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DECEMBER 2016

VOLUME 1

ISSUE 7

IRON CITY

INK CHRISTMAS IN THE X

cit y

Entrepreneurs hope to revive a holiday bustle not seen in decades. 20 INSIDE

BUSINESS

Style with a story Downtown designer Heather Wylie Fleming purveys unique experiences, not ‘disposable fashion.’ 6

SIPS & BITES

HAPPENINGS

FACES

A star in the making

With a bright future in track and field ahead, Woodlawn’s Jayla Kirkland has a deeper agenda that fuels her. 18


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IRON CITY INK

IRONCITY.INK

ABOUT

BUSINESS

SIPS & BITES

HAPPENINGS

SIGHTS

FACES

DECEMBER 2016

B’HAM BIZARRE

NECK OF THE WOODS

DISCOVER

12 CAMARADERIE OF CORPS: Dancers share what it’s like to dance in ‘George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker.’

BUSINESS

FACES

B’HAM BIZARRE

COLLABORATIVE CARE: ‘Unheard of’ health systems’ partnership opens up support for breast cancer survivors and their families. 14

PRESERVING HISTORY: Paul Boncella serves as a relic repairman of sorts at the Linn-Henley Research Library. 26 STYLE WITH A STORY: Downtown designer purveys unique experiences, not ‘disposable fashion.’ 6

NECK OF THE WOODS

WORTH THE INVESTMENT: Birmingham Wholesale Furniture revives old sign’s flair. 8

SOUTHSIDE: UAB biology professor and Antarctic explorer tapped for exclusive national club. 29

HAPPENINGS HEARING IZCARAY’S VISION: ASO conductor plans festivals to showcase variety of musical influences. 10 C

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DISCOVER DECEMBER’S BEST BETS: Your quick guide to metro Birmingham music and events scheduled this month. 32

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ABOUT

EDITOR’S NOTE

D

o you remember what Christmas used to be like downtown? I’ll confess that I don’t – I’m still a comparative newcomer to Birmingham. But our reporter Jesse Chambers took a look this month not only at the days when downtown was the place to shop for Christmas, but also at how those days may be making a comeback. If you want to get your Yuletide cheer downtown this year, we have a guide in this issue with just a few of the places to shop, dine and be festively entertained. But there’s more to think about in December than just Christmas. This month’s issue includes the stories of one of Woodlawn’s most promising athletes, the man behind Five Points’ famous fountain and a photographer who is attempting to capture the stories behind meth addiction in Alabama. Whether skating at Railroad Park, shopping for gifts at a local small business or simply spending time with family and friends, may every day this month be merry and bright.

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with a story

Downtown designer purveys unique experiences, not ‘disposable fashion’

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By JESSE CHAMBERS esigner Heather Wylie Fleming is the owner of Bohemian Bop, a boutique and fashion studio in the Loft District downtown. And despite the funky, personal feel of her place — almost like an old dressmaker’s shop with a modern edge — Fleming is in tune with modern marketing. For example, she tends to agree American consumers live in the so-called “experience economy.” “That’s what consumers want,” she said. “No matter what you’re selling, consumers don’t want just a product anymore. They want an experience. They want to come in [and] buy the product, and then they have a story to tell behind it.” Fleming tries to give her customers what they want while staying rooted in what she loves: making fashionable but wearable clothes, often using knits in unexpected ways. And her shop is meant to be a place to enjoy and savor as one orders or picks out a garment, a place filled with art and fabric and family memorabilia, a place where the garments have more than colors and sizes — they have stories. Fleming, 29, a graduate of the University of Alabama and Parsons School of Design in New York, has two lines. Bohemian Bop is the name for her line of custom, Alabama-made T-shirts and crop tops. Bohem is Fleming’s line “for a little more sophisticated audience,” she said, and features slip dresses, maxi dresses and other garments. The joining point between the lines is Fleming’s use of knits. For example, she showed off a couple of dresses made from knit, long-sleeved tops with skirts attached. One skirt was silk, the other a lush, floral-print sateen. This love of knits is not surprising. Fleming was born in Florence, a clothing manufacturing hub. Her father, Terry Wylie, and grandfather, Paul Wylie, started a well-known T-shirt manufacturer called Tee Jays. And she’s the fourth generation of her family to work in the industry. Bohemian Bop moved into its current space — about 1,000 square feet — in March 2015, according to Fleming. “When I moved in here, I did not intend for it to be a

Florence native Heather Wylie Fleming said she tries to give her customers what they want while staying rooted in what she loves: making fashionable but wearable clothes, often using knits in unexpected ways. Photos by Sarah Finnegan.

Bohemian Bop is located on First Avenue North.

retail shop,” she said. “It was only meant to be my studio. People kept wanting to come in to shop, and I started by appointment only, but people wanted normal hours.” The shop began keeping regular hours in May 2016. Fleming sells the uniqueness of her products and her space. Everything is currently made and designed in house, according to her website. However, she said, she doesn’t want to overwhelm customers with garments. “I don’t want to do product overload because … that can take away from the experience a little bit,” she said, adding that she wants to keep “a cool, funky vibe.” Fleming heightens the atmosphere for visitors with prints and other artwork from local makers. For example, near the massive cutting table hangs a colorful chandelier made of sewing ribbon by Andy Hopper. She said the art is something more than just the product to experience. Customers at Bohemian Bop can often customize the items they purchase, involving them in the process, according to Fleming.

“If someone pulls a skirt and it’s too short, we can say, ‘We’ll make one to fit you,’ and they can choose their color,” she said. Shoppers can help design their own T-shirts. “We have the silk screen in back if people want to choose one of our pre-existing graphics and then choose a blank T, we can make that for them, and they can watch the process happen,” Fleming said. “So it’s just changing the shopping experience.” Shoppers in search of products with stories behind them can find garments on sale at Bohemian Bop that are made in small batches. “Some of the pieces are one-of-a-kind, made with vintage lace or something that cannot be recreated from a pattern six months later,” Fleming said, Fleming and Hope Carrico, her pattern maker and another Florence native, also make garments from their fabric scraps as often as possible —bralettes or slip dresses, for example — giving the clothing a subtle eco-vibe. “I will tell (Carrico) to make something out of the scraps, and she’ll make something beautiful and one-of-a-kind,” Fleming said. This approach keeps the clothing keeps “extremely unique and different and interesting, and it feels like it’s meant for you, or for me, not for everybody,” Fleming said. Fleming said she thinks young consumers are turning back to craft in their clothing. “Fashion in the ’80s and ’90s was just volume, volume, volume,” the designer said. “I think now people like to purchase and keep something. It’s not disposable fashion. It’s more keepsake fashion.” Bohemian Bop, at 2115 First Ave. N., is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, including area retailers that carry the products, call 2023311 or go to bohemianbop.com.


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Birmingham Wholesale Furniture revives old sign’s flair

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By TARA MASSOULEH

irmingham Wholesale Furniture and Style Advertising are teaming up to bring a little extra flair to Second Avenue South. Robert Ajam and his business partner, Simon Eid, commissioned the help of Monty Ballard at Style to refurbish the 65-year-old furniture store’s original sign. Birmingham Wholesale’s original owners, the McLeods, hung the 64-footlong sign outside the store when they opened in 1951. The sign, which spent the past eight years in storage and many before that accruing wear and tear while hung up, received a much-needed touch-up from Birmingham painter Kenny Smith. Each of the four 16-foot-long metal panels was repainted to match its original style. The panels were then placed in a new frame and attached to the brick wall. The panels were so big and heavy, Ballard said they had to be put up with a forklift. “It’s a big job,” he said. “But the owners wanted to keep the original antique look in accordance to the neighborhood, so this was the only way.” When David McLeod opened Birmingham Wholesale 65 years ago, it was a private showroom where designers and decorators came to find high-end, one-of-akind furniture for their clients. Ballard said Birmingham’s top designers and decorators frequented the store for its quality products. After 20 years, the McLeods opened their doors to the public, but didn’t change the store’s name. “It’s kind of an anomaly because you’d think it was inexpensive or cheap furniture, but it isn’t,” Ballard said. “It’s probably the best furniture in the state of Alabama, but still at wholesale prices.” Ballard has seen Birmingham Wholesale Furniture grow into a true Birmingham

Birmingham Wholesale Furniture Co. staff, from left: Sharon Smith, Pat Baker, Herbie King, Linda Thomas, General Sales Manager Dan Cash, Martha Spengler, Nicole Lambert and owner Robert Ajam. Photo by Frank Couch.

original over the years. He worked with the McLeods as president of his own advertising company, Ballard Advertising. When Ajam and Eid bought the business in 2008, Ballard worked with them for three years until the two switched to an advertising agency in their home state of Louisiana. Despite the switch, Ajam and Ballard remained friends. In April 2015, Ballard decided to merge his advertising agency with Style Advertising, where he is now vice president. About six months later, Ajam came to him with a proposition. He wanted to put up a new sign. “We’ve had it stored for this long of a time,” Ajam said. “One day I kind of looked at it and said, ‘I think it would be really great to put that old sign up.’ It’s good that we didn’t throw it away.” Ajam said the sign was originally put away for storage when he bought the store and its across-the-street warehouse in 2008 because of the renovations he had done to the building. He added black awnings and new paint around the building’s front

entrance on 22nd Street, but only repainted the brick along the building’s Second Avenue South side, which is, coincidentally, the side customers see first when they put the store’s address into a GPS. “You look at the building, and there is no indication,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Where is Birmingham Wholesale Furniture?’” Originally, Ajam asked Ballard to help paint the Birmingham Wholesale Furniture name on the brick. Ballard enlisted painter Kenny Smith to work on the job, but a few days later Ajam called him back and said he had a better idea. He had remembered the old sign, dug it out of storage and now wanted it restored. “We could have done any normal sign,” he said. “We could have done a neon sign for less than half the price, but that wasn’t the issue for us. This is really priceless. The downtown Birmingham historic flair is priceless, and you just can’t duplicate it.” After all is said and done, the resurrection of the 64-foot-long, four-foot-tall, full-color horizontal sign will cost about $4,000 to $5,000.

“The money is definitely worth it to keep the integrity,” Ajam said. Ajam said keeping the business’s integrity was an understanding from the moment he decided to pursue it. It continues to be one of his biggest concerns today. He said he loves the glamor of old Birmingham and hopes to keep the feeling alive as a part of the downtown Birmingham landscape. “We are trying to build a destination,” he said. “We want to be a part of the grand downtown because we’re right in the middle of it.” Ballard said he thinks the project will draw attention not only from Birmingham Wholesale patrons and passersby, but also from other business owners. “Through the next five years I think you’ll find a lot of their neighbors doing the same thing — refurbishing their buildings because it adds value,” he said. “Anytime you can take something that’s been around for 65 years, refurbish it, but keep the original look, you’re helping build this city even bigger and better.”


