The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Booker T. gets facelift

While many SMU students travel from around the globe to study at SMU, for a handful of students the journey from high school to SMU is just five miles long. In the heart of downtown Dallas lies the campus of one of the most prestigious art high schools in the nation. Still, the building that turned out Grammy award winners Erykah Badu and Norah Jones, hit TV series “Lost” actress Elizabeth Mitchell and countless other artists that can be found internationally, lies empty.

Currently, the Booker T. Washington High School for Performing and Visual Arts students are relocated to the Nolan Estes Plaza in Oak Cliff while the nearly century-old building makes a $55 million enhancement. The relocation was made in the spring of 2006 and the move back is expected in coming months.

The building was originally constructed in 1922 as a high school for African American students. The school was repurposed in 1976 as an Arts Magnet high school for the Dallas Independent School District. Since then, students have been required to audition into the school in fields such as theater, music, dance and visual arts.

While expansions had been made to accommodate the growing number of students, the school was known for holding classes in hallways because of the lack of space. For many students, though, mayhem in the hallways was a hallmark of “Arts,” as many students call it.

Many feel hopeful that the new and improved building will offer more opportunities to future students.

“The new building has so much to offer that it is hard to be sad about the old one being torn down. I hope [the students] realize the potential to create beautiful art in state-of-the-art facilities,” says Catalina Aguirre, class of 2002 alum and current graduate student of music education.

Though the arts alumni turned SMU students have created a solid link between the two campuses, a new link was created with the construction of the new building. Philanthropist Nancy Hamon, a major donor to the SMU arts community, recently donated $10 million to the new building project.

The main hallway, part of the original construction, will remain intact as a historical landmark. The expansion brings the building from 130,000 to 199,000 square feet, which will leave room for an additional 100 students to be admitted.

Adjacent to the building lies the Dallas Center for Performing Arts, which is due to open next year. The two new structures will share Flora Street in downtown with the Myerson Symphony Center, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center and the Crow Museum.

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