Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts' temporary campus while they await their new digs in the Arts District just South of Woodall Rodgers and adjacent to One Arts Plaza. (Apparently they are scheduled to move in right after Spring Break in March!) To say I was impressed with what I saw, not just in the students but in the teachers there, would be a terrible understatement. Three lovely young dance seniors gave us a tour of the school and showed us the vast array of classes they take from jewelry making to stage lighting, art, dance and one class where all the lights were off and the students were all laying down. We asked what they were doing and our tour guides said, "They're 'taking a journey' and it's ok to fall asleep." Loved it.

Some students were painting on a canvas in the middle of the hallway with their shoes off. Others were practicing dances while their classmates were huddled in a corner doing other things. What impressed me was that on the surface it seemed as though there was very little structure yet the teachers were present and the kids weren't "out of control". They don't really have a dress code and it's obvious from the start. Each person has their own style and seemed to respect each other's right to express themselves. It was truly amazing and reminded me of college and nothing like high school. These are kids that need structure but too much structure would hinder their creativity and these teachers understand this 100%. And the students clearly respect their teachers and you don't get the sense they try to abuse this privelege.

Norah Jones, Erykah Badu, Edie Brickell (of the New Bohemians) all graduated from this wonderful place and it's easy to see why alumni of this school have collectively won 24 Grammy's and numerous artistic awards and have alumni peppered all over the TV screen with one alum currently on LOST. The teachers and students have created a culture that is meant for growth, development of skills and - ultimately - success.

Enough gushing. If you have kids that have artistic skill in the arts or music you need to check this place out ASAP. And guess what? It's within DISD. And if you've never looked into this school because of it's association with DISD then you're not the one who is missing out. Your child is. I grew up in Dallas and have associated with peers from JJ Pearce to Highland Park to Duncanville to Southlake and St. Marks and I can honestly say no school comes even close to what this school has going for it. Teaching individuality coupled with respect for their fellow classmates is something all schools can learn from BTWHSPVA.


  1. I love hearing the update. I had a trumpet playing cousin's son that lived with us for a year so that he could attend Arts Magnet. He is now a pro with his own CDs. Having a 17 year old and a 2 year old under the same roof was a little trying at times... but we are so proud of him.

  2. You're right - it's a beautiful place and a great place to be creative.

    It will be interesting to see what happens to the building once the downtown Booker T is ready. It's too great of a building to waste.

    It's in my City Council district in which I serve for the City Plan Comm, so I hope the community will have a say regarding the outcome.