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Birmingham mayor wants to turn historic auditorium into museum expansion

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — Mayor-elect Larry Langford said he favors demolishing Boutwell Municipal Auditorium to make way for an expansion of the nearby Birmingham Museum of Art.

“I want to see the Boutwell torn down and the land given to the museum of art so it can live up to its full potential,” said Langford.

He announced the proposal Thursday to more than 700 people at Operation New Birmingham’s annual meeting at the Alabama Theatre

Langford said the city spends several million dollars to maintain Boutwell, which doesn’t bring in enough revenue to cover its costs.

Boutwell dates to 1924 and was designed to be one of the finest in the South. With an art deco interior, its main arena can accommodate up to 6,000 people and a smaller exhibition hall will hold a maximum of 1,000.

The aging structure has prompted city maintenance and upgrade projects.

In the past, city leaders have advocated merging Boutwell and the museum, a recommendation in the Regional Cultural Arts Master Plan of 2002.

At present, the museum is able to display only 25 to 30 percent of its collection at one time, said museum director Gail Andrews.

Part of that is because works on paper are not able to be displayed in natural light for sustained lengths of time, and displays are rotated periodically to keep the museum fresh.

But part of it is because the museum simply does not have enough display space, Andrews said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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