is estimated to begin in summer 2019. Upon completion, the Performing Arts Academic Center will include four performance theaters — a black box theater with flexible seating for 175-275, a 350-seat proscenium style theater, a 450-seat venue specifically designed for dance, and a 100-seat studio dance theater designed for maximum flexibility to use for rehearsals, recitals and smaller performances.

These performance venues will replace the outdated Marian Gallaway Theatre, Allen Bales Theatre and Morgan Auditorium.

“The need for a new Performing Arts Academic Center on our campus has never been greater nor more deserved, and the impact will be tremendous,” said Dr. Robert Olin, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “A center of this caliber will elevate the profile of the entire university and further drive economic development in the state.

“It will also significantly increase the quality of life in our community by providing easy access to world-class performances and ample space to expand community programming and outreach. Poised to benefit on every account are our students, whose experiences in this facility will be invaluable as they graduate and begin to build their professional legacies.”

For more information on the building project or ways to give to the campaign, visit

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama’s website.

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