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Carnegie construction on track; Rebecca Phillips named new art centers first curator
Carnegie person
The Carnegie Arts Center Foundation has hired Rebecca Phillips Abbott as the executive director and curator. - photo by Photo Contributed

The campaign to establish a regional arts and cultural center in Turlock has moved a step closer to fruition as construction on the Carnegie Arts Center nears the half way point and a new executive director comes on board.

In the same week that the Carnegie Arts Center Foundation hosted their first walk-through tour of the ongoing construction project, they also announced the hiring of Rebecca Phillips Abbott as the center’s founding executive director and curator. Abbott has been working with the foundation since 2007 when she was serving as the interim vice president for university advancement at California State University, Stanislaus. She was instrumental in helping shape the vision of the center, according to the foundation.

“I am looking forward to leading the Carnegie Arts Center at this pivotal point in its history and to establishing it as one of the region’s premier visual arts centers,” Abbott said.  “In the process, we will remain a vital part of the local community, sensitive to the Carnegie’s traditions, mindful of its potential, and committed to its future success.”

 Prior to her time at CSU Stanislaus, Abbott was the director of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., for eight years. In 1999, she joined the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center where she served as curatorial liaison to the Vatican Museums, working closely with the curatorial and restoration staffs in Rome.

She has a Master of Arts degree in the history of art and has lectured extensively on women artists, the history of art and photography. She is also a fine art photographer whose works can be found in public and private collections.

“Ms. Abbott is an ideal candidate for this position. She is as knowledgeable in the arts as she is in nonprofit administration, marketing and financial management,” said Patricia O’Donnell, president of the Carnegie Arts Center Foundation. “At the same time, she appreciates the role an arts center can play in lifelong learning, and is committed to our community and to the ways in which the Carnegie Arts Center can enrich the lives of the people throughout the local area and the Central Valley as a whole.”

On Wednesday the foundation opened the construction site for a first-hand view of the progress being made on the center.

The renovation plans include the addition of a two-story structure that is being built behind the original Broadway site, which is also being revamped and eventually the two will be connected.

The original Carnegie building was opened in 1916 and served for decades as the town’s library. It was one of a thousand structures built by funds donated by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. In 1982 it was established as the city’s art center and was undergoing some minor renovations in 2005 when it was set ablaze by two burglars trying to cover up their theft of computers and other items from the site.

Once completed, the center will feature gallery and retail spaces, a multi-use facility, classrooms, and an open-air plaza, patio and stage.  The foundation will use the center for exhibits, lectures, shows and classes. At least 25 percent of the programming will be geared towards children and teens.

EMJ Corporation out of Sacramento is in charge of the construction project and they are anticipating a completion date in May 2011.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.