Warm spring light from high windows shone into the renovated auditorium as GC alumni, faculty and staff mingled before the official ribbon-cutting ceremony at Peabody Auditorium on April 3.
Peabody has been under construction for roughly nine months, opening five months behind schedule after the construction company ran into structural problems finding systems to level the floor and meet building codes.
With a better-late-than-never attitude, the ceremony celebrated the new possibilities for the building as a space for meal functions, small stage productions and dances as well as practical uses for future educators.
“This new space is a wonderful opportunity to get students thinking about classroom environments and creating collaborative workspaces,” said Stacy Schwartz, an early childhood education professor.
Previously, the auditorium floor was angled down toward a main desk and a projector screen, with tables and chairs bolted down to the black and white tiled stair-stepped floor. The main source of light was fluorescent bulbs,since most of the windows had been covered up years before.
Now the floor is level, and the raised stage at the front of the room boasts a nine-panel digital screen that can show a vivid display despite the bright sunlight illuminating the space.
Two TV screens are mounted on the back wall with wireless connections for operating independently of each other. e rolling chairs and movable tables are wired with electrical outlets and can be plugged into any of the dozen or so oor outlets, allowing students to plug in their devices, regardless of the room arrangement.
Ed Stanley, director of technology support services, led the team that upgraded the technology package for the space. His team’s design was inspired by a visit to Clayton State.
“Almost everywhere a student would sit down had electricity nearby,” Stanley said. “That’s what we were striving for in order to meet the needs of the students.”
The new building design also meets energy efficiency goals. Windows now take up most of the wall space, allowing costly electric lights to supplement sunlight rather than serve as the primary light source.
The ceremony also paid homage to the rich history the building represents, in both form and function. In his opening speech, President Steve Dorman expressed his awe at the new space and excitement upon learning that Peabody, along with Health Sciences, Sanford and Porter halls, was built as part of a New Deal program to create construction jobs in Georgia.
Dorman then introduced Cecile Hattaway Parker, a 1956 graduate of the Peabody School.
Parker stepped up the the podium and reminisced about the time she spent inside Peabody decades before as a student at Georgia State College for Women.
She spoke with surprising fire about the pride she felt when marching music would play, and she and her classmates would march into class to begin their practice lectures as young educators taking a hold of their own life paths and choices.
Other speakers had similarly loving praises for the historic building.
University architect Michael Rickenbacker, jokingly called the beloved auditorium a transitional-style structure.
“When you step across the street and look at this building, you’ll see that it has the ear markings of the modern style that grew out of the Beaux Arts style, and it’s got just a taste of art deco,” Rickenbaker said.
The glass block panels on the front of the building create the building’s arc deco air. When they were uncovered, Phil Best, the project manager from Garbutt Construction Co., said the entire view of the building from the outside changed.
“It was like Peabody really stood up for the rst time in a long time,” said Rick Ruark, GC’s associate director for planning and business services.
The crowning jewel of Peabody’s facelift is the art that hangs around the perimeter of the auditorium.
All of the pieces are from the university’s collection, donated by Jim and Carol Dew of Atlanta.
“We now have an economically sensible building, and we have made it beautiful,” Dorman said. “It feels like we acquired a new building.
Photos by Lexie Baker | Staff Photographer