Performing Arts Center
La Joya ISD

La Joya (the jewel of the Rio Grande Valley) is a relatively young border community born out of the predominant agricultural industry and migrant worker culture of the mid-twentieth century. Today, it is a rapidly growing, overwhelmingly Latino, manufacturing town. It is widely regarded as the most activist, most Chicano, and indeed the most culturally aware of the communities located along the Texas-Mexico border.

The people of La Joya taxed themselves to build a new performing arts complex for their high school students and a place of cultural interaction and dialogue for their community. It is very fitting then that the architecture of the new building attempts to articulate a different perspective of vernacular culture by honoring and elevating folkloric traditions of the Mexican and Mexican-American people; historical and cultural contributions that have been devalued, left out of textbooks, left to oral tradition.

The building uses form, iconography and common materials to articulate a sense of origin, belonging and imbedded meaning in the structure. Inspired by the historic connection between art and architecture, between “popular” and “high” art, the designers adopted a cubist perspective toward the space, substituting immediate, basic space for the studied space of the renaissance, in this case a Latino Renaissance.  Surveying the cubist periods of Latino artists such as Pablo Picasso and Diego Rivera, they focused on the collage Guitar 1913 for its allusion to the Guitarón and Bajo Sexto played by Mariachis.  This served as the point of reference for the site plan and gave form to the building’s central representation.

The unexpected use of everyday materials is exemplified by the black volcanic rock skin of the black box theater; a material revered for its place in the indigenous pre-Columbian culture of Mexico and yet found today in the kitchens of most Mexican-American families in the form of a molcajete.

The custom carpet was inspired by the traditional trajes or costumes worn by the dancers of the Ballet Folklorico during one of their most beloved regional dances and is also a depiction of the region’s geography both united and divided by the river and the barbed wire that runs through the pattern.

The auditorium walls are wrapped in black velvet curtains, which have been muralized by La Joya’s art students to depict the iconic bi-cultural landscape of the border and the ironic viewpoint of the black velvet paintings for sale in the mercado (market) down the road.

Building the Performing Arts Complex was itself a statement, a statement of defiance and worthiness in a land that is in constant cultural negotiation.  It is a place where young people will have an opportunity to develop their own cultural profile. The architecture of the Performing Arts Complex is a visual experiment in the language of culture, one that attempts to deal with the complexities of origin, identity and beyond.

This state-of-the-art performing arts center, designed by Muñoz & Company, not only serves the students of La Joya ISD, but also provides a public convocation venue for the entire community. This showpiece civic center highlights a primary source of civic pride for the community – the school district’s award-winning Mariachi Music program.

The 60,000 sf center houses a 1,500-seat theater with its full compliment of stage, set construction and performer’s dressing facilities. The facility also contains dedicated spaces for the school districts’ award-winning Mariachi, folkloric and dance programs. In addition to spaces for public meetings and conferences, the facility also includes a “black box” theatre with multi-media control and communication spaces.

The performing arts Center is accessed through an orchestrated arrangement of covered walks, terraces, courtyards and exterior lit lobbies which compliment the building’s exterior image and the energy, purpose and dedication of its users.

– Citation Award; The Lower Rio Grande Valley AIA, 2002

La Joya, Texas

Project Owner:
La Joya ISD

Construction Cost:
$9.4 Million

Size: 58,757 sf.

New Construction

Completion Date:

Firm’s Responsibility:
Joint Venture with VA Architecture

Full architectural and interior design services.

Project Manager:
Manuel Hinojosa, AIA

Project Architect:
John H. Kell, FAIA

Project Designer:
Steven Land Tillotson, FAIA

MEP: HMG & Associates, Inc.
Structural: Hinojosa Engineering, Inc.|
Theater: Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams, Inc.
Landscape: Alexander Boedy Associates, Inc.

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