Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities Leroy Bynum stands outside the Joseph W. Holley Fine Arts Hall building on campus at Albany State University Friday. Bynum says more than 20 percent of the 33,000 square foot building, which houses the art, humanities and english programs, is used for storage and has become outgrown.
ALBANY, Ga. — As he stands in the lobby of Albany State University’s Holley Hall, Leroy Bynum, dean of the university’s College of Arts and Humanities, is not smiling as he recalls the Flood of 1994 that wiped out a good number of the buildings on campus.
“You see that mark?” Bynum asks, pointing to a spot about 14 feet up on one of the white walls. “That’s the high-water mark from 1994. The state came in later and did an assessment of all the buildings that were flooded. Those that had more than 50 percent damage were razed. Unfortunately for us. this building came in at 49 percent.
“Had I known then what I know now, I would have come in here and pumped in another 1 percent myself.”
Holley Hall, all 33,000 square feet of it, is home to the university’s arts, humanities and English programs. It is bursting at the seams with students and musical equipment. More that 24 tubas line the main hallway because there is no place to store them. Stairwells double as storage for bass drums and as practice areas.
It seems every room in the building — offices and practice rooms — are also used as storage areas. The choir room is located directly above the band room. Neither can practice at the same time.
None of the rooms is sound-proofed which means music is heard throughout the building — normally not bad unless you are teaching class.
“The music is wonderful,” said Assistant Professor of English Devona Mallory. “But it is very hard to teach and talk over. The music always bleeds through. It’s not every day, but you really notice the tubas.”
“It feels like we are just squatters in this building,” said another assistant professor.
According to Bynum, nearly 25 percent of the building is used for storage.
“It’s a logistical nightmare. We can’t grow anymore,” he said.
Much of the overcrowding, Bynum said, is due to a past push for enrollment in the music education program. From 2002 to 2006, the number of music majors at the school grew by nearly 60 percent.
“We have the only music education program in Southwest Georgia,” Bynum said. “While that has been a boon to the school, the growth has been both a blessing and a curse. The building is outdated, and we have outgrown it.”
A new fine arts building has been bogged down by state bureaucracy and controversy for more than a decade. In 2000 the Georgia Board of Regents approved a $21 million construction budget, but the money was never allocated by the legislature. A year later, ASU became involved with the Ray Charles Foundation, which eventually donated $3 million to help build the facility.
After 10 years of no noticeable progress, last month ASU returned $1.25 million to the Foundation after the organization, unhappy with the lack of progress, sought help from Attorney General Sam Olen’s office.
“Last semester, I would have told you that we anticipated having the building contract and work to have started this year,” Bynum said. “That has changed. I know there has been a swirl of controversy, and we’ve been caught up in it.”
Despite the intrigue, confusion and controversy, the one constant is the necessity for a new fine arts building at ASU.
Bynum says what is needed is a new 109,000-square-foot building with properly sound-proofed music rooms that will comfortably house the university’s English, music, fine arts, theater, speech and foreign languages programs.
The rub is that a new building will cost at least $28.8 million. Yet even after 12 years, ASU is still sitting at square one.
“We desperately need a new building,” Bynum said. “It will be good for our students, our staff, the university and the south Georgia community as a whole. The greatest tragedy of all would be if a long-delayed fine arts building were further delayed because of controversies and mistakes of the past.”