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BUSINESS

Innovative new office campus to bring fresh energy to North Avondale

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By JESSE CHAMBERS vondale is booming, but the boom has occurred primarily along the neighborhood’s 41st Street commercial strip near Avondale Park. Now, the industrial district of North Avondale will get a lift from a new $11 million office campus. One of the creators of Avondale Works — at First Avenue North and 39th Street — said the 71,000-square-foot project will be different. “[It’s] not like anything that’s been done in Birmingham before,” Adam Eason said. “I can’t think of anywhere in the Southeast this has been done.” The developer is Cushman & Wakefield/ EGS Commercial Real Estate, where Eason works in asset management and industrial brokerage. He’s partnering on Avondale Works with his father, Marc, who also developed the adjacent Avondale Commerce Park in the 1970s. The goal behind Avondale Works is to create the atmosphere and the campus-like,

The new Avondale Works facility is expected to be complete in early 2018. Rendering courtesy of Cohen Carnaggio Reynolds.

collaborative feeling of a co-working environment, while also catering to more established companies that will still have their own privacy in their own suites, Eason said. Avondale Works will offer 51,000 square feet of office space and 20,000 square feet of indoor common area. Eason said the campus — to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2018 — will include enhanced common areas and the modern atmosphere that younger employees want and not a private office in a corner. But established companies that want regular office space will be at home there,

too, he said. “It’s not going to be marble walls like a downtown office building, but it’s going to be very nice finishes that are very contemporary but provide a good-quality finish and feel,” Eason said. Avondale Works is not primarily a co-working space, but it will have about 2,600 square feet dedicated for that purpose. Entrepreneurs can rent single desks or small private offices. According to Eason, the development is something Birmingham badly needs: flexible space for young, fast-growing companies, like those graduating from the

Innovation Depot, where startups have private office suites, but where there are a lot of common areas and a lot of collaboration within the development, he said. These young firms “are having a hard time finding existing office spaces where they can continue that atmosphere for their employees,” Eason said. The existing buildings to be converted into Avondale Works are an odd group of small structures — one is only 3,500 square feet, according to Eason. “We have the ability to connect them in a way that creates this really cool campus,” he said. Richard Carnaggio is the architect and, Eason said, has created something special. WatsonBruhn is the builder. Interior demolition has begun, according to Eason. Construction is expected to take 14 months, and it could begin in January. Eason said he is excited about the location and believes it will show the great opportunity in North Avondale. “First Avenue North provides such a great conduit to the heart of downtown,” he said, noting the site’s easy access and proximity to Sloss Furnaces. “We think it’s a great destination.”


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DECEMBER 2016

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hearing Izcaray’s vision Conductor Carlos Izcaray is in his second season with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. Photo courtesy of Carlos Izcaray.

Conductor of Alabama Symphony Orchestra plans festivals to showcase variety of musical influences

By EDWARD FORSTMAN

W Courtesy artsBHAM

ith the first part of the 2016-17 season behind them, Carlos Izcaray and the Alabama Symphony Orchestra look forward to a loaded second half, an abundance of riches that will include a two-part mini-fest dedicated to American music, a new cycle of the Classical Masters series in the chic Lyric Theatre and a kaleidoscopic new-music happening, the Sound Edge festival. The orchestra has been recognized around

the world for its leadership role in new music. Izcaray said he sees the Sound Edge festival as a way of furthering ASO’s reputation and bringing even more new music to local audiences. “The Sound Edge festival is an evolving initiative from what the Alabama Symphony Orchestra is already doing, which includes avant-garde musical compositions, but will also begin to play with concert format, playing with bands for example, and trying to get everyone out of their comfort zones,” Izcaray said. Performing at Iron City on Feb. 10, the ensemble will be out of their comfort zones in the best way, and might even earn some street cred with Birmingham’s hipster scene

when they take the stage with NYCO, a band led by former Chicago Symphony percussionist Ted Atkatz. Individual members of the orchestra will perform at WorkPlay on Valentine’s Day for a smaller set with a Shakespeare theme. Local breweries will supply refreshments, and local radio stations will be involved. DJs are a part of the mix, too, Izcaray said. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Classical Masters series focuses on the works of composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Haydn and Vivaldi. “It makes sense, now that the Lyric has come back, to do programs like the Classical Masters there,” Izcaray said. “It seems very appropriate to the venue.”

Before they journey out of their Alys Stephens Center home base, however, ASO will give a sequel to last year’s Russian festival. This year’s will focus on the wealth of 20th and 21st century American composers, including Duke Ellington, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein and Charles Ives, alongside Richard Danielpour, John Adams and the orchestra’s Sound Investment composer, Susan Botti. Izcaray emphasized the variety of the programs, saying, “The American festival coming up in a few months is definitely something I wanted to highlight in my second season: the broad, wide range of composers that this country has had throughout its history.”


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HAPPENINGS The Alabama Symphony has several festivals and unique shows planned this season. Photo courtesy of Kelly Newport.

He added this fascination ran through the whole season, mentioning the premiere of Matthew Aucoin’s piano concerto, the Americana-inspired “Louisville Concerto” of Jacques Ibert, and the “Concert Paraphrase” of Timo Andres. Later concerts in the season will feature American giants Samuel Barber and George Gershwin. The clusters of festivals are not an accident of programming. Izcaray said he thinks this scheduling approach offers

a concentrated and ultimately more impactful experience than if they were dispersed throughout the season: “The word [festival] says it all: [It’s] celebratory, a way for the community to come together and listen to something thematic and tied together.” Of course, achieving these changes and getting outside of comfort zones has been done only with the support of the orchestra itself, and Izcaray notes their importance to other

ideas, like his plans for educational outreach. “We’re trying a bunch of new educational initiatives,” Izcaray said of his second full season as ASO’s music director. “We had our first set of explorer concerts with little kids, events with students from the Alabama Symphony Youth Orchestra and honor students at the university. These initiatives are growing and expanding and getting more enthusiasm, and the musicians are key to these projects.” The rapport evident between the orchestra and their conductor has only increased in Izcaray’s second season. When he spoke of the development of that relationship, he praised the ensemble’s work from the beginning, while saying that the second season’s success has depended on an increasing awareness of the orchestra’s capabilities. “They were very efficient from the get-go, but once you get to know people, you begin leaning on their strengths. The pieces they play with me are there for very specific reasons.” This 2016-17 season has attested to the high level of Alabama’s only full-time orchestra and the well-planned vision of its leading man. In addition to the festivals, there will be concerts featuring two definitive violin concertos, Arnaud Sussman playing the Brahms and Benjamin Beilman taking on the Tchaikovsky, and two opportunities to hear the magnificent spectacle of Verdi’s “Requiem.” Editor’s note: This article was produced in partnership with artsBHAM. To learn more about them, visit artsbham.com.


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CAMARADERIE of the

CORPS

Alabama ballet dancers share what it’s like to dance in ‘George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker’ By RACHEL HELLWIG

Above: Snow scene in “The Nutcracker.” Below: The waltz of the flowers. Photos courtesy of Melissa Dooley.

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Courtesy artsBHAM

t’s a beautiful sight, any day or night, to see dancers whirling in a winter wonderland. Though there’s little snowfall outdoors during a Birmingham December, there are daily snow showers inside Samford University’s Wright Center for Alabama Ballet’s annual production of “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker.” In “The Nutcracker,” the scenes of the “Waltz of the Snowflakes” and the “Waltz of the Flowers” are filled with ensembles of identically clad pale snowflakes and pink flowers who move in unison, creating shapes and patterns across the stage and presenting the thrilling sight of many people dancing together at once. For Alabama Ballet’s Gillian Connor, Asha Gangolli and Jenna McCoy, dancing in the snow corps and flower corps is a regular part of what dancers call “Nutcracker season.” Corps dancers may not be alone in the spotlight like the Sugar Plum Fairy, but their function is just as vital to classic story ballets. One might think of them as similar to the chorus in an opera or symphonic work. In the world of ballet, the term “corps” is short for the French term “corps de ballet,” which translates to “body of the ballet.” Dancing in corps roles requires synchronicity, moving as one like a body. The snow corps and flower corps have their own special rehearsals where polishing that quality of synchronicity is emphasized. “With corps roles, you have to look like everyone else,” Connor said. “If not, the ballet isn’t as magical or impressive.” It’s no surprise that, through the process, corps dancers grow close and become a sisterhood full of camaraderie. “When you’re huffing for air and your legs feel like Jell-O underneath you, a friend’s smile from across the stage can give you the extra oomph you need to get through the show,” Gangolli said. As professionals at Alabama Ballet, the three danced in George Balanchine’s famous version of the ballet. Originally premiered by New York City Ballet in 1954, it’s credited with helping “The Nutcracker” become the holiday phenomenon that it is today. Alabama Ballet is one of eight

companies in the world licensed to perform this work by The Balanchine Trust. Though the snow corps and flower corps evoke images of delicacy and grace, they are roles that also require speed, power and stamina. “Unlike some versions of ‘The Nutcracker,’ the corps roles for the women in Balanchine’s version are some of the hardest in the ballet,” Gangolli said. McCoy said they are full of “dynamic footwork and grand allegro [big jumps].” Connor finds Balanchine’s choreography more enjoyable than other versions and said she thinks it allows dancers to look their best onstage. Performances of “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” begin the second week of December at Samford University’s Wright Center. Backstage in the dressing rooms, Connor, Gangolli, McCoy and the other women of the snow corps and flower corps listen to Christmas music as they get ready for the shows. Headpieces, stage makeup and tutus help transform them into sparkling snowflakes and fantasy flowers. On the stage, the scenery, lighting and special effects create a magical world full of the thrill and unpredictability of live theater. Catching a snowflake on your tongue?

It’s not uncommon for dancers in the snow corps to swallow paper snow while dancing or inhale it or have it get stuck in their false eyelashes. The wintry precipitation in the “Waltz of the Snowflakes” is depicted not just through dancing but also through theatrical effects. Despite any distraction or discomfort such incidents might cause, they always make for funny stories to share offstage afterward. Though viewers may not realize it, dancers in the corps use lighthearted rituals to energize each other during performances. One example happens at the beginning of the “Waltz of the Flowers,” when the flower corps gathers around the soloist character known as the Dew Drop Fairy, hiding her from view. Right before they reveal her to the audience, they whisper something silly to her that they’ve decided upon beforehand. “It’s a way to get a quick laugh, become calm and remember to have fun,” Connor said. “Plus, it’s fun to surprise her with something new each time.” Throughout it all, Connor, Gangolli and McCoy’s love of ballet and of “The Nutcracker” in particular fuels and sustains them throughout the many performances of this holiday classic they dance in each season. That and, of course, the mutual support they give and receive. “We are all very encouraging to other each,” McCoy said. “It's like a family.” Alabama Ballet’s production of “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” runs Dec. 9-11 and Dec. 16-18. For more information, go to alabamaballet.org/ george-balanchines-the-nutcracker. Editor’s note: This article was produced in partnership with artsBHAM. To learn more about them, visit artsbham.com.


DECEMBER 2016

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holiday gift guide For the

COLD NATURED True Grit Frosty Tipped Pullover $145 Throw on an extra cozy layer when cooler weather hits with True Grit pullovers at Alabama Outdoors. Alabama Outdoors 3054 Independence Drive, Homewood 870-1919

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BIRD WATCHER Ferris Wheel Hummingbird Feeder $65 Parasol feeder of handblown recycled glass from Mexico, based on the Perfume Bottle style. Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery 2805 Second Ave. S. 328-1000

For the

BUSY HOMEOWNER The Maids gift certificate Any amount Give friends or family the gift of a clean home, worry-free. The Maids 871-9338 maids.com

For the

POWER NAPPER Malouf Shredded Gel Dough™ Pillow Sizes and prices vary Shredded Gel Dough™ clusters create a cooler, softer memory foam pillow that is breathable and moldable. Bedzzz Express bedzzzexpress.com


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DECEMBER 2016

COLLABORATIVE care R “ BUSINESS

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‘Unheard of’ health systems’ partnership opens up support for breast cancer survivors, families

By GRACE THORNTON

ebecca Di Piazza isn’t sure anything could have surprised her more than being diagnosed with breast cancer at 24. So she fought. And a decade later, she’s not only still here, but she’s also helping others who are walking the same road. Di Piazza serves as project coordinator of Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center, a community-based therapeutic program aimed at offering holistic support for breast cancer survivors. “It’s a joy to be able to serve women and their families as they are going through this journey,” said Di Piazza, who calls downtown Birmingham home. “When you’re dealing with a diagnosis, it’s a lot, and you shouldn’t have to be battling it alone.” The program is special because it’s “pretty unique” on the nationwide medical scene, she said. It’s a noncompetitive collaboration of the city’s medical care systems: Brookwood Baptist Health, Grandview Medical Center, St. Vincent’s Health System, UAB Medicine, UAB School of Nursing and the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham.

