The Carnegie Visual Arts Center opened in 2003 and serves Decatur and the surrounding area. Local and touring exhibits, which feature all mediums of visual art, are showcased at the Carnegie throughout the year. Additionally, art classes, workshops, lectures and camps are offered for all ages in the Daikin America Education Center.
A Storied History
The Carnegie Library – the historic building in with the Center is housed – was constructed in 1904 with funding from the Carnegie Foundation. For nearly 70 years, Decatur’s public library was housed in this facility. When the main library outgrew the facility the Carnegie became the children’s library.
The next incarnation of the Carnegie Library came when First Baptist Church began using the building as a youth center for its congregation. This arrangement continued for 20 years until the completed expansion of the church.
In 1997 the Decatur Arts Council leased the Carnegie Library from the City of Decatur and began a feasibility study to determine if the building would be suitable for an arts center. The feasibility study, completed in 1998, determined the building to be suitable for such a purpose. The same study pointed out the structural strengths and deficiencies of the building. From this document a master plan for renovation was completed.
Within the next year, 1999, the Decatur Arts Council had begun to share with the community the dream for a renovated Carnegie Library that would serve as an art museum and education facility. Further studies completed in 2000 indicated strong support in the community for such a project. Daikin America gave the first gifts to the Capital Campaign for the new Carnegie Visual Arts Center. Funding for the CVAC was made possible by the generosity of individuals, local businesses, corporations, the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the City of Decatur. Construction and restoration was completed in early 2003.
Today, the Carnegie has a very strong children’s art education program that fosters creativity with hands-on activities. Exhibits such as the ones featuring Anne Frank’s life in words and photos, carvings of traditional masks by Northwest Indian artisans, and Art in Textiles: The Color of Quilts by Hallie O’Kelley evoke emotions and inspire the soul.