“Art is the signature of civilizations,” said Grammy Award-winning opera singer Beverly Sills.
And that artistic signature can be seen all around the Over the Mountain area. Dance and music companies, galleries, museums and theaters abound and offer plenty of opportunities to participate, to learn or just to appreciate.
Our directory is a partial list of organizations that keep the Over the Mountain arts scene vital—and a close-to-home way to express, enjoy and escape.
Established in 1981, Alabama Ballet’s conception was an extension of Birmingham Civic Ballet, the University of Alabama at Birmingham Ballet and Ballet Alabama. Dame Sonia Arova and Thor Sutowski, world-renowned dancers, were the company’s first artistic directors. Through their direction and artistry, the company was able to achieve success among professional dance companies. Alabama Ballet’s mission is to change and enhance lives through high-quality performances, dance education and community outreach. For more information, visit www.alabamaballet.org.
Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame
Located in Birmingham’s Civil Rights District, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame allows its visitors to explore the history of jazz and the city of Birmingham. In 1993 the hall of fame opened a museum to support the community’s education on the art form. Members include Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and Birmingham’s own Erskine Hawkins. For more information, visit www.jazzhall.com/index.htm.
Alabama Symphony Orchestra
The ASO began with a group of volunteer musicians in 1921 and has evolved into the state’s only full-time professional orchestra. The ASO employs 54 salaried musicians who give more than 190 performances a year. The ASO serves nearly 100,000 people a year through its concert series, youth programs and educational and community engagement efforts. For more information, visit www.alabamasymphony.org.
Arova Contemporary Ballet
Arova Contemporary Ballet is an innovative dance company devoted to inspiring communities to transcend barriers through dance education. The nonprofit organization’s mission is to design highly-captivating performances that capture raw athleticism, passionate energy and a rich soul. The company was established in 2006 and was named in memory of Dame Sonia Arova, an acclaimed Bulgarian-born ballerina, teacher and the founding artistic director of the Alabama Ballet. For more information, visit www.arovacontemporaryballet.org.
Artists on the Bluff
Artists on the Bluff members use its facilities in the Bluff Park community of Hoover as studios or to teach art classes. The space is home to the Soon-Bok Lee Sellers Gallery and the Artists on the Bluff Gallery. Several classes are also held there. For more information, visit www.artistsonthebluff.com.
Artists Incorporated was opened in Vestavia Hills by a group of nine artists with the idea of giving Birmingham area artists a place to showcase their work on a daily basis. The gallery is housed in what was a working dairy barn in 1929 and now holds art representing 50 artists and craftsmen from across the state. The gallery hosts an opening reception on the first Friday night of every month. The receptions are free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.artistsincorporated.com.
ArtPlay, an outreach program started by the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center, values and encourages self-expression through art and creativity, which is an integral part of development and communication regardless of age. For more information, visit artplayasc.org.
Birmingham Art Association
In 1908 artists Della Dryer, Willie McLaughlin, Alice Rumph and Mamie Holfield formed the BAA to promote local art and artists. The BAA has entertained guests such as the Italian-born artist Giuseppe Moretti, sculptor of Birmingham’s iconic Vulcan statue. For more information, visit www.birminghamartassociation.org.
Birmingham Boys Choir
The Birmingham Boys Choir gives talented boys the opportunity to more fully develop their gifts in an area of concentrated study as it teaches them discipline, integrity, professionalism and teamwork. Each year, the choir performs two major concerts of sacred and secular music. The choir also performs regularly at churches, schools and other organizations and has traveled extensively, representing Birmingham throughout the world. For more information, visit www.birminghamboyschoir.com.
Birmingham Girls Choir
Formerly the Birmingham Children’s Choir, the Birmingham Girls Choir allows girls to expand their vocal abilities through choral music. The choir performs at community events. Choir directors are dedicated to providing a nurturing environment for choir members. For more information, visit www.birminghamchildrenschoir.org.
Birmingham Festival Theatre
Birmingham Festival Theatre was started in 1972 by Birmingham actors Carl Stewart, Randy Marsh and Vic Fichtner and moved to its current location at 1905 ½ 11th Ave. South in 1973. Birmingham Festival Theatre has staged more than 250 productions involving more than 50 directors, nearly 1,000 actors and 500 crew people. The productions have been seen by almost 100,000 audience members. Its next show will be “Clybourne Park” Sept. 12-28. For more information, visit www.bftonline.org.
