Move gives department sense of community

With the semester underway, the UNA Department of Entertainment Industry is in the process of settling into its new digs on the corner of Tombigbee and Pine streets. The approximately 9,000 square foot facility houses the department offices, classrooms, a keynote performance room, a recording studio and a MIDI lab.

The university acquired the facility last February after UNA President Bill Cale signed an agreement with Noiseblock Music Group to lease the space for $5,500 a month with first option to purchase the property if it is sold.

Bob Garfrerick, chair of the entertainment industry department, said he is excited that the department finally has its own space. Since 1993, the department operated out of what was essentially a small office suite and studio, he said.

“We now have two classrooms specifically for our purposes, where before, we didn’t have any” he said. “To say it like Blanche DuBois, we had to depend on the kindness of strangers before.”

Garfrerick said the department faculty members are glad to have new offices.

“The office space is all new,” he said. “We had offices before, but they were really storage spaces. Now we have a space we can live in.”

Although the department is still engaged in a few construction projects in the new facility, classes started right on time, Garfrerick said.

“Classes started right away on the first day of classes this semester,” he said. “One class in the main room is still only minimally lighted, but we’re in the process of getting that up.”

The keynote performance room has a total capacity of 449, Garfrerick said. The room will provide students the opportunity to host live performances.

“Almost from day one, the students have been beside themselves with excitement,” he said. “They’re excited about the future and their cool new space.”

UNA entertainment industry major Maggie Mitchell said she’s excited about the new space for her major.

“I have three classes (in the new location),” she said. “It’s cool because we have the classroom environment, but when it’s hands-on, we have the studio right there, and it doesn’t take up class space.”

The new facility better connects students to their resources, said UNA entertainment industry major Annabel Barboza.

“The new department actually offers a better way to get students involved and connected with not only each other but with the new technology that the department will be offering,” Barboza said.

Despite the off-campus location, Mitchell said it’s relatively easy to get to class on time.

“It’s still pretty convenient to get there even though it’s downtown,” she said. “It’s not that far from campus, but I can see how it would be challenging right after another class.”

Garfrerick said the new department space is still in a state of change.

“It looks different even now than it did at the beginning of the semester, and there are still more improvements to be made,” he said. “We are still in the midst of construction. There are still several things to finish up—like getting our technology fully set up in the lab.”

Mitchell said she can see differences already, even though the facility is not completely finished.

“Instead of just being this small area at the top of the GUC, we have a legit department now,” she said. “It’s just really convenient and cool, and I’m excited to see when it’s completely finished.”

But, Garfrerick said, one of the biggest changes to the department has not been a new piece of equipment or construction project on the new building.

“There’s just this sense of community we didn’t have in the old place,” he said. “We were grateful for what we had before, but now it’s a really different vibe.”