UA Sets the Stage with Industry-Leading Performing Arts Center Groundbreaking

From the UA News Center | Construction of the Smith Family Center for the Performing Arts at The University of Alabama has officially begun. 

Members of the UA community and supporters of the project held a groundbreaking Friday on the renovated Bryce Campus, where the center will be housed.

The groundbreaking honors many years of planning and fundraising efforts to create a cutting-edge facility that will meet the performance, design and production needs of a theatre and dance department that has more than doubled its enrollment over the last 20 years. 

“The Smith Family Center for the Performing Arts will help set a new standard of excellence for both students and faculty,” UA President Stuart R. Bell said. “We’re incredibly thankful to the Smith family and everyone’s support in making our campus an epicenter for performing arts.”

In 2022, Clay Smith, a graduate of the Culverhouse College of Business at UA, along with his wife, Cameron, a graduate of the College of Communication and Information Sciences, and his mother, Linda, made a $20 million gift toward the project in memory of his father, Mark Smith, cofounder of the global telecommunications company ADTRAN.

Clay said the creativity Mark derived from being a musician “defined and balanced” his father personally and as an engineer and businessman. The Smith Family Center pays homage to his father and four generations of arts influences in their family.

“A lot of philanthropic lessons were taught through my father, who cared deeply about medicine, education and the arts,” Clay said. “But for all our experiences as a family, the magnet has always been the arts. We’re honored to help provide those same joys and opportunities to the University and its future artists and performers.”

Pending final approval from the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees, the Smith Family Center will centralize student performance spaces for dance, theatre and opera through these venues:

  • Black box theatre with flexible seating for up to 275
  • Proscenium style theatre with seating for 350
  • Venue specifically designed for dance, with seating for 450 

These state-of-the-art equipped performance spaces will allow UA students to perform in productions with multifaceted scenery, lighting and effects comparable to major regional theatres and Broadway.

The performance spaces will replace the Marian Gallaway Theatre, Bryant-Jordan Hall and The Dance Theatre as primary student performance venues on campus. The Smith Family Center will feature a variety of upgrades, including:

  • Larger stage openings and off-stage spaces
  • Deeper stages for ballet performances 
  • Orchestral pits 
  • Elevated audience experience
  • Adjustable acoustics 
  • Engineered floors

“Our theater, dance and opera programs are nationally recognized as leaders in the performing arts,” Dr. Joseph P. Messina, dean of the UA College of Arts and Sciences, said. “As our outstanding faculty continues to attract and prepare some of the nation’s most talented students, the new state-of-the-art rehearsal and production spaces will allow them to unleash their fullest potential in facilities equivalent to those in which they will be working as professionals.”