Uniting through performance

25 Feb 2010

Kell Muñoz Architects' latest project gives voice to local culture

The first civic building to be erected in more than 30 years to serve the small towns of Edcouch and Elsa, Edcouch Elsa school district's new Fine Arts Center is also the tallest in the delta region of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Sharing resources in a combined public school district, the towns are located halfway between Harlingen and Edinburg. The 31,000 sq ft facility, seats 975 people in an auditorium equipped for state of the art audio visual technologies.

Built with the school districts limited budget of $5.7 million, the center evolved from significant public conversations with artists and activists, parents and teachers, historians and folklorists, all working to envision a community gathering place. The centre hosts concerts and theater performances by professional artists, while giving priority to student performances. It is designed with classroom space for the school district’s award winning one-act play team and mariachi group to practice and rehearse.

This is a building of its time, declaring a kind of multicultural modernism that is influenced by the regional vernacular of simple auto shops and garages of the Rio Grande Valley, as well as an international modernism that is associated with Mexico. To highlight the area’s new performance space, the site was elevated and the building placed at its crest-a centerpiece that can be seen at a distance from all directions. A monumental mural wraps the outside of the building, merging art and architecture in an interpretation of the sound patterns of the school’s anthem, 'La Maquina Amarilla'. Composed of bold, vertical stripes that range across the color spectrum, the highly graphical mural punctuates a building set in an otherwise muted landscape.

This innovative fine arts building inspired by the musical notes and the culture in the community has enhanced the students of Edcouch Elsa’s creativity, passion, and ambition. It has allowed the students to truly embrace their education in an ambiance of hope. Hope that with determination they will be able to reach and surpass their potential as students and professionals in performing arts.

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