We’ve got the smartest minds in health care in one of the most competitive health markets in the country meeting monthly to try to address needs, implement change and eliminate barriers for care.

REBECCA DI PIAZZA

PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE

IMPLEMENTING CHANGE

That kind of collaboration is unheard of, she said. “There’s nothing like this anywhere where you have all of these competing organizations coming together for the betterment of patients and caregivers,” Di Piazza said. “That’s our biggest accomplishment. We’ve got the smartest minds in health care in one of the most competitive health markets in the country meeting monthly to try to address needs, implement change and eliminate barriers for care.” As a result, Forge is able to offer a range of services from the moment of diagnosis until end of life, she said. Funded by the Women’s Breast Health Fund, the program has dozens of trained advocates who can mentor survivors and connect them with support services, community resources and counseling. “Our advocates are trained volunteers who work with survivors within their health systems,” Di Piazza said. “They can go with them to appointments and help them with logistical issues like transportation, and they

Rebecca Di Piazza serves as project coordinator of Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center, a community-based program that offers support for breast cancer survivors. Photo by Frank Couch.

can help them with adjusting to what we call the ‘new normal’ that they’re living in.” Forge also offers a 24/7 telephone support line for survivors and their families. The program doesn’t offer medical advice, but it offers everything it can in the realm of social support coordinated with area health systems, she said. Forge’s services are needed, Di Piazza said, because data shows that in 2015, there

were an estimated 3 million cancer survivors nationwide, and 77 percent of those surveyed said they would be most comfortable talking about their cancer questions with another survivor. But many of them struggle to get the support they need, and many of them find themselves facing more fatigue-related issues and health problems than before their diagnosis, according to the survey.

Data like that is a significant force behind Forge’s mission. It’s why Di Piazza and founder Madeline Harris have no problems justifying why Forge is a worthy cause to invest their lives in. And for Harris — like Di Piazza — breast cancer is personal. “My daughter was diagnosed with it the day before her 35th birthday,” Harris said. Her daughter had three small children. And she had no family history of cancer. “I worked for 25 years with UAB,” Harris said, who co-founded and directed the UAB Interdisciplinary Breast Cancer Center, now the Breast Health Center at Kirklin Clinic. “But it’s very different when it’s your own child. It really gave me an insight from that perspective,” she said. And Forge is meant to be the place where families like hers in five surrounding counties can go to get resources, ask questions and “have someone with a bended ear,” Harris said. It’s a patient-centered model Harris said she believes will be replicated nationwide for breast cancer survivors, as well as survivors of other diseases. Competition and barriers are coming down in the Birmingham area in the breast cancer treatment realm, and “we’re ahead of the game on that,” she said. “It is phenomenal. It is really unprecedented. And we are excited about it.” For more information, go to forgeon.org.


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Photographer captures the many faces of Alabama meth users to invoke contemplation on kindness

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By JESSE CHAMBERS

lthough his artwork may suggest otherwise, photographer Jared Ragland tries to show that everything’s not black and white. “There’s a pervasive narrative that exists about drug users, particularly methamphetamine users, who are stereotyped as these poor, uneducated people living these chaotic lives,” said Ragland, who is also a faculty member at the UAB department of art and art history. Ragland recently used his camera to tease out the complex human realities underlying this stereotype while working with UAB criminologist Heith Copes on a study of meth users on Alabama’s Sand Mountain. Over a 15-month period, Ragland took 15,000 striking, often painfully intimate pictures of users while Copes interviewed them regarding their lives and addictions. The project — the men have tentatively titled it “Good Bad People” — will likely lead to a book, an exhibition and a website, Ragland said. But more important, the men wanted “to show that these people’s lives are complex and tragic, but also hopeful, and they — just like everybody else — are trying … to do the best they can,” he said. Judging by the images that Ragland already is showing to critics and curators, he has succeeded. A middle-aged meth user named Fred, whose T-shirt reads “This is what awesome looks like,” smiles for the camera and holds up a glassine envelope of crystal. “That’s two eight balls of meth,” Ragland said. A woman named Willow, looking into her mirror, struggles to shoot some meth into her arm. “In this photograph, she has stuck herself six or eight times searching for a vein,” Ragland said. “She’s crying.” A pretty young addict named Alice — she once had a chance for an acting career in New

York and Los Angeles — sleeps with her boyfriend on their sofa in the couple’s trailer. “[It] was the filthiest place I’ve ever seen,” Ragland said. In August, Ragland exhibited 10 of the Sand Mountain pictures at San Francisco’s Rayko Photo Center. In October, Ragland opened a solo show featuring 22 of the images at Georgia’s LaGrange College. He showed six of them at The Center for Photography in Greenville, South Carolina. It’s no surprise Ragland was passionate about this project. In addition to art photography, he is a documentary Photos photographer who has worked courtesy in such locales as Haiti and of Jared Eastern Europe. Ragland. “After the first day, I knew I found the ideal partner for the project,” Copes said. “He was incredible in the field, and his pictures are truly amazing.” Ragland said getting to know the addicts as real people made him want “to look deeper, to be more kind, to be sensitive.” And Ragland — while stressing he doesn’t seek to elicit “a bleeding-heart response” — seems clear about the effect he would like the images to have. “I think I would ask my audience … to think about nuance and complexity, to think about kindness, of giving people a little bit more than we normally want to give,” Ragland said. “[The users] have done things that could easily be defined as bad, but they are more complex and have richer stories,” Copes said. “Jared recognizes this and strives to show it in the photographs.”

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S t ar IN THE MAKING WOODLAWN’S JAYLA KIRKLAND:

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By SAM CHANDLER

erched on a shaded bench no more than 50 meters from the oval track at Hayes K-8 School, Myra Hawkins was asked to forecast the athletic future of her prized pupil, Woodlawn sprinter Jayla Kirkland. Seated to Hawkins’ right on a mid-August afternoon, the high school senior had already accomplished more in five years of track and field than all but a handful of her peers. The Team USA T-shirt clinging to Kirkland’s frame bore evidence to the fact. But going forward, Hawkins contemplated, what could Kirkland achieve? “I don’t think there’s a limit,” she said. A former Alabama State University standout in the sprints and jumps, Hawkins reinforced her answer with a list of titles she believes are within Kirkland’s future reach: Pan-American, NCAA, world, Olympic. Each designation was followed by the word “champion.” But the soft-spoken Kirkland confidently added one more honor to the list. “In the future, be the fastest woman in the world,” Kirkland said. She might just do it. A 13-time AHSAA state champion, four-time national champion and two-time Team USA representative, Kirkland has bloomed into one of the nation’s top up-and-coming sprint talents in her three years at Woodlawn High School. The 17-year-old said she doesn’t plan on slowing down. Equipped with a deep-rooted conviction, fighter’s mentality and unblinking vision, Kirkland is a star in the making.

PRECOCIOUS TALENT

When Hawkins first met Kirkland in 2013, Hawkins was the head track and field coach at Woodlawn, and Kirkland was a shy eighth-grader at Hayes. Hawkins invited her to run with the

high school team at the conclusion of her middle school season. That spring, Kirkland went on to capture a pair of third- and fourth-place finishes in the 100- and 200-meter dashes at the Class 6A state outdoor track meet — Alabama’s highest classification at the time. Dating to her elementary years, Kirkland had always pushed herself to compete regardless of the opponent. That’s why, as a 10-year-old, she welcomed head-tohead footrace challenges from her older brother, Jacquez, and his friends. “They’d always want to race me for like a dollar or something,” Kirkland said. “They would always knock on my door and say, ‘Where’s Jayla?’ Like they wanted to race me.” More often than not, the speedy Kirkland bested boys who were two, three and four years her superior. As the victories piled up, so did her trips to the neighborhood market, where Kirkland said she used the winner’s payout to purchase snacks. The races did more, however, than satiate her hunger. From an early age, they helped Kirkland recognize her talent and realize her potential. Her self-awareness only grew once she began to participate in formal track meets as a seventh-grader, when she never finished lower than fourth place all year. Kirkland’s breakout eighth-grade campaign only engendered further affirmation, as it provided her with confidence and conviction both on and off the track. That now-ingrained sense of self-belief, Kirkland said, has enabled her to stay keyed in on her athletic and academic progression. “I stay focused because I knew I was different from others,” Kirkland said. “I knew that I had a really bright future ahead of me.” Three all-time state records, one Gatorade Alabama Track and Field Athlete of the Year accolade and a 3.7 grade point average signify her dedication to fulfilling that vision.

FIGHTER’S MENTALITY

No longer at Woodlawn, Hawkins now teaches at Avondale Elementary and serves as Kirkland’s personal coach. She said one thing that sets Kirkland apart is her determination — her sheer doggedness to push herself to the pinnacle of her craft.

Woodlawn High School senior Jayla Kirkland has evolved into one of the United States’ top up-and-coming sprinters. Photo by Shay Allen.


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FACES Twice this past summer, Kirkland’s fighter-like mentality stormed to the surface. The first instance occurred in mid-June at New Balance Nationals Outdoor, the de facto national championship of high school track and field. Facing seven of the nation’s top sprinters in the championship 200-meter final, Kirkland anchored down and held off a rally from her closest opponent. “That was that fighter in her,” Hawkins said. “She wasn’t going to let her pass her, so she actually picked up her speed.” Kirkland crossed the finish line in a personal-best 23.15 seconds to repeat as national champion and earn an automatic qualifying spot for the Olympic trials. “I wouldn’t say I was shocked, because I knew I could do it,” Kirkland said with confidence. “The starter said, ‘Set, go,’ and I pushed, and then I only saw my lane. I didn’t see anybody else beside me.” Although Kirkland qualified for the Olympic trials, she instead opted to compete at the U.S. junior national championships, where she claimed a spot on Team USA for the IAAF (track’s governing body) World U20 Championships in Poland. Hawkins said timing and finances played a role in the decision to bypass the trials, as the junior national meet in Clovis, California, concluded right before the trials began

in Eugene, Oregon. On the world stage, Kirkland’s fighter-like mentality surfaced again. Although she had been nursing a hamstring/IT band injury before the late July meet, Kirkland decided to try and run her primary event, the 200. Fifty meters from the start line, however, she said she felt her hamstring on the verge of collapse, waiting to pull at any second. Kirkland refused to veer off the track, instead choosing to jog the final 150 meters. Her finish time of 53.07 seconds stood as a testament to her grit rather than a flaw on her resume. “I just wanted to cross the finish line,” Kirkland said.

OLYMPIC DREAMS

Kirkland’s personal finish line, however, is nowhere in sight. Without pausing to think, she can click off an extensive list of her short- and longterm goals. This season, which for Kirkland begins with indoor track in December and will end with outdoor track in July or August, she wants to defend all of her state and national titles. Within Alabama, she’ll be nearly unbeatable. Within the United States, she should be in contention for every major prep

championship. She also said she wants to try out for the U.S. squad that will compete this summer at Pan-Am Juniors, an international competition for countries in North, Central and South America, along with the Caribbean. That’s the first major title Hawkins believes her athlete can win. After that, it’s anybody’s guess. Heavily recruited, Kirkland said she wants to run collegiately and eventually turn pro. Already, Hawkins said, “she’s close” to professional caliber. Then, there are Kirkland’s Olympic dreams. Like a diner at her favorite restaurant, she already has identified the Olympic years in which she hopes to compete — pre-picked and ready to order. There’s the 2020 appetizer, 2024 entrée and 2028 dessert. Then maybe, just maybe, she’ll give it one last go-round with a 2032 post-dessert cocktail. Mojemilat Payne, Woodlawn’s current head track and field coach, said Kirkland possesses the necessary qualities to reach those lofty goals. “I have no doubt that she’s going to be an amazing star for the U.S.,” Payne said, herself a former mid-distance standout at Alabama A&M University. “I’m looking

forward to seeing her one day in the Olympics, because she has the quality; she has the work ethic.”

