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WEB EXCLUSIVE! What’s new in the South

Photo courtesy Newport Aquarium

Newport Aquarium’s penguin exhibit got a facelift in 2010


BIRMINGHAM — Railroad Park, a 19-acre green oasis in the middle of the city, is now open. Railroad Park provides a historically rich venue for local recreation, family activities, concerts and cultural events while connecting Birmingham’s downtown area with Southside and the University of Alabama Birmingham campus.

DOTHAN — The 21st mural, entitled “Country Music,” has been dedicated in the historic section of downtown Dothan. The mural is the second of the Wiregrass Music Murals. The final music mural will be finished in May.

GULF SHORES — The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is expected to open in new, larger quarters early this year but will retain the small-park charm that made it the star of a 2006 Animal Planet television series, “The Little Zoo That Could.” The zoo, which has been evacuated twice because of hurricanes, will have a hurricane-resistant building.

HUNTSVILLE  — The Huntsville Museum of Art opened a 21,000-square-foot wing in November, which will allow the museum to showcase almost double the number of exhibitions this year.

MOBILE — The National Maritime Museum, GulfQuest is projected to open by the middle of the year. It will be the first museum dedicated to presenting the maritime heritage and culture of the Gulf Coast and only the third maritime museum in the United States to feature primarily hands-on, interactive exhibits rather than maritime artifacts and memorabilia.

POND SPRING — In time for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the home in which Confederate Gen. Joe Wheeler raised his family will reopen to the public late this year. The historic home was built after the Civil War and is undergoing restoration. The state owns the site and closed the home four years ago after it showed significant deterioration.

SCOTTSBORO — The Unclaimed Baggage Center, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, has recently undergone a major remodel and now includes expanded departments and a new, improved museum with fun and interesting facts about the business.

HOPE — The Clinton First Home Museum re-opened Jan. 2 as the President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site after being transferred from the Clinton Birthplace Foundation to the National Park Service.

The two-story white frame house, which belonged to Clinton’s grandparents, was where the future president lived from his birth in 1946 until age four.

The house is furnished with items that date to time period when Clinton lived there. Although Clinton moved to Hot Springs when he was seven, he spent summers and weekends there until his grandfather, Eldridge Cassidy, died in 1956 and the house was sold.
BENTONVILLE — The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will open to the public on Nov. 11.

The museum, designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie, will have state-of-the-art galleries in a series of pavilions around two creek-fed ponds. There will also be classroom spaces and a large auditorium.

Sculpture and walking trails will link the museum’s 100-acre park and gardens to downtown Bentonville.

Crystal Bridges will house a permanent collection of masterworks of American art ranging from the Colonial-era to contemporary work.

In addition to the permanent collection, the museum will also have temporary exhibitions drawn from national institutions.
BENTONVILLE — The Walmart Visitor Center has reopened in temporary quarters just around the corner from its permanent location on the Bentonville Town Square.

The temporary location on West Central allows update and expansion construction to continue on both the 5-10 and Terry Block Buildings, two historic Bentonville landmarks. The 5-10 was Sam Walton’s original variety store.

The visitors center has photographs and memorabilia such as financial reports and store advertisements tracing the history of the giant retailer. There is a special section about the Walton family, features of which are Walton’s red pickup truck and his office just as he left it.

Renovation of the Walmart Visitor Center permanent location is expected to be completed by spring.

ATHENS — The Georgia Museum of Art reopens Jan. 29-Feb. 5 with a weeklong celebration following completion of a major new wing.

The addition to the existing facility consists of 16,000 square feet of new galleries to display the permanent collection, as well as an outdoor sculpture garden, an expanded lobby and much-needed storage space. The expanded gallery space will allow for the continual viewing of the museum’s permanent collection.

The museum’s galleries and museum shop had been closed since March 2009 for its Phase II expansion and renovation.

The Georgia Museum of Art is located in the Performing and Visual Arts Complex on the East Campus of the University of Georgia.
NEWPORT — The Newport Aquarium’s popular penguin exhibit is expected to reopen in March after being expanded and renovated.

The 1,000-square-foot Kingdom of the Penguins, which closed this month for the renovations, has 28 penguins, including varieties of king, gentoo and chinstrap. The chinstraps were added in 2009, when the aquarium became one of only five facilities in North America to house them.

The exhibit’s rocks and natural features are being redesigned to give the birds more nesting opportunities; for instance, the exhibit’s flat-rock back wall will be replaced with a replica of a cliff. The aquarium has gained a national reputation for breeding penguins.

It will be the aquarium’s most expensive upgrade since it opened in 1999.

NEW ORLEANS — On Oct. 26, the Presbytere opened its doors for “Living With Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond,” a $7.5 million exhibit that remembers the events of 2005 and showcases the renewal of New Orleans.

The museum spent years collecting hundreds of artifacts in Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, among them musician Fats Domino’s ruined baby grand piano and a humble hatchet used by a trapped family to escape rising waters.

The objects and accompanying images, personal histories and videos are spread throughout the building’s first-floor galleries.

Among the visitor experiences are “Evacuation Corridor,” where visitors hear residents’ voices as they weigh their options while Katrina is approaching; a leaking floodwall, an attic and a roof, where they can view the flooded city surrounding them; and interactive maps that show the paths of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

North Carolina
NAGS HEAD — Hurricane Isabel demolished Jennette’s Pier, the oldest fishing pier on the Outer Banks. Instead of rebuilding the 1939 landmark the old-fashioned way, the state invested $25 million to turn it into a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified, wind-powered, 1,000-foot concrete pier with a 16,000-square-foot pier house.

Opening May 21, Jennette’s Pier will extend the reach of the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. The aquarium-operated complex will feature educational classrooms and programs, alternative-energy demonstrations, live-animal exhibits, meeting facilities, a snack bar and tackle shop, and fishing.

By 2012, the North Carolina Aquariums at Fort Fisher and Pine Knoll Shores should have their own state-of-the-art, storm-resistant piers.
NEW BERN — The North Carolina History Center opened in October at the Tryon Palace complex in New Bern as part of the 300th birthday celebration of the state’s second-oldest town.
The history center is a contemporary museum and welcome center on a six-acre site on the Trent River, just east of the palace and gardens.

The green-designed, 60,000-square-foot museum features a regional history museum, a virtual village circa 1835, a performance hall, a gallery, a riverside cafe and a museum store.

The historic landscape will feature outdoor exhibits, as well as restored wetlands, scenic walkways and native plants along the river’s edge.
RALEIGH — The North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh returned the Edward Durell Stone-designed East Building to action Nov. 7 as a center for rotating exhibitions and education programs with an exhibit of works by Norman Rockwell.

The renovated lobby visually connects the old building to the new West Building, which displays Rodin’s sculpture and other holdings in the museum’s permanent collection.
WINSTON-SALEM — The Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts, which opened Sept. 10 in downtown Winston-Salem, has galleries, meeting and event spaces, a cafe and a terrace, along with the new Hanesbrands Theatre and Sawtooth School for Visual Art.

Developed by the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, the center is intended to be the community’s artistic living room with multipurpose performing arts and event spaces.
MEBANE — The $60 million, privately funded Tanger Outlet Center in Mebane, which held its grand opening Nov. 5, was the largest retail development in North Carolina in 2010.

Located just off Interstate 40/85 at exit 154, the 317,000-square-foot upscale shopping attraction features 80 brand-name and designer outlet stores.

The National Park Service reopened the lighthouse at Cape Lookout National Seashore on July 15 after two years of rehabilitation work.

Visitors can again climb the 188 steps to the top of the 163-foot-tall lighthouse, which closed for renovations in 2008.  From the top, visitors can take in expansive views of Shackleford Banks, Cape Lookout Point and miles of ocean.

South Carolina
MYRTLE BEACH — The tribute artist production “Legends in Concert” is moving to a new location this year, a building adjacent to Planet Hollywood at Broadway at the Beach.

The show, which ran for 15 years at Surfside Beach, is scheduled to debut in its new facility March 11.

The theater will feature a 600-seat Las Vegas-style showroom, with each seat having good sightlines and generous legroom. Projection screens will be positioned around the room.

Broadway at the Beach is a 350-acre complex with three theaters, 19 restaurants and more than 100 specialty stores, along with nightclubs, hotels and attractions such as an Imax 3-D theater, Ripley’s Aquarium and Nostalgia Park surrounding a 23-acre lake.

WHITES CREEK — The Fontanel Mansion and Farm, former home of entertainer Barbara Mandrell, is now open. Also onsite are the Farm House Restaurant, walking trails and the Stone House Center and Gift Shop.

The mansion was built according to Barbara Mandrell’s standards in 1988. It was her primary home for years and acted as a sort of gathering place and getaway for countless country music stars.

Tours feature artifacts that were brought to the house by Mandrell or left there by famous guests. Additionally, the home’s current owners, Dale Morris and Marc Oswald, have installed elements from their own private collections from the artists they manage including Alabama, Kenny Chesney, Big and Rich, Gretchen Wilson and more.

The Farm House Restaurant at Fontanel features home-cooked Southern food. The Woods at Fontanel is an outdoor music venue with a capacity for 2,500 guests.
ABINGDON — Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway, scheduled to open this summer, will highlight the region’s arts and crafts, music, food and culture.

The iconic structure will have large format displays, videos and interactive maps to showcase the region’s artisans and provide detailed information on travel in southwest Virginia. There will be artisan galleries, a food court with local organic products and a place for musical performances.

The $16 million, 28,000-square-foot center is off exit 14 of Interstate 81 in Abingdon.
CHARLOTTESVILLE — A new behind-the-scenes tour at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello has been a hit since it debuted last June.

The tour features the private second-floor bedrooms once occupied by members of Jefferson’s family, the iconic Dome Room on the third floor, the cellar and the newly installed exhibit “Crossroads Exhibition: Domestic Work at Monticello.”

During the tour, visitors see unusual interior architectural features, learn about ongoing restoration and gain insight into what one of Jefferson’s granddaughters called “the bustle and hurry” of life at Monticello.