Mercer University has selected Riggs Ward Design of Richmond, Virginia, to plan, design and install interpretive exhibits at Mercer Music at Capricorn, which the institution is renovating into a multi-purpose music education, production, and tourism venue in Downtown Macon. The university is aiming to complete the project by the end of 2019, which is the 50th anniversary of the founding of Capricorn Records.
The university’s vision is to put the historic Capricorn Sound Studios– credited by many as the birthplace of Southern Rock– back to work, not as just a museum, but as a tool to advance a more vibrant music scene in Macon and leverage Macon’s music heritage to shape Macon’s music future.
Mercer Music at Capricorn will feature a two-story interpretive area that tells the story of Capricorn Records and Macon’s music heritage through historic artifacts, static exhibits, and interactive digital kiosks featuring music, video, and text. The digital component includes a robust website to enable people who cannot travel to Macon to experience the story of Macon’s music heritage and the impact it had on American culture.
Capricorn Sound Studios is most closely associated with the Allman Brothers Band, which recorded significant portions of three albums there, as well as Gregg Allman’s solo album Laid Back in 1973 and Dickey Betts’s solo album Highway Call in 1974. Others who recorded at Capricorn include the Marshall Tucker Band, the Charlie Daniels Band, Wet Willie, and Elvin Bishop.
In addition to more than 1,200 square feet of static and digital interactive exhibits, Mercer Music at Capricorn will feature a music incubator with 13 rehearsal spaces for aspiring young musicians; a restored historic recording studio and an additional, larger recording studio; offices, co-working space and conference rooms for non-profit arts organizations; and venues for small concerts and special events. Mercer Music at Capricorn will also offer educational programs through Mercer’s Townsend School of Music.
Over the past 20 years, Riggs Ward Design has provided exhibition and interactive design, strategic master planning, research, content analysis, and storyline development for established, new and emerging museums, visitor centers, and cultural institutions. Among the company’s clients are the Library of Congress, the George W. Bush Presidential Library, the Smithsonian Institution, the Atlanta History Center, the National Park Service, the University of Texas, the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech. Riggs Ward will work with Building Four Fabrication in Chamblee on Mercer Music at Capricorn exhibit fabrication and installation.
“Riggs Ward’s vision for Mercer Music at Capricorn is to create a rich, motivational experience that leaves an indelible impression upon the visitor. The exhibits will resonate with visitors of all ages and backgrounds,” said Brent Ward, the company’s managing principal. “We will begin by working with and listening to the Mercer team and stakeholders to design interpretive exhibits and interactives that captivate, inspire and educate. Our proven creative methodology will ensure that all visitors are exposed to the history of Capricorn, Macon’s vibrant music heritage, and its impact on American culture. We intend to create exhibits that greet visitors, provide orientation, evoke excitement for the arts, complement other historic sites in the community, and entice further learning and exploration of music.”
Serving as Mercer’s project liaison to Riggs Ward is Jared Wright, who researched and wrote the interpretive plan for Mercer Music at Capricorn. Wright has previously worked as an archivist for the Otis Redding Foundation, the Allman Brothers Band Museum at the Big House, and the Atlanta History Center, and as a curator at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Wright has an undergraduate degree in history from Mercer and earned his M.A. in history from the University of West Georgia with specialties in public history and museum studies.
“I had the opportunity a few years ago to work with Riggs Ward on a major exhibit at the Atlanta History Center,” Wright said. “I was impressed with their creativity, expertise, and professionalism. I look forward to working with them again to create compelling exhibits and digital interactive experiences that tell the incredible story of Capricorn and Macon’s music heritage.”
Mercer earlier this year issued a nationwide Request for Proposals to invite companies to bid on the Mercer Music at Capricorn project. Riggs Ward’s proposal was selected from the eight that were submitted. To learn more, visit capricorn.mercer.edu.