DEEPER AGENDA

Kirkland was born in Birmingham and has always lived in or near the Woodlawn community. Having attended Whatley Elementary School before Hayes and Woodlawn, she is a product of the Birmingham City Schools system. It’s an experience that Kirkland admits hasn’t been the easiest, but it’s one that has shaped her into the person she is today. At every track she steps on, near or far, she carries the stamp of her city and her community. But Kirkland also carries a message. The athletic ambassador said she wants to help shed the stigma that “great things don’t come out of Birmingham City Schools,” because as Kirkland can attest, they most certainly do. “It’s just how you go and how you perform — perform in the classroom, on the track, on the court, on the football field, anything,” Kirkland said. “It’s just what you make it. I just want people to know that good things do come out of Birmingham; good people do come out of Birmingham.”


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COVER STORY: Entrepreneurs hope to revive a holiday bustle not seen in decades.

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Retail Gifts/Jewelry Unique/Different Entertainment Food/Beverage


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Downtown, Christmas Eve, 1963. Photo courtesy of Tim Hollis.

When downtown retail was king By JESSE CHAMBERS

On the cover: Bryan Stanfield of Trattoria Centrale, Ace Morgan of Alchemy 213 and Saramia Arenas of Rainy Day pose downtown in November. Above: Melissa Kendrick, owner of Sojourns, a fair-trade boutique on Third Avenue North. Photos by Shay Allen.

Redefining Birmingham’s

SHOPPING CENTER Y By JESSE CHAMBERS

ou probably don’t think of downtown Birmingham as a retail hotbed for holiday shopping. That may be changing, however, as new retailers take a chance on the area, joining other hardy souls who’ve stuck it out there for years or have opened shops over the last decade as the City Center has begun to awaken. In fact, we discovered that downtown — defined for this article as the old retail and commercial core north of Morris Avenue — already provides a surprising number of places to shop. And given its other culinary and cultural offerings, downtown could provide a fun Christmas experience for shoppers who wish to spend at least one day away from

the crowded malls. One unlikely new downtown merchant is Brandon Hays, a young attorney. He recently opened Artefact Supply, a men’s boutique on Second Avenue North next to El Barrio restaurant. This new venture makes perfect sense to Hays, who said the ongoing boom in downtown apartments and entertainment makes establishments like his a necessity to serve the increasing number of young professionals like him who love city living and have chosen to stay in Birmingham. “You had the bars come, then you had the restaurants come,” Hays said. “Now you have grocery shopping with Publix. So the only thing — the only thing — that’s missing is retail.” Many of the new downtown residents have no desire to drive to the suburbs to buy things they want, according to Hays, one of the founders of Second Row Law,

near Urban Standard. “I was living and working downtown, and you would have to drive over the mountain, either to the Summit or down to the Nordstrom Rack, to find stuff that you liked,” he said. That desire to be at the center of the new downtown action was also a driver for Ace Graham, one of the founders of Alchemy 213, a boutique that opened on 20th Street North in 2015. “I spent the last couple of years in Bologna, Italy, and any time you travel in the European Union, you start in the center of the city and go out from there, and we wanted that kind of energy,” Graham said. “We wanted to have a space that was geographically OK for everyone to reach from the interstate.”

See RETAIL | page 22

Retail is rebounding in downtown Birmingham. However, as baby boomers and their parents will testify, it will be difficult to bring back the throngs of people who did their Christmas shopping downtown in the decades after World War II. In the 1940s, 1950s and even 1960s, downtown Birmingham was the region’s center of social and commercial life. Two large department stores, Loveman’s and Pizitz, anchored the district. They were joined by numerous other department stores and specialty retailers that included Parisian, Blach’s and Burger-Phillips. There were large “five and dimes” — back when things actually cost 10 cents — including Woolworth’s and Newberry’s. Downtown even had a Christmas Carnival parade in the 1930s and 1940s and another Christmas parade for three years in the late 1960s. The large retailers went all out with lush holiday decorations in their windows and on their retail floors. Pizitz, for example, was known for its lavish “Enchanted Forest” display on the sixth floor featuring Santa and his elves. But after WWII, Americans fell in love with the automobile and the new highways that opened the vast suburbs. Shopping eventually followed them as malls became dominant. The trend began in Birmingham with the opening of the Roebuck Plaza Shopping Center in 1957 and Eastwood Mall — the first covered mall in the South — in 1960. In addition, chains and big-box stores offered crippling competition for the small, local retailers that served as downtown’s backbone, alongside steady decreases in the city’s population. By the 1970s, the decline of downtown

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Christmas decorations hang above 20th Street in the 1960s. Photo courtesy of Tim Hollis.

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CONTINUED from page 21 retail was evident as even more malls opened — Century Plaza near Eastwood Mall in 1975 and Brookwood Village in 1974. By the end of the 1980s, nearly all of the large downtown stores had closed, including Pizitz, which had been bought by McRae’s, and Loveman’s. Parisian — later bought out by Belk — continued to operate other locations but closed its downtown flagship store in 1989. But downtown slowly turned things around,

setting the stage for its recent comeback. Birmingham’s City Center, like others around the country, is seeing a renaissance driven largely by a romance with the vitality and convenience of urban living shared by many millennials and Gen Xers and even some baby boomers, especially empty-nesters. Commute-free shopping seems to be the final piece needed to satisfy this new downtown generation. No one is predicting the return of the big department stores of Birmingham’s past, but downtown retail seems to have woken up again.

Steve Gilmer, owner of What’s On Second — a collectibles shop on First Avenue North — is also bullish on downtown. “As more people move downtown, you will find the businesses that are needed to support those people will move back,” said Gilmer, a retail pioneer who opened in 2007 in his original location on Second Avenue North. “Retail is going to come with more and more people down here. It just has to.” Many other Southern cities already have thriving downtown retail, according to Hays, who said he was inspired to open Artefact after discovering Stag, “a really cool men’s store” in Austin, Texas. Virtually any kind of retail can now succeed downtown, according to Graham. “With all the residents who are going in right now, people need things, so you have a lot of opportunity to service these people to keep them from having to go other places,” he said. ”There’s room for everybody,” Hays said. “Particularly with the condo developments and hotels that are slated to come

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on line … you’re talking about a much more vibrant city, particularly after dark.” In fact, Birmingham is no longer just a commuter city that rolls up the sidewalks downtown in the evening, Hays said. “I experience quite a bit of my traffic after 5 o’clock,” he said. “Customers come in whether they are waiting for a table at El Barrio or Bamboo or just out and about walking around — bar-hopping and restaurant-hopping.” Downtown merchants will get another boost with the opening of the mixed-use development in the old Pizitz department store, according to Graham. “You’ve got retail spaces going into the bottom of the Pizitz building,” he said. “You’ve got retail space popping up everywhere. We felt like it’s only a short amount of time before it gets back to the way it used to be in downtown Birmingham.” Like Hays, Gilmer said the opening of the new Publix grocery store will further enhance downtown livability, which helps increase the appetite for retail. “Suddenly, city living downtown makes more sense now,” Gilmer said. “We will follow up probably with drug stores (and) sooner or later, we’ll have some of the national chains opening up.”


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FACES Gilmer and Graham are both optimistic about the future. “We have reached a momentum of development downtown that will be hard to stop,” Gilmer said. “We feel like there’s going to be a tremendous difference in the environment for shopping and retail downtown in the next 18 months,” Graham added. But you don’t have to wait 18 months to enjoy shopping downtown. There are numerous merchants who are gearing up for the holiday rush. Retail establishments — as well as other food and entertainment options — available this holiday season include:

RETAIL

(Clothing and more)

►Artefact Supply: This men’s shop, similar to J. Crew or Banana Republic, carries shoes, boots, denim and henleys, including brands not sold elsewhere in the Magic City. 2211 Second Ave. N. Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. 283-2169. artefactsupply.com. ►Bohemian Bop: Bohemian Bop is the retail shop and work space for fashion designer Heather Wylie Fleming. She sells her casual Bohemian Bop line of tops and T-shirts, and her more upscale Bohem fashion. 2115 First Ave. N. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 202-3311. bohemianbop.com

►Sonya Faye’s Tailor & Clothier: This tailor also has clothing for sale off the rack. 1709 Third Ave. N. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 326-0009. ►Shebet’s Boutique: Women’s clothing and accessories, including one-of-a-kind items imported from Kenya and Ghana. 2209 Third Ave. N. Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. 327-9845. facebook.com/shebetsboutique. ►Alchemy 213: European-inspired boutique offering men’s apparel, as well as glasses, shoes, athletic clothing, art and lifestyle goods. Brands include Nike Select and Puma Select. 217 20th St. N. Monday-Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 983-7955. alchemy213. com.

GIFTS AND JEWELRY

►Levy’s Fine Jewelry: Founded in 1922, Levy’s sells such items as watches, antique and vintage jewelry, and necklaces and pendants. 2116 Second Ave. N. Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. 251-3381. levysfinejewelry.com. ► Sojourns: This fair-trade shop carries a wide variety of gift items and clothing

See RETAIL | page 24

In your mailbox every month. Online all the time. www.ironcity.ink @IronCityInkBham @IronCityInk DECEMBER 2016

VOLUME 1

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ISSUE 7

INK

CHRISTMAS IN THE X

Entrepreneurs hope to revive a holiday bustle not INSIDE

Style with a story Downtown designer Heather Wylie Fleming purveys unique experiences, not ‘disposable fashion.’ 6

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seen in decades. 20

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A star in the making

With a bright future in track and field ahead, Woodlawn’s Jayla Kirkland has a deeper agenda that fuels her. 18

There will be several holiday-themed concerts at Birmingham’s restored vaudeville house this month, including a performance by the Blind Boys of Alabama. Staff photo.


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artists present holiday musical favorites. For show times and ticket prices, call 324-2424 or go to redmountaintheatre.org. ► McWane Science Center: McWane presents its Winter Wonderland and the Magic of Model Trains through Dec. 31. Attendees can enjoy the Ice Slide, a zip line and the McWane Train. The model trains exhibit features more than a dozen displays. 200 19th St. N. For tickets and information, call 714-8300 go to mcwane.org. ►Birmingham Children’s Theatre (BJCC): The BCT will present “A Christmas Carol: The Musical” at the BJCC Theatre Dec. 9-10, recommended for children 5 and older. The BCT will also present an adaptation of “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas” on Dec. 3 and 10. For prices and show times, call 458-8181 or go to bct123. org. ► Cathedral Church of the Advent: The church will present several programs of sacred and holiday music, including some daytime events. For details, call 251-2324 or go to adventbirmingham.org. ► Ice Rink at Railroad Park: Birmingham’s popular midtown oasis will offer a temporary ice-skating rink through mid-January. The Boxcar Cafe will sell hot chocolate and refreshments. There will also be a market with holiday-themed merchandise on Saturdays through Dec. 24. For details, call 521-9933 or go to railroadpark.org.

RETAIL

CONTINUED from page 23 from dozens of countries around the world. 2017 Third Ave. N. Monday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. 3235680. adventureartpeace.com. ► Charm: Another pioneering boutique, Charm — owned by Chatham Helmers — offers new, vintage and handmade jewelry, handbags, scarves, art and other gifts. 2329 Second Ave. N. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 322-9023. charmonsecond.com. ► Mike’s Jewelry: Located downtown since 1965, Mike’s buys and sells vintage and estate jewelry and musical instruments. 2324 First Ave. N. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 251-0005. mikesjewelrystore.com. ► Advent Bookstore: This overlooked store stocks books, gifts, music, jewelry, church supplies and other faith-themed gift items. 2015 Sixth Ave. N. Sunday, 8:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.; Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 323-2959. episcobooks.com. ► BMA Museum Store: This retail shop at the Birmingham Museum of Art has a wide selection of jewelry, sculpture, pottery, books and children’s items, with items from Alabama and around the world. 2000 Rev. Abraham Woods Jr. Blvd. Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.; Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 254-2565. artsbma.org. ► Rainy Day: Artist and entrepreneur Saramia Arenas opened this handmade retail collective in October in a converted shipping container at Railroad Park with unique items from makers in Birmingham and around the Southeast. Corner of 14th Street and First Avenue South. Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 6 p.m. rainydaybham.com. ► The Regions Harbert Plaza: Located at 1901 Sixth Ave. N., it features some small retail establishments, including a location of Norton’s Florist (521-6625), Cards & Gifts on 6th (715-9222) and Bamawise, which features Alabama-made products (919-0981, bamawise.com).

UNIQUE AND DIFFERENT

► What’s On Second: This store carries a wide variety of gifts, collectibles and antiques — everything from vintage postcards to lunch boxes and action figures. 2323 First Ave N. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 322-2688. facebook.com/ whatsonsecondbirmingham. ► Birmingham Oddities: A unique collectibles shop, where Adam Williams sells everything from old photographs and signs to human skulls and dental instruments. 2300 First Ave. N., Suite 101. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 664-5347. birminghamoddities.com or facebook.com/ birminghamoddities. ► Jim Reed Books: Founded in 1980

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FOOD & BEVERAGE

Alchemy 213 is a European-inspired boutique offering men’s apparel, as well as glasses, shoes, athletic clothing, art and lifestyle goods. Photo by Sarah Finnegan.

and billed as a “museum of fond memories,” this shop offers thousands of used and collectible books, magazines, newspapers, movie posters and many other items. 2021 Third Ave. N. Open Tuesday-Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 326-4460. ► Faith Skate Supply: This shop, open since 1995, offers quality boards, as well as clothing and other specialty items. 1305 Second Ave. N. Tuesday-Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. 244-1102. faithskatesupply.com. ► Redemptive Cycles: A nonprofit bike shop, Redemptive offers bikes, parts, repairs and maintenance. 1305 Second Ave. N. Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 2245631. redemptivecycles.com.

AND THAT’S NOT ALL

Holiday shopping trips are not solely about shopping. Holiday entertainment available downtown includes:

► Alabama Theatre: The Alabama, as always, gets into the Christmas spirit with its Holiday Film Series, featuring nine movies and some shorts programs. It begins Dec. 9 with “White Christmas.” There also will be other holiday-themed events, including a performance by the Alabama Symphony Orchestra Dec. 2. 1817 Third Ave. N. For events, prices and show times, call 252-2262 or go to alabamatheatre.com. ► Lyric Theatre: There will be several holiday-themed concerts at Birmingham’s restored vaudeville house, including performances by the Blind Boys of Alabama and the Steel City Men’s Chorus. For details, call 216-3118 or go to lyricbham.com/ events. ► Red Mountain Theatre Company: The RMTC presents its Holiday Spectacular 2016 from Dec. 2-18 at the RMTC Cabaret Theatre, 301 19th St. N. RMTC Conservatory students and Birmingham’s best local

Hey, what’s a shopping trip, to downtown or anyplace, without taking time to eat? Food options downtown include: ► Looking for a good Southern meat and three? Options include Fife’s Restaurant (2321 Fourth Ave. N., 254-9167), Magic City Grill (2201 Third Ave. N., 251-6500) and Green Acres Café (1705 Fourth Ave. N., 251-3875, greenacres-cafe.com). ► For stick-to-the-ribs chicken and waffles on a cold day, check out Yo’ Mama’s Restaurant (2328 Second Ave. N., 9576545, yomamasrestaurant.com). ► For the best hot dogs downtown, go to the legendary Gus’s Hot Dogs (1915 Fourth Ave. N., 251-4540). ► For food that’s fast but good, check out the pizza, pasta and salads at Trattoria Centrale (207 20th St. N., 202-5612, trattoriacentrale.com). ► For something a little fancier, check out Cafe Dupont (113 20th St. N., 3221282, cafedupont.net) or Century Restaurant and Bar in the historic Tutwiler Hotel (2021 Park Place, 458-9707, centurybirmingham.com). ► Need a caffeine boost to get through your shopping trip? Check out Urban Standard (2320 Second Ave. N., 250-8200, urbanstandard.com), Revelator Coffee (1826 Third Ave. N., revelatorcoffee.com) or Octane Coffee in the Uptown entertainment district adjacent to the BJCC (5455076, octanecoffee.com).


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A FOUNTAIN OF life F Artist behind ‘Storyteller’ landmark in Five Points continues to be ‘what I am, who I am’ By ALEC HARVEY

rank Fleming keeps an eye on his fountain. The renowned sculptor is not driving much anymore, but when he’s headed down 20th Street, he’ll glance to the right to be sure that Five Points South’s “Storyteller fountain” — one of the most iconic pieces of art in Birmingham — is in good shape. He’s allowed, because he created it. “I do usually look at it, but not in a braggadocios sort of way,” said Fleming, 70, who lives just up the street on the portion of 21st Avenue South known as Diaper Row. “I like to see if it’s clean and see if all of the frogs are spraying water.” The Storyteller, in which a ram-headed figure is reading to a flock of different kinds of animals, is the sculptor’s best-known work, something that he couldn’t have even dreamed of as a child in Bear Creek, a small community in northwest Alabama. There, the young boy grew up battling a speech impediment that left him virtually a mute. “I wasn’t able to verbalize,” Fleming said. “I could talk to the animals, and I could sing, but I couldn’t talk to humans, including my family. I had a severe block.” But then he went to Florence State University (now the University of North Alabama), where he received four successful years of speech therapy and, much to the farm-boy’s surprise, learned he had a knack for art. “I was going to major in biology, but I inadvertently took an art course and found that I had some talent,” Fleming said. The artist ended up minoring in biology, but his artistic side took over. Since 1972 — after stints as an art teacher in Huntsville schools, graphic artist at Hayes Aircraft in Birmingham and NASA in Huntsville, and two graduate art degrees at the University of Alabama — Fleming has been working in Birmingham, establishing a worldwide reputation with his often whimsical ceramics and sculptures. “I deal with animal imagery, with plant life and with my surroundings, what I grew up with and what I know,” Fleming said. “That’s pretty much how I would describe my art.” Fleming was successful even before “the fountain.” He’s had more than 85 one-man shows and countless group shows around

Within the past year Birmingham artist Frank Fleming has recovered from a bout of sepsis and returned to creating art. His recent projects include an outdoor chess set commissioned in Shelby County and a work at “an exclusive beach community.” Photo by Frank Couch.

the country. He’s had pieces on display at (and bought by) the Smithsonian Institution and other prestigious galleries, and he’s always at work on commissions small and large. But it was the 1983 murder of Birmingham art dealer Malcolm McRae, a good friend of Fleming’s, that led to what the artist acknowledges he is best known for, the sculpture at Five Points South. “His mother had some memorial money and wanted me to do a tile lip around the fountain,” Fleming said. “But the city got involved and said let’s do something a little more elaborate.” It was installed in 1992. “It turned into what I called ‘The Storyteller,’” Fleming said. “The ram man is reading a book to all these animals. It’s a peaceable kingdom, with the lion, deer, turtle, rabbit. Some of them don’t get along in real life, but they do in my sculpture.” Philip Morris, an expert on Birmingham architecture and former executive editor of Southern Living, said with “The Storyteller”

and other works, Fleming “has created a lasting place for himself in the civic realm as well as for private collectors.” “I think ‘The Storyteller’ has become a much-loved civic landmark,” Morris said. “You see children enjoying it today, and that’s always a good sign.” “The Storyteller” was not without controversy. Some said the goat-headed man, just steps away from Highlands United Methodist Church, was a Satanic symbol. “It really did bother me at first, because there was so much innocence in the sculpture,” said Fleming, who says he is a religious man. “But had they said nothing, no one would have really realized the fountain was there. … The controversy led to unbelievable publicity, and people started collecting my work more and more.” Following a Fleming exhibition at the Birmingham Museum of Art last year, the artist all but disappeared, battling sepsis, which he said started with a spider bite. He spent six months in Huntsville in treatment and rehabilitation, and he said he came near death.

“Until the second week of December [2015], I hadn’t worked since last May [2015],” Fleming said. “I had a lot of catching up to do.” Working every weekday, Fleming’s projects include an outdoor chess set commissioned in Shelby County and a project at “an exclusive beach community.” He has any number of commissions at any one time. Some of those pieces mean more to Fleming than the famous works he’s constructed in Birmingham and elsewhere. (You can get more information on them at frankflemingart.com.) “I’ve got work in quite a few places, and it does mean a lot to me, but it becomes just another piece of work,” Fleming said. “I don’t get hung up on the importance of my pieces of work. A little piece I can hold in my hand can be as important as that Five Points fountain.” In the end, Fleming just likes making art. “I still enjoy working very, very much,” he said. “It’s what I am, who I am, and how I am.”


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PRESERVING history Paul Boncella serves as a relic repairman of sorts at the Linn-Henley Research Library

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By SYDNEY CROMWELL

s Paul Boncella stretches out a map from 1541 on his worktable, I immediately lean in to look at the location names and the intriguing illustration of a tribe of cannibals and an unidentified dog-like animal that draw the eye. For Boncella, however, the real story is in the map’s edges, the back and the paper itself. “These maps actually have lots of clues about their origins on them,” he said. Boncella is the book mender and map conservator at the Linn-Henley Research Library. It’s a job he began four years ago after a stint as a music professor for local community colleges and a few years as a concert organist. He also teaches genealogy classes and helps out at the circulation desk, but much of Boncella’s time is spent repairing, stitching and encasing various materials that the library doesn’t want to see deteriorate. “When it’s all done, I know they are going to survive through the centuries,” Boncella said of his materials. Boncella is called upon to repair a variety of books and pamphlets, but he said city directories are probably the most frequent item laid on his table. The books are heavily used by researchers studying the history of homes or their own ancestry, and the directories take a lot of damage. “They were basically books that were intended to last for one year … but we’re still using the ones from the 1880s, and everything else up to the present, so they get an awful lot of wear and tear,” Boncella said. “By the time I get to them, they’re usually fragments.” The tools of Boncella’s trade include several types of fabric and cloth, acidfree adhesives, replacement covers and sometimes a needle and thread. Boncella said many types of book repair can end up causing more damage to the book in the long term, so he’s always careful to put in the extra time to mend them properly.

