Tolleson Union High School District

Design elements include exterior curves mimicking a guitar and a consistent use of the school’s colors.

Superintendent Nora Gutierrez was joined by board members, Principal Brandi Haskins, Chasse Building Team, ADM architects, performing arts students and community partners to pull back the curtain on a new, state-of-the-art performing arts center at West Point High School Aug. 9.

“This is a beautiful facility, and we are extremely proud of it,” Gutierrez said, opening the ceremony after a performance of the national anthem by the West Point Choir. 

“Students want to be here. Parents want their students here. West Point High School is creating a legacy. This new performing arts center will allow students to showcase their talents. So, students, I want you to always work hard in what you love to do. You’re extremely talented. I look forward, along with everyone else, to come and watch your talents on this stage.”

West Point High School opened in 2019, and the PAC project was initiated then. However, the building was completed right as COVID-19 hit, and the school closed for the academic year, leaving the new building unseen and vacant. The ceremony on Aug. 9 was the first time students saw the facility.

The 12,000-square-foot building has 965 seats and took over 12 months and more than 250 people to build. Barry Chasse, owner of Chasse Building Team, said his staff did its best to provide a facility that measured up to the quality of students it would house. He said the students, staff and community deserve the best because they are the best.

“This building is stacked with technology — the latest in LED lighting, the latest in theatrical equipment, advanced rigging behind the screen. This is a true performing arts center. I can’t wait to see and be a part of the performances that are going to be here and what’s going to come in the future. So, we’re really excited about it.”

Tim Goyette, architect with the Chasse Building Team, also pointed out some of the interesting design features, such as the exterior curves that mimic a guitar’s curves and the use of the school’s red and black colors in details like the tile flooring, lighting and seats. Goyette said the PAC also has dressing rooms, a virtual orchestra pit, video streaming in the lobby, and an adjacent building for other rehearsals or performances.

For performing arts students like West Point High School senior Molly Mendez, having a place where they can be together and in front of a live audience won’t be taken for granted, especially after the past year.

“When we were abruptly forced into online learning, it definitely put a damper on our way of performing. So, we had to adapt, and as the theater community says, the show must go on,” Mendez said.

“Now, as much as we loved rehearsing and performing in our pajamas from our bedrooms, on behalf of the West Point Theatre Company, we are more than excited to make use of our incredible new performing arts center and put on amazing shows and performances this year.”

The center isn’t just a relief for the students either. Abigail Eckert, choir director for about 100 students, said while she adapted and learned how to incorporate technology into their virtual rehearsals, nothing is better than being together in person. Eckert said it also provides more opportunities for students in the area.

“It’s so great to have this in the West Valley, because these students are sometimes underprivileged,” she said. “Having this experience, getting to work behind the stage, be on stage, have new uniforms, have all these great things and then the support from this area to put on performances and things like that, it’s really exciting, and I think that encourages them to come to school every day.”

Entering its third year as a school, West Point High School serves 2,900 students. West Point is a STEAM school, combining science, technology, engineering and math with arts. Gutierrez said by developing artistic abilities and committing to learning an instrument or dance, students are set up for success.

“I don’t know scientists that don’t have a musical instrument that they play or sing or have some kind of performance they are a part of,” she said. “When students have those opportunities to perform and learn and grow as actors, singers and dancers, it really rounds out their high school experience and sets them up to be successful in the future. So, we’re very excited about this facility.”