ABAC reno

Admiring the new ABAC fine arts building while adhering to social distancing on a recent morning were (l-r): Dr. Susan Roe, Head of the Department of Fine Arts; ABAC President David Bridges, and Tim Carpenter, Director of Facilities and Land Resources.

TIFTON — From gigantic rooms for the concert band and concert choir to cozy individual practice areas, the new fine arts building at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College is guaranteed to be a certified smash hit when ABAC students return for the fall semester on Aug. 12.

Just as impressive is the newly renovated Carlton Center in the heart of the campus, which has undergone a two-year rehabilitation process that changed the overall look of the building as an integral part of the $21.4 million combined project.

ABAC plans to return to in-person instruction for the fall term after teaching classes online for the final weeks of the spring semester and the entire summer term.

“We have needed a Fine Arts building on this campus for a long time,” ABAC President David Bridges said. “Our music program is second to none, and those students deserve a first-rate facility.”

When Bridges was a student at ABAC in 1978, the ABAC musicians flung open the windows on the third floor of Conger Hall so the entire campus could hear them practice their tunes. When the Baldwin Library moved to the Carlton Center in 1990, the music program eventually occupied that facility for years.

Now the concert band, jazz band, concert choir, and jazz choir will have plenty of space to operate at peak efficiency. Dr. Susan Roe, a Professor of Voice and Head of the Department of Fine Arts, is ecstatic about moving into the new building.

“It is beyond a dream come true,” Roe, a faculty member at ABAC since 1999, said. “I walked in there the other day. When we walked in, I just had a moment with God, just being in that building. To watch this program transform itself through the years has been great, and now we have this building. Even COVID-19 will not keep ABAC down.”

Bridges said the building will be a stellar addition to the other structures on ABAC Circle, which is the historic “Sweetheart Circle” on the front campus. Most of the Congressional District Agricultural and Mechanical schools established in the early 1900s had the traditional circle. ABAC began classes in 1908 as the Second District A&M School.

The Health Sciences Building opened on ABAC Circle in 2006, and Lewis Hall, Herring Hall, and Tift Hall were a part of the historic Front of Campus Project, which culminated in 2013 when the three original buildings on campus received a much-needed rehabilitation.

ABAC Director of Facilities and Land Resources Tim Carpenter said the fine arts building will have practice space for a 100-plus member orchestra as well as a separate space for an 80-plus member vocal group. He said the individual practice rooms will be acoustically controlled.

The first floor of the building includes the band rehearsal room, instrument storage, the band and choral music library, the choral rehearsal room, band and choral storage, music faculty offices, and a keyboard laboratory.

The second floor of the building features individual music practice rooms, a recording control room, art faculty offices, painting/general art labs, a visual arts material storage room, a student work storage room, a display area, and a computer design lab.  Music students will have easy access to nearby Howard Auditorium, the primary concert venue for the music program.

The Carlton Center’s primary purpose since it opened in 1990 has been as the home for the Baldwin Library. The library has been temporarily located in J. Lamar Branch Hall. The Carlton Center is named for the late O.D. Carlton, II, a longtime ABAC benefactor.   

“The Carlton renovation will allow us to take advantage of a large space which was under-utilized,” Bridges said. “Moving the Stallion Shop campus store operation to Carlton opens all kinds of possibilities.”

The rehabilitated 51,600-square foot Carlton Center will be the home for student academic support, the bookstore, the mail room, information technology, offices of the Dean of Students, Veterans’ Lounge, ABAC archives, the Student Government Association offices, the Baldwin Library, reading and study areas, computer lab, One Button Studio, the Student Engagement Programs Center, symposium/exhibit space, the Academic Success Center, campus media and student development.

Carpenter said Praxis 3 Architecture from Atlanta designed the Carlton Center rehabilitation, and JMA Architecture from Perry designed the fine arts building. Allstate Construction Group from Perry was the contractor on both projects. Jones, Lang, and LaSalle personnel served as the project managers.

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