By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
The lights come up - New Black Box, art gallery open Friday
The interior of the new Center for Art and Theatre at Georgia Southern University features large, open spaces and lots of glass. The building also houses a new Black Box Theatre, several galleries, and offices for faculty. - photo by JAKE HALLMAN/Staff
    The lights are coming up on the Center for Art and Theatre, the stunning $7-million home for the visual and performing arts at Georgia Southern University.
    The center includes a new Black Box theatre with seating for around 150 and three exhibition galleries, including a permanent home for the Betty Foy Sanders Georgia Artists Collection.
    “This new facility brings the visual arts and theatre together in a way that will not only benefit Georgia Southern University, but will make a wonderful addition to the Statesboro community and our region,” said GSU president Bruce Grube.
    With high ceilings, plenty of windows and a real feeling of lightness, the two-story lobby space is tall and contains numerous architectural features tying the two floors together. Patricia Carter, chair of the Betty Foy Sanders Department of Art, said those features help symbolize the relationship between the two departments housed in the building.
    "The art department enters from the second level while the theatre enters from the first," said Carter. "By meeting in the middle, it represents the connection between art and theater."
    Upstairs is a gallery displaying the Georgia Artists Collection – artwork collected over the years by the department's namesake, Betty Foy Sanders. All of the work in the collection is created by Georgia artists, using Georgia materials or has the state as the subject of the piece.    
    Downstairs is the center's Contemporary Gallery, which will house revolving exhibitions. The inaugural exhibit is "Romancing the Stones," a fantastic collection of work done by Sanders over the past seven years. Inspired by a visit to a rock and minerals show in the Southwest, her pieces use rocks, stones, geodes, minerals and even arrowheads to add depth and texture to the paintings. Sanders served on the board of the Georgia Council of Arts and Humanities for seven years and received GSU's first doctorate in fine arts in 1997.
    Also downstairs is the University Gallery, which will house the works of GSU student artists. Its initial feature, "Sacred Journey," is a collection of works painted by Betty Foy Botts, daughter of Sanders. The subject matter can be found in nature and, through her artistic vision, Botts has transposed her faith and reflected her spirituality onto the canvas.
    The exterior of the building also acts as a gallery. Huge cranes should install on Friday the sculpture centerpiece, which will great guests to the galleries and theater from the front of the building. Entitled "Ascend," the piece was commissioned by Sanders and sculpted by GSU faculty member, Marc Moulton. An adjoining sculpture garden, in the building's courtyard, will display three-dimensional pieces of art.
    Also on the first floor is the main entrance to the new Black Box theatre — a substantial improvement to the previous space. Not only was the seating capacity and size of the theatre been increased, but the staging area backstage was dramatically improved. Pam Bourland-Davis, chair of GSU's Communication Arts program, said the Black Box is a unique addition to the region.
    "Audiences attending performances at the new theatre will have an up close and personal experience with the performance as the flexible seating arrangements will be tailored to the individual performance," said Bourland-Davis.
    The first production in the Black Box is William Shakespeare's "King Lear." The classic play stars Georgia Southern theater icon Mical Whitaker in the title role. It opens Friday and runs though Feb 8. Tickets for "King Lear" are available by contacting the theatre's box office at (912) 681-5379.
    Carter is thrilled by the near-completion of the building. She was asked if she thought this would increase the profile of the department within the community.
    "Well, I think the community has always known we were here, but now we can show them we're here."

Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter