Carneal goes through artful change

Published March 13, 2011  | Selma Times-Journal

carneal_forwebArtsRevive celebrates two grand openings Friday night — Carneal Arts Revive and the ninth annual Juried Art Show.

The show, which features works by Alabama artists, is the first event for the work-in-progress Carneal Building. A former auto service business, the 1920’s brick structure has undergone a series of upgrades since 2008 to become headquarters for the local arts organization.

“We are excited to finally be able to host our art show in this wonderful building by the river,” Vicky Stoudenmire, event chairman, said. “We’ve recently installed lighting and finished some painting and carpentry work as final preparation. Now we can display paintings, sculptures and photography in a unique gallery setting.”

The show, which formerly was held at The Harmony Club, has grown in size and quality since its inception and it coincides with the Selma Pilgrimage. The members’ reception is Friday, March 18 from 7-9 p.m., and the show is free to the public Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m.

Located downtown at Water Avenue and Church Street, Carneal ArtsRevive offers a beautiful view of the Pettus Bridge and has an outdoor pavilion that can be used for shows, concerts and receptions.

“It’s just a fantastic place for a variety of events, and we’re pleased to put an old building to a new use,” Fran Pearce, ArtsRevive president, said.

Pearce gave credit to the nearly completed work to project chairman Ray Thomas.

“He has been the driving force behind getting our building where it is. He has spent untold hours negotiating with contractors and actually working on the building,” Pearce said. “The knowledge and assistance he has given to ArtsRevive has been invaluable. His help, along with that of his wife, Ann, who serves as Carneal Building chair, has given us the skilled leadership we needed to meet our goal.”

Enroute to its designation as an arts facility, the Carneal Building had to meet requirements of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), which included tests for asbestos, lead paint and oil/petro-chemicals.

“We depended on grants and help from the city of Selma to get these things accomplished, then applied for grants to hire licensed professionals to remove asbestos and lead paint,” Ann Thomas said.

The old roof, which had caved on the riverfront side, was razed and replaced and tons of automotive-related debris removed. The pavilion has since been shored up, plumbing installed and electrical work done. A security fence is in place on the river side of the building.

Soon, Thomas said a grant from the Alabama Council on the Arts will fund an art wall for automotive sculptures as a tribute to the building’s original use. In addition, future plans include a catering kitchen, artist workshops and office. Part of the building may be rented for small-business space.

Opened in 1927, the building operated as Selma Electric Battery Company until the 1940s when it became Carneal Auto Service. According to a history of the business, “Otha Carneal took great pride in his work…” and treated his employees fairly to the point of insisting upon one water fountain and one restroom for all, “…believing there was no difference among men regardless of the color of their skin.”

Carneal’s “radical” attitude became even more so during the 1950s when he refused to join a white citizens’ council and suddenly found his contract revoked for servicing the city and county vehicles. However, he was able to stay in business due to his reputation for good service. Through the years, the auto service also weathered a fire and bank erosion and water damage due to a storm.

Later, as his health failed, Carneal turned the business over to Gene Tindoll. After the business closed in 2008, it was purchased by the ArtsRevive, which organized in 2003 to promote community development via the arts in the greater historic Selma region.

While opening night is a members’ only reception, Stoudenmire said others are welcome to attend and can join at the door. Membership fee is $35.

Jamie Adams, an assistant professor and department head of art at Judson College, will judge the artwork, and awards will be presented Sunday at 3 p.m.