The first CLA exhibitions were installed in the window boxes of the Saenger Theatre as part of the “Art Off Centre” series, which ran from 2001 through 2004. In 2003, the Press-Register, Mobile’s daily newspaper, donated its downtown office space to the CLA. Concurrent with the $6 million campaign to renovate the Saenger, the CLA raised an additional $6.2 million to convert the former Press-Register building into Space 301, an art center that includes a 16,000 SF gallery, a studio space for educational classes and programs, and a 180-seat, 2,300 SF terrace used for film screenings, community events, and second stage performances. Space 301 opened to the public in 2003.
In 2011, under the leadership of new Executive Director Robert L. Sain, the CLA launched its new quest of community engagement through the arts. The first two annual cultural initiatives under the CLA’s new vision of unprecedented community engagement are The Memory Project (April—December 2012) and Futures Project (May—January 2014).
Now, in 2015, the Centre for the Living Arts is moving forward with a new name and new identity as the Alabama Contemporary Art Center to reflect their position as the state’s premiere showcase for significant art of our time. The mission remains steadfast – to bring global talent to Alabama, and to engage all sectors of the Mobile community in ideas that matter.
The exhibition that launched in conjunction with the name change is History Refused to Die (March 2015 — April 2016), featuring art from the collection of William S. Arnett of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. In this rich and textured exhibit, self-taught artists from Alabama examine the African American experience in the South through sculptures, paintings, assemblages, and through speech.