ON THE MEND

Boncella showed me the cover of one city directory sitting on his shelf to be repaired. It was no longer attached to any of the pages, and pieces of the binding seemed ready to fall away if I breathed too heavily. Then he compared it to a freshly mended directory, with a brand-new cover and all

Paul Boncella, the Linn-Henley Research Library’s book and map conservator, studies a map on his light table. Photo by Sydney Cromwell.

the pages secure within. “When I get done, basically that raggedy old thing gets transformed into something like this here,” Boncella said, holding the mended directory. For the people who come to Linn-Henley from across the U.S. and even other nations to do their research, Boncella’s work is critical to making sure they’ll have access to the years of records they need. Linn-Henley has a surprisingly large collection of old donated maps, and working with them is Boncella’s favorite part of the job. He estimated that he works with a few hundred of them per year. “We have the luck of having a number of map connoisseurs living in this town, who when they died left us their collection,” Boncella said. “The real bonus was the maps. I never imagined I would work with as many maps as I do here. As a matter of fact, it’s exceedingly rare.” His approach to the maps is different from the books that come to his office. Boncella wants to conserve as much of the original condition of each map as possible. When a new map arrives, he looks for things like tears, sale prices, dirt spots and more that make up the story of each document. One memorable map had what appeared to be grease spots, but a look with a magnifying glass showed they were tiny cinder burns

from the map being read near a fire. “These maps actually have lots of clues about their origins on them,” Boncella said. “People in the future — because we haven’t scrubbed them to death — can actually study them, perhaps in microscopic detail.” A lot of maps, like the one from 1541 that so captured my interest, have made their way through the ages with minimal damage. Boncella said this is partly due to high quality paper at the time, which had less acidity than later paper maps. But much of it is due to the preservation work of the owners before the maps arrived at Linn-Henley. Other maps, however, come into the library “abused terribly.” They have been stored or displayed poorly, and Boncella has to do his best to reassemble maps that have turned brittle and broken into fragments. Some of those jobs can take eight to 10 hours to complete. Boncella said he has worked with two maps that had fallen into such disrepair that many pieces were about the size of confetti. Indeed, one is still in his office, enclosed in plastic to keep the pieces together, until he can get the right kind of Japanese mulberry paper and about 20 hours to put the pieces back together again. Once a map is repaired, Boncella places it in a Mylar plastic enclosure so researchers can continue to study it without the risk of

further damage. “When it’s all done, I know they are going to survive through the centuries,” Boncella said.

TRACING ROOTS

When he’s not hard at work on a book or map, one of Boncella’s main loves is genealogy. He teaches classes around the area as well as at the library, and his main areas of specialization are African American and Native American genealogy. Due to the difficulty of tracing slave families prior to the Civil War, Boncella has gathered and studied a variety of records in Jefferson County for people to “bridge that particular gap” in studying their ancestry. He said he’s almost finished with another set of research on pre-1865 slave residents of the area. “It is difficult, and it is challenging for them, but they can do more with it than you might think they can,” Boncella said. Between old books and old families, Boncella has plenty at Linn-Henley to keep him busy. “I think I probably have the best job in the entire system because I get to do things with my hands; I get to do research for my classes, which is really fascinating,” Boncella said. “I can’t imagine a better job in a library than the one I have.”


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CENTRAL CITY

Symbols of the season light up downtown By JESSE CHAMBERS No one would expect a 30-story office building would become an icon embodying Birmingham’s holiday spirit. But the Regions Center downtown has assumed that status since its completion in 1972. The building, originally called the First National-Southern Natural Building, is famous for its huge Christmas symbols — trees, a wreath and a stocking — displayed in colored lights on the building’s sides. Alabama News Center called the building — headquarters for Regions Financial Corporation — “Birmingham’s most visible sign of the holidays.” The design was made possible by the fluorescent light tubes placed above each window during the building’s construction. The lights were designed to illuminate the structure at night year-round — “what Southern Natural Gas planned as a ‘Tower of Light,’” writes local historian

Tim Hollis in his book, “Christmas in Birmingham.” The 1970s energy crisis disrupted that plan, but the Christmas lights went on. “A gas company executive visited Houston, Texas, during the holidays and saw a building with a similar ‘curtain wall’ design,” said John McGowan, head of facilities for Regions Bank. “Upon his return, the executive described the display to others and led an effort that resulted in the holiday displays we know today.” It was building superintendent Ollie Nix who mapped out the original grid, according to Hollis. Colored gels are placed over certain lights in a pattern that creates the designs. “The on-site maintenance team begins working on the display three to four months ahead of illumination to complete the process and check all the lights before the switch is flipped,” McGowan told ANC. “The Christmas designs remain as the oldest continuous Yuletide sight downtown,” Hollis writes.

FOREST PARK

WOODLAWN

Local inventor considers herself an artist at heart

Expanded Network Nights program returning to Birmingham City Schools

By JESSE CHAMBERS Mazy Holiday, a Forest Park resident and successful designer of innovative, sustainable consumer products, also has a background in sculpture. In fact, she considers herself an artist at heart and said that experience helps her. “If I didn’t have so much experience designing, drawing and building, my products wouldn’t be as successful,” she said, adding her artist’s sensibility also pushes her to make her products more aesthetically pleasing. And Holiday must be doing something right. She was named a finalist in two categories in the 2016 Stevie Awards for Women in Business. She was a finalist in the Female Entrepreneur of the Year category, and her company, WhatBox Inc., was a finalist for Most Innovative Company of the Year. The winners were set to be announced in New York Nov. 18, after Iron City Ink’s press date. Holiday, with 15 years experience in 3-D design and construction, has designed such items as Paples, which are shreddable, recyclable staples; the eco-safe FragranceFilters, which capture lint, dust and pollen while releasing scents; and the iStand Walking Cane with SmartWalk Technology, which helps prevent

Regions Bank’s holiday lights are an iconic part of the Christmas season. Photo courtesy of Regions Bank/Jeremy King.

Photo courtesy of Mazy Holiday.

dangerous falls by seniors. She said she loves inventing. “The most exciting part is when you put something together that you thought of, and it actually works,” Holiday said. Holiday said she is most proud of her fall-prevention products. “You can see the result,” she said. “They’re actually going to help people.” FragranceFilters are available at walmart.com, after the inventor’s successful pitch to the retailer in June. Lindsay Williams, president of Blanks Boutique in Birmingham, was also a Stevie Awards finalist as Female Entrepreneur of the Year.

Last academic year, the Birmingham Education Foundation launched its first full year of the popular Network Nights. At the school-based Network Nights in several area elementary and high schools, diverse groups of school and community partners gathered to spend time discussing issues in schools. As part of Network Nights, attendees discussed changes they wanted to see in their schools, from sports and debate teams to problem solving around afternoon dismissal. Network Nights not only produced experiences like internships for students, but also joint symphony performances with Carver High School and the Alabama Symphony, English language classes for Spanish-speaking parents and the launch of a second-grade tutoring program at Tuggle Elementary School. As part of some new developments to the Educate Local program sequence, Network Nights will also be held in communities across the east and west regions of Birmingham. The first community-based Network Nights were held at Social Venture in Woodlawn and Faith Chapel Christian Center. Program manager Andrew Mitchell described this new model, saying: “We wanted to provide a space in more of Birmingham’s neighborhoods for students, educators, residents and community partners to gather and discuss issues that matter to them” The next Network Nights will be Dec. 1 at Birmingham-Southern; Dec. 6 at YMCA Roebuck; Jan. 26 at Oliver Elementary School; and Feb. 23 at Ramsay High School. – Submitted by Whitney Williams.


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SOUTHSIDE

UAB Antarctic explorer tapped for exclusive club By JESSE CHAMBERS UAB biology professor James McClintock, an expert in polar and marine biology, is best known for his work in Antarctica and has been featured on CNN, NPR and National Geographic. And McClintock’s efforts have now been recognized in a special way. He was selected this fall to join the famed Explorers Club, a New York club founded in 1904, according to a UAB news release. The impressive list of past members includes pilot Charles Lindbergh, mountain climber Sir Edmund Hillary and astronaut Neil Armstrong. “I’m humbled to walk in their footsteps,” McClintock said. Old movies and TV shows may Professor James McClintock in Antarctica. Photo foster a romantic image of explorcourtesy of UAB. ers, but the reality is somewhat different, according to McClintock. “I see the contemporary explorer Antarctic marine organisms and has lectured more firmly grounded in science and educa- on the subject in Europe and North America. tional outreach,” he said. “However, there “Antarctica, like the Arctic, is a barometer is no question that there remains a place for of climate change … of what we all collecexploration for exploration’s sake.” tively face due to a human-induced warming The Earth’s uncharted frontiers include the climate and ocean acidification,” McClintock deep sea, which remains largely unexplored, said. McClintock said. In 15 years working the Antarctic PeninCredited with 235 scientific publications, sula, McClintock said he has seen the changes McClintock has explored the sea through his firsthand and wants to help increase public work in Antarctica. awareness. “(The region) has proven a treasure trove “It’s my hope that by telling my story, an of discovery, in part because marine life there objective non-political narrative, I’m making has received little study due to the challenges a difference in educating the public at large of working in such a remote, cold place,” that we must recognize the magnitude of this McClintock said. environmental issue and act to ensure we, and His work has centered largely on the our children, live on a sustainable planet,” he marine chemical ecology of seafloor commu- said. nities and the toxic chemicals that determine McClintock was last in Antarctica two who eats who or the chemical warfare that years ago, but he plans to return twice in takes place to occupy space, he said. 2017. In January, he’ll lead an educational He’s also worked in an Antarctic drug cruise about climate change for travel comdiscovery program with other researchers, pany Abercrombie and Kent. including UAB biologist Chuck Amsler. In February, he’ll return to the U.S. Palmer McClintock said he and the team have dis- Station on the Antarctic Peninsula to do covered chemicals that have proven active marine chemical ecology research. against melanoma skin cancer and MRSA McClintock’s new book, “A Naturalist biofilms, which help the strain of staph to Goes Fishing: Casting in Fragile Waters from survive inside the human body. the Gulf of Mexico to the South Island of New The last decade, McClintock has stud- Zealand,” has a strong environmental bent ied what he calls “the dramatic impacts” of and timely information about climate change climate change and ocean acidification on and ocean acidification, he said.


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EAST LAKE

FOREST PARK

Clairmont Avenue, 41st Street awarded streetscape grants By JESSE CHAMBERS The Forest Park and South Avondale neighborhoods have been awarded a streetscape grant that will pay for much-needed improvements on Clairmont Avenue in Forest Park Village and the 41st Street South commercial corridor in Avondale. The project — largely funded by the city of Birmingham — will also link the two bustling areas with new signage and street markings, improved lighting and intersection signals, and enhanced sidewalks and street paving, according to a news release from the Forest Park and South Avondale Merchant Association. The total amount of money to be spent has not been determined exactly but should be about $1.2 million, according to merchant association president Marco Morosini. The merchant association and area landlords have contributed about $10,000, he said. The improvements are much needed, according to Morosini. The area “needs to be cleaned and polished up,” he said. “We need to be able to make both areas more walkable and bike-friendly, as well as connect the two neighborhoods.” After the city finalizes some of the project details, all of the parties involved will meet to determine the specific improvements to be made in each area, and they will also have a better idea as to when work will begin, according to Morosini.

Church effort making ‘community happen’ By JESSE CHAMBERS East Lake United Methodist Church wants to create spaces to make community happen, said the Rev. Sally Allocca, the historic church’s senior pastor. And food is a great way to build community, according to Allocca. “Everybody eats,” she said. During the summer, the church — along with nonprofit group P.E.E.R. Inc. — sponsors the East Lake Farmers Market. But East Lake UMC offers opportunities year-round to get people together using food. The church has its own diner and bakery. There is also a thrift store. And proceeds support the church’s community outreach, including free and low-cost food programs, according to Allocca. The diner, open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., serves Southern-style food. “We don’t claim to be foodies, but we serve healthy, hearty meals,” Allocca said. Lunch plates, including drink and dessert, are $7. Seniors age 60 and older eat for $4 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

WOODLAWN

Juanita Jones, Edrecus Carey and Mitchell Nash in the East Lake United Methodist Church kitchen. Photo by Jesse Chambers.

The church has its own bakery that makes scores of goodies, including pies, cakes and bread. To order, customers can call the church Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The thrift store, open during diner hours, offers shoes, clothing, furniture and more. “When [patrons] come to the diner or pick up baked goods, it’s fun to go in there and look,” Allocca said. “We have lots of space in this building. We’re trying to make faithful, creative use of this space in a way that engages the community.” The church is at 7753 First Ave. S. For more information, call 836-3201 or go to eastlakeunitedmethodist.org.

FIVE POINTS

Residential project another boost to area’s re-emergence

UAB Educational Foundation buys hotel, plans ‘significant upgrades’ By JESSE CHAMBERS

By JESSE CHAMBERS Woodlawn’s revitalization continues with construction of a 12-unit, single-family residential development called The Cottages at Wood Station on 59th Street South near Georgia Road. Woodlawn Foundation and ARC Realty held an open house at the development in October. One model home was finished at the time, according to ARC’s Robin Edmondson. The three-bedroom, two-bath homes will come in three styles: the one-floor Woodlawn and the floorand-a-half Willow and Oak Ridge models, Edmondson said. She said the project’s styles are reminiscent of what homebuyers would find in Hoover or Homewood. The Cottages, to be built by Drake Homes, will share a large green space. Prices range from $182,000 to $209,000, according to the marketing materials. The Cottages are across the railroad tracks from the

DECEMBER 2016

The new Cottages at Wood Station development is under construction. Photo by Jesse Chambers.

Crestwood neighborhood, and the new development may benefit from that proximity, Edmondson said. “I believe the revitalization is coming over the tracks and spreading into Woodlawn,” she said. The new shops and other amenities in Woodlawn make The Cottages attractive, Edmondson said. “Where we are, you are walkable to all of that,” she said. Edmondson said she was pleased by the mix of people among the attendees at the open house. “We had both black and white empty nesters,” she said. “We had black and white young professionals.” Woodlawn Foundation was also involved in the recent construction of The Park at Wood Station, a mixed-income townhouse development on First Avenue South.

The UAB Educational Foundation now owns the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel — on campus at University Boulevard and 20th Street South — and plans major renovations to the facility, which is used often for meetings and conferences hosted by various university departments. The nonprofit foundation, which supports university operations, purchased the 298-room DoubleTree and its parking deck for $6.7 million, according to a news release. UAB already owned the land. In addition to 15,000 square feet of meeting space, the facility’s restaurants, parking and guest rooms draw university personnel and others, including patients of UAB Medicine. However, the facility is underutilized, officials say. “The significant planned upgrades will transform the facility to better support UAB and the broader community’s needs,” said Jodie Mote, Educational Foundation treasurer and controller. The hotel will remain open during renovations, Mote said. “The scope of renovations is not yet determined, but it is estimated renovations would begin in early-to-mid 2017 and could take up to 18 months,” Mote said. To solicit suggestions regarding hotel upgrades, officials with the foundation, UAB Facilities and Boston-based management company Pyramid Hotel Group will meet in the coming months with deans and other campus leaders, according to Mote.


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AVONDALE

Jesus and java fuel Episcopal coffee shop By JESSE CHAMBERS The Abbey, in bustling Avondale, is a coffee shop and has all the usual features of such establishments. Customers enjoy lattes, mochas and cappuccinos. They eat soups and baked goods made fresh at the shop. They read or chat with friends in laid-back surroundings. The shop’s walls display work by local artists. Despite that, The Abbey, which opened in February 2015, is not just any coffee shop. Established by the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, The Abbey is also a mission church. The purpose of The Abbey is to break down the sometimes forboding walls of old-line churches, become a vital part of a growing, diverse neighborhood and carry out a social-service mission. But, most important, the church also wants to attract younger generations to the message of Christ’s love, according to the Rev. Katie Nakamura Rengers, the Abbey’s vicar. “We wanted to reach out to younger people, especially millennials who are jaded, disappointed and detached from traditional church models,” Rengers said. “I think younger people see traditional churches as really focused on how many people they can get on a Sunday morning. They don’t want to be just another pledge card or another check in the offering plate. They don’t want to be just a number.” Rengers, 31, who grew up in Avondale and serves as associate rector for young adults at St. Luke’s, leads a Sunday afternoon worship service at The Abbey. Especially in the Bible Belt, Rengers said many young people perceive Christians as being right-wing politically, as well as “antigay, anti-science [and] close minded.” “Maybe people will come (to The Abbey) and not be converted but will experience Christianity in a positive way,” she said. There’s a Wednesday night service at The Abbey led by Margaret Franks, a lay missioner who co-manages the coffee shop with Rengers. “She and I also spend time behind the coffee counters,” Rengers said. “I’m behind the counter at least 20 hours a week. That’s just as much ministry time as anything.” A lot of The Abbey’s patrons describe it as a neutral space but a holy space, Rengers said. “It’s not like walking into a church,” she said.

Leah Desiderio. Photo by Jesse Chambers.

Because of this, The Abbey has the freedom to host unusual discussion groups and special events, according to Rengers. “Last year we had a series of theological debates — mostly clergy,” she said. “That’s not something you can stage in a traditional church. You’d get some pushback.’ The Avondale move has been fruitful, according to Rengers. “Our decision to be here and participate in the authentic community has paid off,” she said. In fact, the crowd The Abbey has attracted is more diverse than Rengers expected. “I thought most of our customers and our worshipping community would come from over the mountain — millennials, but over the mountain,” she said. “But I would say it’s more like 75 percent of the people who are really invested in the community piece of The Abbey are from this neighborhood.” The friendliness of The Abbey’s staff highlights what Rengers calls an overlooked aspect of Christianity — hospitality. “I tell my baristas and our worshipping community that the assumption we make is that every person who walks in here is a beloved child of God, whether they’re Christian or not or can pay for coffee or not,” Rengers said, referring to the homeless or other low-income people who visit or worship at The Abbey. “We treat people with that same dignity. We have a lot of people who come in here and are hungry and can’t pay for food. Out staff has done a good job of not making a big deal of that. They discreetly make a sandwich and present it as to any customer.” Along with social concerns, Rengers also has something practical she’s working on. “I’m still trying to perfect the latte arts,” she said, laughing. “Several of my baristas are good at it. I still have some practice to do.” The Abbey, at 131 41st St. S., features products from Red Bike Coffee and Birmingham Breadworks, as well as Piper and Leaf Tea in Huntsville.


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PUT THESE IN DECEMBER’S BEST BETS

HOLIDAY SPECTACULAR 2016 Dec. 2-18, Red Mountain Theatre Company, 301 19th St. N.

Celebrate the holidays with a spectacular display of all your favorite music of the season! Red Mountain Theatre Company Conservatory students perform alongside Birmingham’s best local artists to warm your heart and set the stage for a magical holiday season. Ticket prices start at $19. For tickets and show times, call 324-2424 or go to redmountaintheatre.org.

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INK

CHRISTMAS EVE AND CHRISTMAS SERVICES

Dec. 24-25, Cathedral Church of the Advent, 2017 Sixth Ave. N.

Saturday, 3:30 p.m., 5 p.m., 8 p.m., 11 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. Admission free. For information, call 251-2324 or go to adventbirmingham.org.

BIRMINGHAM BOWL

Dec. 29, 1 p.m., Legion Field, 400 Graymont Ave. W.

This is your family’s chance to be a part of all the events and local flavor leading up to the Birmingham Bowl and to experience serious football done Southern style. Enjoy all the pageantry and Southern fanfare of great college football in Birmingham—a place we rightly call the Magic City. This game, in its 11th year, will feature teams from the Southeastern Conference and the American Athletic Conference. General admission $30; reserved seats $50. For tickets, call 877-4649529 or go to birminghambowl.com.

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See this? It means we think you ought to go!

NEW YEAR'S EVE AT THE ALABAMA THEATRE Dec. 31, 6 p.m., Alabama Theatre, 1817 Third Ave. N.

Ring in 2017 with waltzes, operatic selections and a glass of Champagne with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. Admission $18-$75. Call 975-2787 or go to alabamasymphony.org.

OFFICIAL BIRMINGHAM CITY COUNCIL Dec. 5: Birmingham City Council Public Safety, Transportation Committee. 4:30 p.m. Birmingham City Hall, third floor, council chambers. Dec. 6: Birmingham City Council. 9:30 a.m. City Hall, third floor. Dec. 12: Birmingham City Council Economic Development, Budget and Finance Committee. 4 p.m. Birmingham City Hall, third floor, Conference Rooms D and E. Dec. 12: Birmingham City Council Governmental

Affairs Committee. 2 p.m. Birmingham City Hall, third floor, Conference Rooms D and E. Dec. 13: Birmingham City Council Public Improvements and Beautification Committee. 2 p.m. Birmingham City Hall, Conference Room A. Dec. 13: Birmingham City Council. 9:30 a.m. City Hall, third floor. Dec. 19: Birmingham City Council Public Safety, Transportation Committee. 4:30 p.m. Birmingham City Hall, third floor, council chambers. Dec. 19: Birmingham City Council Planning and Zoning Committee. 4:30 p.m. Birmingham City Hall, Conference Room A.

Dec. 19: Citizen Advisory Board. 7 p.m. City Council Chambers, Birmingham City Hall, third floor. The Citizen Participation Program is designed to achieve improved communication, understanding and cooperation between Birmingham citizens and city officials through increased personal contact between City Hall and neighborhoods and communities throughout the city. The public is welcome to attend.

Rooms D and E. Dec. 27: Birmingham City Council. 9:30 a.m. City Hall, third floor. Dec. 27: Birmingham City Council Education Committee. 2 p.m. Birmingham City Hall, third floor, Conference Rooms D and E.

Dec. 20: Birmingham City Council. 9:30 a.m. City Hall, third floor.

Dec. 27: Birmingham City Council Utilities Committee. 4 p.m. Birmingham City Hall, third floor, Conference Rooms D and E.

Dec. 23: Birmingham City Council Administration/Technology Committee. 1 p.m. Birmingham City Hall, third floor, Conference

Dec. 28: Birmingham City Council Committee of the Whole. 4 p.m. Birmingham City Hall, third floor, Conference Rooms D and E.


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DISCOVER NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION MEETINGS Dec. 6: Forest Park/South Avondale Neighborhood Association meeting. 6:30 p.m. Avondale Library, 509 40th St. S. Visit forestparksouthavondale.com for more information. Dec. 8: Roebuck Springs Neighborhood Association meeting. 7 p.m. South Roebuck Baptist/Community Church. Call President Frank Hamby at 222-2319 for more information. Dec. 12: Woodlawn Neighborhood Association meeting. 5709 1st Ave N. Call President Brenda Pettaway at 593-4487 for more information. Dec. 13: Highland Park Neighborhood Association meeting. 7 p.m. Upstairs meeting room of the Highland Park Golf Course clubhouse. Meeting notices are sent out to recipients of the Highland Park email list. If you wish to be included on this list, email President Alison Glascock at alisonglascock@ gmail.com.

Did we miss something? If you would like to have your neighborhood association meeting mentioned in next month’s calendar, email the meeting info to kwilliams@starnespublishing.com.

Dec. 20: Central City Neighborhood Association meeting: 6-7 p.m. Linn-Henley Library, Richard Arrington, Jr. Auditorium. Neighborhood social to follow at Tavern on 1st, 2320 1st Ave. N. Dec. 26: Crestwood South Neighborhood Association meeting. 6:30 p.m. 1220 50th St. S. Dec. 26: Crestwood North Neighborhood Association meeting. 6:30 p.m. Girls Inc. of Alabama. Dec. 26: Huffman Neighborhood Association meeting. 7 p.m. Cornerstone School, 959 Huffman Road. Dec. 26: Five Points South Neighborhood Association meeting. 6-7:15 p.m. Southside Library, 1814 11th Ave. S. Visit fivepointsbham. com for more information.

