Rogers: Pavilion a success for Priddy, the arts

Serah Welborn

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The pavilion outside the Wichita Falls Museum of Art, under construction on April 7. The pavilion will be open May 15 for "Arts at the Pavilion." Photo by Ethan Metcalf

The pavilion outside the Wichita Falls Museum of Art, under construction on April 7. The pavilion will be open May 15 for “Arts at the Pavilion.” Photo by Ethan Metcalf

The Wichita Falls Museum of Art will host “Arts at the Pavilion” on May 15-16, a grand opening event for the new pavilion at Sikes Lake. Many community productions will be featured, from the Zavala Youth Ballet Folkloricao to the MSU Caribbean Pan Ensemble.

Jesse Rogers, university president, commented on the history of the Priddy Foundation, which contributed most of the funds for the pavilion and amphitheater. The project was part of its “significant corpus,” which which Priddy hoped would improve Wichita Falls through education, social services, city development and the arts. With the help of the shaded pavilion, Rogers hopes the adjoining museum will become a “center of culture” for the university, in all artistic disciplines.

“I was over there the other day and I was surprised how well that Museum is now tied to the rec-center. They don’t only look exactly alike, they look like part of the campus now. If the lake were just as clear as Lake Michigan, it would just be perfect. Nonetheless, it’s a great addition,” Rogers said.

The Pavilion project, which included the improvement of the nearby parking lot, totaled $850,000 in expenses. Not all was paid for directly by the university: the Priddy Foundation donated $665,000 and the Fain Foundation contributed $50,000.

The pavilion was designed by Dick Bundy, a well-known local architect who has contributed much to the area through his work.

“I think this may be his signature piece,” Rogers said. “He drew that in a day or so and the advisory committee, or the advisory board of the [Priddy] Foundation, loved the structure of the idea from day one… [it is] very creative and I couldn’t have imagined it when we started the project,” Rogers said. “Of course, that’s not my job or my talent, but I’m really very proud of it and I think that this campus will be proud of it, too.”

Rogers said he hopes the pavilion will stand in honor of both the arts and the recently deceased founder of the Priddy Foundation, Robert Priddy, his friend since the 1970’s. Despite having contributed to many university projects in the past, Rogers said Priddy never once allowed his name to be recognized. The pavilion is now the only exception.

“Robert steadfastly refused to let us put his name on anything,” Rogers said. “He did not like the idea that he would ever be associated with giving money to get his name put on something.”

During many confrontations with Priddy on the subject, Rogers said that adding contributors’ names to buildings, laboratories and rooms was for the benefit of the students—to give them an understanding of what the university must mean to the community of Wichita Falls.

“I want students for years to come to at least wonder who Robert Priddy was,” Rogers said. “He [was] one of the finest men I ever knew, and one of the most generous…He never stopped learning, he always had questions for me of science…He had a wonderful vocabulary and very colorful language, and we all loved him for it.”

The Arts at the Pavilion event will serve as a celebration of the many artistic accomplishments of Wichita Falls.

“It’s going to bring together all the arts of Wichita Falls, from our steel drum band, the ballet, Backdoor Theatre—they’re all going to do short performances in the stage. The public will also celebrate inside the museum and outside the museum in completion of it,” Rogers said.

According to Alan Black, associate professor of music, the Caribbean Pan Ensemble will be the “command performance” of the day.

“The Caribbean Pan Ensemble is always really well received just because of the fact that they just perform like they would in the islands,” Black said. “A lot of them don’t even read music, they’re not musically trained, they grew up with that music and that’s what they’ve listened to their whole lives…. they’ve learned the music just by playing it over and over again, memorizing it, and even if they don’t read music they still have that feel that they all move together—it’s a lot of fun.”

Black intends to attend the event before leaving the university, taking one of the steel pans with him. He plans to return to music after teaching English in China for a year.

“I just appreciate the opportunity to have worked with this group and to have worked with the people that are involved in the pavilion, because anything that will allow arts to be shared better with Wichita Falls is what needs to be done,” Black said.

The Wichita Falls Museum of Art will host performances at the pavilion beginning Saturday, May 16, at 11 a.m. and close on Sunday, May 17, at 7 p.m. Free admission.

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