Tag Archives: Christopher Browning Pavilion

Al Christopher’s talents as a woodworker are evident all over the Berry campus – you just have to know where to look. Numerous projects completed by Alumni Work Week participants and friends in the Berry College class of 1961 reflect his trademark craftsmanship, as does the beautiful new Christopher Browning Pavilion at Oak Hill.

Recently, friends and family celebrated the opening of a new exhibit at The Martha Berry Museum – “From Tree to Treasure: Woodturnings by Al Christopher” – showcasing a different side of his creativity and artistry.

Al Christopher (61c) with some of his creations

Al Christopher (61c) has been prolific in his art since taking up woodturning in retirement. Select pieces are now on display at The Martha Berry Museum.

It was only in retirement that Christopher took up woodturning, which involves the use of a lathe and hand tools to create works of art. He refuses the title artist, preferring “hobbyist” instead, but the skills used to produce the pieces on display at Oak Hill – many Berry inspired – are undeniable.

“Over the past 14 years, he has gone from being a slightly interested party to someone who lives and breathes this medium, said Rachel McLucas (12C), curator of The Martha Berry Museum. “One of the things that is so evident in this collection is the enjoyment woodworking brings to him. He has a long career in millwork and contracting that has informed his work in unique ways.

“I think whenever anyone approaches this exhibition they’re going to walk away surprised even if they know him and are familiar with his work,” she added. “There are just so many hidden treats within it.”

The exhibition runs through May. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Click here to see examples of his work.

Look for more on Al and Becky Browning (61C) Christopher in the fall issue of Berry magazine, due out in a few short weeks.

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Al and Becky Browning Christopher are all smiles at the dedication of the new event pavilion bearing their names.

Al and Becky Browning Christopher are all smiles at the dedication of the new event pavilion bearing their names.

A beautiful addition to Oak Hill – as functional as it is breathtaking – has enhanced the ability of Martha Berry’s historic estate to serve as a front door to Berry. The Christopher Browning Pavilion was dedicated at Alumni Weekend, a dream realized for two members of the Berry College class of 1961 who poured so much of themselves into it, Al and Becky Browning Christopher.

Made possible by a $1 million gift from the couple, the stunning 5,760-square-foot pavilion is nestled just down the hill from the Oak Hill home, only 100 yards from the site of the historic cabin where the vision for the Berry Schools was born. With its exposed juniper beams and full-lite exterior wooden doors, the structure is a showcase for Al’s considerable talents as an artist. In fact, he created many of the building’s most breathtaking elements at his woodworking shop in Florida, up to and including the cupola on the roof.

The resulting facility blends perfectly with its surroundings while accommodating up to 300 guests, depending on configuration. Features include a full catering kitchen and the ability to be used as an open-air pavilion or closed air-conditioned space.

Speaking for the couple, Al praised the educational experience Berry continues to provide and offered thanks to the many members of the project team who helped bring his vision to life, among them fellow alumni, college staff, current Berry students and external partners.

“One thing I have learned since being involved in several projects at Berry is that students are still being taught to use their heads, hearts and hands,” he said. “Becky and I do believe in what Berry is doing to prepare students for meaningful careers, and that’s why we’re involved alumni. I am honored and humbled for the credit given to me for having a hand in planning and building this building. It would be very selfish for me not to thank the many folks who made this possible.”

Al’s woodworking expertise will be featured in an upcoming exhibit at The Martha Berry Museum. Watch for more details in an upcoming issue.

One local planner described the new pavilion as “all the buzz” locally, with 35 events scheduled to date, including seven weddings. Call 706-368-6789 or email oakhillevents@berry.edu for details on reservations and scheduling.

Related links: Local news coverage; photo gallery.

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