A New Vision for Performing Arts at TJC

Nov 07, 2017 by

With the Rogers Nursing & Health Sciences Center firmly establishing its western frontier in recent years, Tyler Junior College is now looking to conquer its territory to the east.

Several projects are in the works on the eastern boundary of the main campus, including an expansion and renovation of Wise Auditorium and a joint facility for the Apache Belles and Apache Band.

Designs have also been proposed for a revamped Windsor Plaza, a memorial site for TJC employees and board members who have passed away.

On TJC Founders Day each Sept. 17, employees, administrators and board members gather at the site to remember TJC family members who passed away in the past year, and plaques bearing their names are installed on the memorial wall of honor.

Performing Arts Center plans

TJC has a rich history in the arts, with legacy programs that have served generations of students and played a key role in TJC’s comprehensive, collegiate experience.

In 1955, community philanthropist Watson W. Wise saw the need for a facility to host TJC’s burgeoning performing arts programs. Along with a $300,000 tax-supported bond, Wise helped fund construction of a 725-seat municipal auditorium and accompanying classrooms.

Wise Auditorium opened in 1956 and, for more than six decades, it has been home to TJC’s performing arts programs and hosted a variety of community performances and events.

In the 1970s, Wise gave again to provide another resource, the Wise Cultural Arts Center; and he commissioned the “Geese in Flight” fountain, which has become the icon for TJC’s Cultural Arts District.

For more than 60 years, Wise Auditorium has served TJC and the community. However, the current facility lacks the resources to support the ever-growing needs of TJC’s vibrant performing arts programs.

The Campaign for the Performing Arts is a $12.5 million effort that will transform Wise Auditorium into a comprehensive performing arts center and ensure that TJC can continue to recruit exceptional talent, grow the College’s programs and offer quality programming for the East Texas community.

The project will encompass more than 17,000 square feet of new construction, including a new stage with an increase of 2,058 square feet in performance space; state-of-the-art technology including updated lighting and a fly/theatrical rigging system; a renovated auditorium with new seating plus improved acoustics and sound system; and new dressing rooms, greenroom and climate-controlled storage for musical instruments, costumes and props.

“It’s become outdated,” TJC President Dr. Mike Metke said. “It’s a facility with marvelous potential, but during a show, the performers can’t go from one side of the stage to the other without going outside.”

Requiring students to leave the auditorium during shows while in full costume creates both logistic and safety concerns, he said.

Metke expects the renovation to begin in summer 2019, with an estimated 12 to 15 months for completion.

Apache Band and Apache Belles complex

Metke hopes a big milestone – the 70th anniversary year of the TJC Apache Band and Apache Belles – will help with fundraising efforts for a new facility to house the performing groups.

Early conceptual renderings show two buildings that would house practice facilities and classrooms, joined by a courtyard.

The facility is expected to be built near the proposed baseball and softball complex on the east side of campus, near Devine Street and Porter Avenue.


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Features, Summer 2017

About the author

Elise Mullinix is Tyler Junior College's Editorial Manager. She can be reached at 903-510-2370 or at emul2@tjc.edu.