COMMUNITY Through Dec. 31: Winter Wonderland and the Magic of Model Trains. McWane Science Center, 200 19th St. N. Attendees can enjoy the Ice Slide, a zip line and the McWane Train. The annual Magic of Model Trains features more than a dozen different displays. Opens Nov. 19 at 10 a.m. Regular admission, plus $1 per train ride for nonmembers. For information, call 7148300 go to mcwane.org. Dec. 1: BAO Open House & World AIDS Day. Birmingham AIDS Outreach, 205 32nd St. S. BAO invites the public to visit the organization and learn more about its free community services. The event also marks World AIDS Day with a special service to remember those lost to HIV and AIDS. Complimentary hors d'oeuvres and beverages. 5 p.m. Admission free. For information, call 322-4197 ext. 107 or go to birminghamaidsoutreach.org. Dec. 2: Arlington Historic Home and Gardens Candlelight Holiday Program. Arlington

Antebellum Home and Gardens, 331 Cotton Ave. The program includes costumed "Spirits of Arlington" holiday entertainment, candlelight tours of the house and old kitchen and a reception. Admission is $20 at the door. 6 to 9 p.m. Call 780-5656 or go to arlingtonantebellumhomeandgardens.com. Dec. 3-4: Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens Holiday Open House. Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens, 331 Cotton Ave. This annual event kicks off the holiday season as some of Birmingham’s finest decorators fill the rooms at Arlington with old-fashioned holiday decorations. Guests can also enjoy holiday music, entertainment and light refreshments in the Garden Room. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. Call 780-5656 or go to arlingtonantebellumhomeandgardens. com. Dec. 4: Woodlawn Street Market, 55th Place, Woodlawn. This urban street market features produce, prepared food and arts and crafts from local vendors. Admission free. Noon to 4 p.m. For information, call 482-2650 or go to


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facebook.com/woodlawnstreetmarket. Dec. 5: BAO Bingo. Birmingham AIDS Outreach, 205 32nd Street South. 7-9 p.m. This popular monthly BAO event features bingo with cash and door prizes. $15 for 5 games; $1 for final bonus game. Call 322-4197 ext. 107 or visit birminghamaidsoutreach.org. Dec. 5: YP Kiwanis Social Hour: Carrigan's Public House, 2430 Morris Ave. This monthly event — a social time filled with civic engagement — is presented by Kiwanis Club of Magic City Young Professionals. Admission free. 6:30 p.m. For information, call 578-8467 or go to magiccityypkiwanis.org/meetings.

MUSIC Dec. 2: Alabama Symphony Orchestra Red Diamond SuperPops! Series. Alabama Theatre, 1817 Third Ave. N. Local favorite Kristi Tingle Higginbotham joins the ASO for holiday favorites, and during the second half of the show, the ASO will accompany the Oscarnominated film “The Snowman.” 8 p.m. Tickets range from $23-$48. To order, call 975-2787 or go to alabamasymphony.org. Dec. 2: Merry Everything! 4 the Holidays. Lyric Theatre, 1800 Third Ave. N. The Steel City Men's Chorus, along with the Birmingham Sugar Babies, will bring in the holiday season. 7:30 p.m. Advance tickets: $30 orchestra, $25 balcony; at the door, $35 orchestra, $30 balcony. For information, call 216-3118 or go to steelcitymenschorus.org. Dec. 4: Service of Choral Evensong. Independent Presbyterian Church, 3100 Highland Ave. Evensong is a service of evening prayer by song, drawing on fourth century traditions. The service is followed by an organ recital. Admission free. 4 to 5 p.m. Call 933-3700 or go to ipc-usa.org. Dec. 4: Advent Lessons and Carols. Cathedral Church of the Advent, 2017 Sixth Ave. N. The Cathedral choirs sing the traditional service of readings, hymns and choral anthems, to celebrate the birth of Jesus. 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Admission free. For information, call 226-3505 or go to adventbirmingham.org. Dec. 4: UAB Gospel Choir featuring Alicia Olatuja. Alys Stephens Center, 1200 10th Ave. S. 6 p.m. The choir, under the direction of Kevin Turner, performs traditional and contemporary American gospel in the United States and abroad. Admission $18. For tickets, call 9752787 or go to alysstephens.org. Dec. 5: UAB Music’s Christmas at the Alys. Alys

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Stephens Center, 1200 10th Ave. S. Featuring the best of traditional holiday favorites and standard choral classics, the event is a familyfriendly celebration directed by Brian Kittredge. 7 p.m. General admission tickets are $8; students $5. For tickets, call 975-2787 or go to alysstephens.org. Dec. 8: The Blind Boys of Alabama Christmas Show. Lyric Theatre, 1800 Third Ave. N. This holiday season, the Blind Boys are touring in support of their Christmas album, “Talkin’ Christmas.” It features blues legend Taj Mahal and several original holiday songs. 8 p.m. Tickets are $27.50, $32.50 and $39.50. For information, call 216-3118 or go to lyricbham. com/events. Dec. 16: Tommy Emmanuel Classics & Christmas Tour. Lyric Theatre, 1800 Third Ave. N. Emmanuel will play both original songs and Christmas music with guests Pat Bergeson, John Knowles CGP and Annie Sellick. 8 p.m. Tickets $47.50. To order, call 216-3118 or go to lyricbham.com/events. Dec. 16: Mid-Day Music: The Cathedral Ringers Handbell Ensemble. Cathedral Church of the Advent, 2017 Sixth Ave. N. The Cathedral Ringers Handbell Ensemble, under the director of Frederick Teardo, will perform a free concert of holiday music.12:30 p.m. For information, call 226-3505 or go to adventbirmingham.org. Dec. 16: Handel's “Messiah” and Vivaldi's “Gloria.” The Alabama Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Carlos Izcaray, presents these classics. 7:30 p.m. Admission $18-$80. Alys Stephens Center, 1200 10th Ave. S. For information, call 975-2787 or go to alysstephens.org. Dec. 18: A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. Cathedral Church of the Advent, 2017 Sixth Ave. N. The Cathedral Choir sings the traditional service of Nine Lessons and Carols celebrating the birth of Jesus, modeled after the famous service held annually at King's College, Cambridge. 3 p.m. Call 226-3505 or go to adventbirmingham.org. Through Dec. 18: Advent Messiah Series. Independent Presbyterian Church, 3100 Highland Ave. During the four Sundays of Advent, beginning Nov. 27, the IPC choir will present portions of Handel's "Messiah" during the morning services at 8:45 a.m. and 11 a.m. Admission free. For information, call 933-3700 or go to ipc-usa.org. Dec. 28: An Evening with Gillian Welch. Lyric Theatre, 1800 Third Ave. N. 8 p.m. The popular singer-songwriter performs at the historic downtown vaudeville palace. Tickets $35 in

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advance, $40 day of show. For tickets, call 2163118 or go to lyricbham.com/events. Dec. 28 & 29: St. Paul and the Broken Bones. Alabama Theatre, 1817 Third Ave. N. This popular indie band from Birmingham plays a hometown show. 8 p.m. Tickets $25 and $35. To order, call 800-745-3000 or go to ticketmaster.com.

ARTS Dec. 3: Moscow Ballet's “Great Russian Nutcracker.” BJCC Concert Hall. This spectacle features larger-than-life magical props, a 60foot growing Christmas tree and spectacular Russian-made costumes and sets. 3 p.m. Tickets range from $31.50-$178.50. Call 800-7453000 or go to bjcc.org. Dec. 9-22: Holiday Film Series, Alabama Theatre, 1817 Third Ave. N. The Alabama will present a dozen Christmas-themed feature films and matinee programs of cartoons, beginning with “White Christmas” on Dec. 9, at 7 p.m., and “The Polar Express” on Dec. 10 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Other films include “Home Alone” and “Christmas Vacation.” Tickets are $8, except for “The Polar Express,” which is $12 and will be a fundraiser for Kid One Transport. Children ages 2 and younger are free. Each screening begins with a sing-along accompanied by the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ. For the complete schedule, go to alabamatheatre. com. To order tickets, call 800-745-3000 or go to ticketmaster.com. Dec. 9: “The Mutt-Cracker.” BJCC Concert Hall. The Birmingham Ballet presents this new twist on “The Nutcracker” in a benefit for the Greater Birmingham Humane Society. 7:30 p.m. Tickets $30-$48. 979-9492 or go to birminghamballet. com. Dec. 9-18: “George Balanchine's The Nutcracker.” Wright Center, Samford University, 800 Lakeshore Drive. Fridays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Tickets $25-$55. Call 322-4300 or go to samford.edu/wrightcenter. Through Dec. 16: “A Christmas Carol: The Musical.” BJCC Theatre. This production by the Birmingham Children's Theatre is recommended for children 5 and older. Fridays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday. 2:30 p.m. General admission: adults, $35; children, $15. For information, call 458-8181 or go to bct123.org. Dec. 17: “Dickens Vest Pocket Christmas Carol.” Alys Stephens Center, 1200 10th Ave. S. This ASC production is suitable for all ages. 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets $8-$13. Call 975-2787 or go

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to alysstephens.org. Dec. 17: Voices of the South presents Christmas at the Lyric. Lyric Theatre, 1800 Third Ave. N. Birmingham’s premier men’s a cappella chorus will perform a variety of music, including many Christmas songs. 5 p.m. Tickets $15, $25, $35. Call 252-2262 or go to lyricbham.com. Dec. 10 & 17: “Twas The Night Before Christmas.” BJCC Theatre. The Birmingham Children's Theatre presents a show adapted from the poem, “The Night Before Christmas,” by Clement Clarke Moore. General admission for adults $20 and children $15. Saturdays, 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. For tickets, call 458-8181 or go to bct123.org. Dec. 2-18: Broadway Christmas Wonderland. BJCC Concert Hall. This show features Santa, his elves, chorus girls and such classic holiday songs as “White Christmas,” “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls.” Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2 p.m., 8 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m. Tickets range $30-$60. Call 800-745-3000 or go to bjcc.org Dec. 2-18: “A Christmas Story: The Musical.” Virginia Samford Theatre, 1116 26th St. S. The Tony Award-nominated Broadway hit is based on the holiday movie favorite. Tickets range from $15 to $35. Fridays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. For tickets, call 251-1206 or go to virginiasamfordtheatre.org. Dec. 23: A Christmas Carol. Alabama Theatre, 1817 Third Ave. N. The Nebraska Theatre Caravan has toured Charles Jones’ delightful adaptation of "A Christmas Carol" since 1979. 8 p.m. Admission $44. For tickets, call 800-7453000 or go to ticketmaster.com.

SPORTS Dec. 18: Vulcan Basketball Classic: Alabama versus Clemson. Legacy Arena at the BJCC. 3 p.m. For tickets, go to rolltide.com.

UAB MEN’S BASKETBALL (HOME GAMES AT BARTOW ARENA) For tickets, call 205-975-UAB1 or go to uabsports.com. Dec. 3: Auburn University, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18: Southern, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 28: Miles College. 5 p.m.

BSC MEN’S BASKETBALL (HOME GAMES AT BILL BATTLE COLISEUM) For tickets, go to bscsports.net. Dec. 3: Huntington, 3 p.m. Dec. 15: Guilford, 5 p.m. Dec. 28: Hampden-Sydney, 7 p.m.


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Iron City Ink December 2016  
Iron City Ink December 2016