The weather was bitter cold for early November, but the enthusiasm more than compensated as the new Dr. Oswald Durant Memorial Center for Visual/Performing Arts, an attachment to the Jefferson-Houston School of Arts and Academics, was dedicated Saturday morning, Nov. 13.
Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille and Vice Mayor Redella "Del" Pepper cut the ribbon to officially opening the new facility. They were joined by members of City Council, Alexandria School Board, other dignitaries and members of the Durant family.
"[Jefferson-Houston] is where as an eighth-grader I learned to square dance," Euille told the crowd assembled outside the new center at 1605 Cameron St.
Operated by the Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities, the renovated and expanded building has over 15,000 square feet that will be used for drawing, painting and sculpting, music and stagecraft. It will also serve as the home office for the city's therapeutic recreation program.
Before the ribbon across the center's entrance was cut, the Alexandria Harmonizers sang the National Anthem.
Euille recalled the building had also been used as a USO Center during World War II. It was turned over to the city in 1946.
The center is named after a black physician who served Alexandria during the last century. "Dr. Durant came here from South Carolina in 1927 and was one of the few African-American doctors to make house calls," Euille said. Before becoming a physician and establishing his practice in Alexandria, Durant served in World War II.
Inside the new center, guests were treated to dance, acting, and art demonstrations by students. This was followed by a series of events throughout the day that included the Al Williams Jazz Trio, Royal Country Scottish Dancers, and Ultreya & Bonita Belly Dancing Group. The visual arts display included two tables of items created from recycled materials.
With multi-purpose rooms and a variety of other features, city residents will be able to take advantage of programs, performances, art shows, and reserve space for various events.