Years of construction come to an end

The opening of Bowie’s new performing arts center welcomes the new school year


Lucille Price

IN THE ZONE: Senior Cailyn Scott brushes a wig in the makeup room. Featured in the new facility, the makeup room is equipped with proper lighting, seating, and mirrors for actors to prepare for performances.

Lucille Price, Print Editor-in-Chief

It’s the first day back at school. The once-empty halls buzz with students’ voices, chattering excitedly on their way to their first classes, talking to friends they haven’t seen in months. Among thousands of students and thousands of conversations, one topic keeps coming up: the new performing arts center.

As Bowie’s renovation from the 2017 Austin Independent School District (AISD) Bond came to an end this summer, it included a new performing arts center. The enhanced building offers a much larger space with modern technology.

“So one of the main initiatives in the 2017 Bond was right sizing our facilities for our extracurricular programs, that includes athletics and fine arts, and we realized that we had a theater with a stage that couldn’t fit all of the entire band, or it couldn’t fit all the students in dance, and we realized that there were a couple of spaces in those facilities that we knew we needed to get right.” Principal Mark Robinson said. “In the design process, the architects and the contractors were aware of the AISD Performing Arts Center and had incorporated some aspects of that in the designs for our performing arts center and for Bowie, obviously, we’ve always had the talent in our students.”

As Starlight Theatre Company (STC) president, senior Nadia Petru knows that having a new space for her and fellow theater students to work will influence the company. Being in the 2023 graduating class, Petru is part of the first class of many to use the new facility.

“Being STC president while the renovation happens is crazy, because especially the construction in general, it’s changed a lot of the ways that things were supposed to happen this year,” Petru said. “But it’s really cool being able to help build up what a new expectation or what things are going to be like in the new theater, so it’s been a little stressful, but overall, it’s been really cool and I wouldn’t have any other way.”

While some portions of the facility are not yet fully functional, many students from across Bowie’s performing arts programs are able to use this space as of the beginning of this school year. Co-head theater director Marco Bazan now has an office space in the building.

“It’s still not fully operational, but when it’s really all said and done, it’s a space that is going to accommodate more people in the audience, it’s going to come with more people on stage,” Bazan said. “It’s going to be big enough for our band to fit, for all of our different departments to be able to be showcased in a way where it doesn’t feel like they’re cutting off the corners, again, anything that’s new is really very nice.”

AWAITING PERFORMERS: The auditorium’s empty seats provided are all facing the stage. The auditorium has a 600-person capacity. (Austin Ikard)

The bond allocated $85,368,925, which allowed the building to include a new auditorium with a 600-seating capacity with heating, air conditioning, new dressing rooms, a technical theater room, makeup room, state-of-the art lighting and sound system, backstage space, catwalk, and a lobby space.

“There’s just a lot of great things like the fact that we have proper dressing rooms, we have like a makeup room,” Bazan said. “We have dedicated spaces for students to change costumes and have a place to hang out, it’s not just backstage, it’s pretty cool to be able to have for my students.”

With 62,648 sq. ft. in the facility as a whole, the building now better accommodates Bowie’s large student population. Expansion into a large space specifically impacted choir teacher Randy Cantu as his students transitioned from learning in a portable to the new piano room.

“It’s remarkably different and one of the main obvious differences is where we were before we were in portables, and there was a lot less room,” Cantu said. “The pianos were all squished up next to each other, and in some regards, I think about it now and it’s not the most ideal environment, but it was a space we got used to, and it was a space that we did a lot of really great work in that space.”

Similarly, Petru reflects on her feelings about the old space from last year. Petru is involved in the technical sides of productions and is able to use the new technical room which was formerly a garage type space.

“It’s kind of sad because the old theater is really cozy and yeah, so many like memories there,” Petru said. “So, it’s a little bit of both, like you get to experience the new but you still miss the old but it’s good to be able to use both.”

As student musicians aim to grow in their arts, the new facility aims to help them in their journey. Directors and students alike find fellow artists and form bonds with those around them, which the new building helps foster.

“That is an absolute aspect to growing as a musician is being aware of what other musicians do, so we have families, but when we’re all spread out, sometimes it’s harder for those in those musical families to interact, but having them a lot closer, it really just provides an opportunity to create a bigger fine arts community culture at large, which is something that I think we all value as directors,” Cantu said.