Birmingham Museum of Art
The museum’s current building was erected in 1951 and was the result of interest in establishing a museum for Birmingham. The museum houses more than 25,000 artifacts and has one of the most impressive collections of art in the Southeast. For more information, visit www.artsbma.org.
Bluff Park Art Association
The Bluff Park Art Association has organized the Bluff Park Art Show for the last 50 years. In addition to showcasing the work of local and national artists at the annual show, the Bluff Park Art Association also rotates a collection of 100 pieces among local schools, libraries and universities. The organization also funds public sculpture and donates to the Birmingham Museum of the Art. The Bluff Park Art Association also supports local groups, schools and libraries and grants college scholarships. For more information, visit www.bluffparkartassociation.org.
Children’s Dance Foundation
CDF began in 1975 as a way to foster the abilities of children and those with disabilities. It now works weekly with more than 2,000 students of all ages and abilities. The organization’s mission is to provide the best services and programs to its students while offering opportunities for students to grow through creativity. For more information, visit www.childrensdancefoundation.org.
Hoover Library Theatre
With an intimate setting, Hoover Library Theatre features professional artists in the heart of the city. Each year, the Hoover Library Theatre presents a slate of entertainers from around the world. The Library Theatre is sponsored in part by the city of Hoover and the Friends of the Hoover Public Library. The 2014-15 season will include performances by Phil Vassar, Don Hicks and the Hot Licks, The Celtic Tenors, Diane Schuur, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, Cirque Montage and Mel Tillis. For more information, visit www.hooverlibrary.org.
Music Opportunity Program
The Musical Opportunity Program offers instructional programs throughout the Birmingham metro area with the aim of involving young people with string instruments through meaningful educational experiences that will lead to a lifelong love of and involvement in the performing arts. The program has two divisions–one for instrument instruction and a youth orchestra division. The MOP students and orchestra students perform several times a year at metro Birmingham area schools and other venues. For more information, visit www.musicopprogram.org.
Mountain Brook Art Association
Founded in 1981, the Mountain Brook Art Association strives to stimulate two-dimensional painting and drawing by encouraging individual and group development and sponsoring two annual shows. Membership is open to those who live within a 25-mile radius of Mountain Brook City Hall. For more information, visit mountainbrookartassociation.com.
Opera Birmingham, the only professional opera company in Northern and Central Alabama, has been entertaining audiences with world-class operatic productions and concerts since 1955. Founded as the Birmingham Civic Opera, the company merged with Southern Regional Opera in 1986. It became the Birmingham Opera Theater for its 1987 season and finally became known as Opera Birmingham in 1996. For more information, visit www.operabirmingham.org.
Red Mountain Theatre Company
In 1970 James Hatcher of the University of Alabama in Birmingham Theatre Department and Birmingham Mayor David Vann established what was then called Summerfest. It began as a summer “stock” company and years later still provides year-round musical theater performances. The company prides itself on its high quality productions and performances and educational outreach. For more information, visit www.redmountaintheatre.org.
Space One Eleven
Since its debut in 1986, Space One Eleven’s mission is to support local artists, well-known and obscure, professionals and beginners in an effort to support and spark public dialogue among members of the community. For more information, visit spaceoneeleven.org.
The Seasoned Performers
The Seasoned Performers was founded in 1984 as a creative outlet for older individuals and today features professional and community actors interested in contributing to their communities. The performers are committed to bringing live theater to those in underserved areas. For more information, visit www.seasonedperformers.org.
Terrific New Theatre
Terrific New Theatre is a live performance theatre in the Lakeview area of Birmingham at Pepper Place. It was founded in 1986 by Steve Stella and Carl Stewart, who was also one of the founders of Birmingham Festival Theatre. Terrific New Theatre prides itself offering plenty of unexpected surprises for audiences who are not looking of a serious, organized night at the theatre. Previous shows have included “Of Grapes and Nuts”–a hilarious tribute to John Steinbeck’s classic and “China: The Whole Enchilada”–a funny and provoking look at 4,000 years of Chinese history. For more information on Terrific New Theatre and its current season of shows, visit www.terrificnewtheatre.com.
Virginia Samford Theatre
A Birmingham historical landmark, the Virginia Samford Theatre was founded in 1927 and served as a place for the community to gather and enjoy production-worthy performances of the classics. After two revivals, one after World War II and the other in 1999, the theater still serves as a means for creative individuals to showcase their talents. For more information, visit www.virginiasamfordtheatre.org.