In 2002, Region 2020 developed a Cultural Master Plan for the Greater Birmingham Area, which recommended that the city work to strengthen existing buildings and facilities for the arts and cultural programming. The plan identified the former McCoy United Methodist Church as a potential site for cultural arts programming in an underserved, predominately African American neighborhood. In response, the vision for the Alabama Gospel Music Cultural Arts Center was conceived and the organization was incorporated in 2004.
The mission of the Alabama Gospel Music Cultural Arts Center is to preserve, promote and share the rich gospel heritage of Alabama, the Southeast, and beyond, providing diverse visitors with bonds that link their own experience to the history of gospel music. The AGMCAC will be a resource for the community and the nation, offering dynamic opportunities for learning, research, performance and practice.
When completed, The Alabama Gospel Center will offer a variety of educational programs and activities, as well as serve as a museum with interactive exhibits and archives of Alabama gospel music. AGMCAC will build a highly directed marketing plan toward each of its audience groups (students, local residents, church groups, tourists and performing artists) while still emphasizing the importance of the core values of the AGMCAC. The common thread in marketing to these diverse groups will be the value of the expressive history and the powerful teachings of Gospel Music to the nation, the community and the individual.
The Alabama Gospel Center will be housed in the former McCoy United Methodist Church, five miles west of downtown Birmingham, at the convergence of Birmingham- Southern College and three historic neighborhoods: College Hills, Bush Hills and Graymont.
Built in 1924, the neo-Gothic structure was constructed of red brick and Alabama limestone, a landmark and commanding presence in the area. It was designed by the Birmingham architectural firm Miller, Martin and Lewis, who designed many similar structures on the Birmingham-Southern campus.
One of Birmingham’s leading Methodist churches for many years, membership declined as church families relocated to the suburbs, and dwindling finances could no longer support the church s operations. The church closed in 1993, and the City of Birmingham purchased the facility a year later.
In order to preserve the building as a part of neighborhood revitalization, and in response to community needs, civic leaders established the McCoy Center for Community Service, which houses various service agencies in the renovated building to the east of the sanctuary. The sanctuary and west annex were designated for the Gospel Center.